Kristy Moreno and "The Company We Keep"
OCHI is pleased to present The Company We Keep, an exhibition of new work by artist Kristy Moreno. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The Company We Keep features new ceramic vessels, figures, and wall works that celebrate female friendship, sisterhood, and chosen community. Blending elements of SoCal Latinx culture with the sugary aesthetics of late 1990s girl power and a retro-futuristic approach to fashion, Moreno builds worlds in which female protagonists express their individuality, explore the world, and thrive together. Deeply inspired by the diverse voices that emerge from various D.I.Y. subcultures such as punk pioneer Poly Styrene, multidisciplinary artist Margaret Kilgallen, and authors adrienne maree brown and Gloria Anzaldúa, Moreno’s ceramic characters band together in the face of oppression, chaos, and harm as they echo the ethos of self-sufficiency and empower one another with an eye toward speculative futures.
Building voluminous vessels intuitively, Moreno draws into the surface of the clay, fitting figures together like a bioorganic puzzle, carving out detail and adding shape as needed. Moreno creates friends that embrace, link arms, pose back-to-back, and offer each other gestures of comfort, support, and affection. Absent of solitary figures, The Company We Keep proffers abundance and solidarity—Moreno’s young women always have someone to stand up for and to stand with. While clay vessels traditionally stored or served food and liquids, Moreno’s vessels hold her figures together—asking the viewer to physically circumnavigate each sculpture in order to observe the full scope of love and style embodied by each group.
Though Moreno’s protagonists are always together, they are individually distinguishable as fashionistas, endlessly borrowing from an array of historical sources—midcentury Chicanx lowrider culture; 1950s beehive updos; the bold geometric prints of Moreno’s mother’s wardrobe from the 1980s; contemporary punk visor sunglasses; and 1990s Chola staples like nameplate jewelry. Featuring sassy or subversive phrases, many of Moreno’s characters don earrings emblazoned with terms of endearment like MIJA (my daughter), CHULA (cute), or CHINGONA (bad ass woman) and exclamations of personal boundaries such as NOT YOURS or GO AWAY. Soft pastel colors pair well with hard stares and sharp attitudes—Moreno’s girls wear their hearts on their sleeves. Pushing cuteness beyond the commodifiable and forging space to care for themselves and for one another, Moreno crafts a world in which being in community is the first step to social change.