Adrian Esparza’s interactive Artpace installation Dream Drought is an array of playful works: an altered set of musical chimes, a wall-sized reproduction of a hand-drawn design, and a massive quilted curtain suspended from the ceiling. Behind the curtain is a jacket made of sewn plastic packaging and three-dimensional letters that spell SURR. References to costumes, music, and set design create a theatrical or stage-like environment inside the gallery.
The chimes enable direct interaction between the viewer and the installation. Visitors are encouraged to activate this auditory component by running their fingers across the metal tubes. Esparza has rearranged the order of the chimes so that they produce a progression of notes that defy the traditional arrangement and usage of the instrument. The result is a musical “score” that accompanies the other works in the exhibition.
Esparza’s large drawing encourages viewers to examine structured play in a different way. The wall-sized banner contains several overlapping biomorphic drawings. The artist created flower-like patterns by hand and arranged them in a pyramidal composition. By selection, arrangement, and reproduction Esparza adds a human dimension to a repetitious predetermined design. The theme of performance and pattern continues in the large theater curtain-evoking quilt that dominates the installation.
Ten thousand small pieces of blue, tan, and black fabric make up the quilted curtain in Dream Drought, carving a dramatic arc across one side of the room. Like his earlier work, One and the Same (2005), Esparza geometrically deconstructed commonly found bedding in order to comment on the border landscape. In One in the Same (2005), the artist unraveled a serape and rearranged the material to reflect the formal structure of the painting View of El Paso at Sunset (1922), by Audley Dean Nichols.
The sewn curtain in Eparza’s Artpace installation, by contrast, recalls the El Paso landscape as it now appears, reimagined as the backdrop of a large proscenium stage. The reference to West Texas’s wide open sky and parched soil is clear in Esparza’s selection of colors. However, the dark black shape that sweeps across the horizon refers to the 110 miles of border fencing currently under construction between Texas and Mexico.
Esparza’s sculptural abstractions and participatory works are noteworthy not only because they unite the intellectual aspirations of geometric abstraction with the more utilitarian traditions of craft, but they also do so through recycling discarded or store-bought mass-produced objects. Therefore, they don’t merely comment upon US/Mexico border issues, but they embody them in the complex layering of meanings, forms, and reconfigured materials, rendering the precarious strategies of political negotiation as an aesthetic exercise.