Over the past decade, the Wilmington, California based artist Mario Ybarra Jr. has developed a practice centered around storytelling. Often, the installations relate the overlooked or unacknowledged; particularly, the lives and dreams of his family, childhood friends, and colorful personalities that make up his community.
Double Feature consists of two projects that cull portraits from iconic Hollywood films, mining this deep repository for our collective fantasies. In Universal Monsters, Ybarra finds inspiration in a series of classic horror/sci-fi films produced by Universal Studios in the 1920s-1960s for a series of self-portraits.
Ybarra's ceramic busts of the artist as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, rendered in fragile porcelain in stark black and white, depict the divided self in literal and comical terms. A portrait of the artist as the Creature from the Black Lagoon depicts him as a primal shamanic character at home in the wilderness. As the Invisible Man, Ybarra appears and disappears, reinhabiting a favorite childhood Halloween costume while expressing kinship as a Latino with Ellison's landmark novel exploring the social invisibility of African Americans. And in his renderings of Frankenstein, Ybarra playfully draws a physical parallel between his own brow and one of the most famous features of the legendary monster.
In the north gallery, Ybarra screens a video inspired by two of his favorite childhood media moments: Michael Jackson's Thriller and An American Werewolf in London. Creating a quintessential monster video, the artist quite literally explores the process of transformation while exploring the cinematic possibilities of the peculiar architecture of Los Angeles. The video, shot on a pedestrian bridge above the Harbor Freeway near Wilmington, casts the stream of cars as a torrential river, creating an urban wilderness.
In the south gallery, Ybarra reprises the Scarface Museum. This project began in 2005 with a series of performances at Art Basel Miami in which Ybarra staged reenactments and readings from Brian De Palma's 1983 film Scarface in the neighborhood where the movie took place. Some of the tour attendees referred to the Tony Montana character as "Santo Scarface." This inspired the Museum, shown as a fully realized installation in 2008 at the Whitney Biennial, which can be seen as a series of Scarface relics and reliquaries playing upon the conventions of collecting, archiving and curating.
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