Frieda Toranzo Jaeger

Autonomous Drive

Ends Mar 13, 2023
  • On View
  • Exhibition
A massive sculpture assembled from painted elements of a car in a gallery.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger. Hope The Air Conditioning Is On While Facing Global Warming (part 1). 2017. Oil on canvas. 87 7/8 x 176 inches (223 x 447 cm)

Through her dynamic and modular paintings, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger proposes a futurity of queer freedom, connection to nature, and the creation of new spaces of joy and pleasure. Marking Toranzo Jaeger’s first major solo museum exhibition in the United States, Autonomous Drive brings together over a dozen recent works including three new commissions.

Toranzo Jaeger’s research into the history of painting, with a focus on 15th-century European altar paintings, informs her multi-paneled works. With a particular interest in the sculptural forms and religious symbolism of this period, which was synchronous with Western colonial expansion, Toranzo Jaeger reclaims and expands these references, creating imagined constructions for a world after decolonization. To produce these scenes, she examines traditional origin myths, such as that of Adam and Eve, and recasts them to envision new beginnings.

Toranzo Jaeger’s paintings verge on the sculptural, with multiple tableaux that combine into elaborate narrative scenes. Often featuring hinged elements, so that they may be displayed open or closed, her multifaceted perspectives break from linear narratives. Toranzo Jaeger’s family often works with her to embroider her paintings—adding layers to the surface of the canvas and puncturing the conventions of painting by incorporating traditional techniques.

The relationships between movement and technology are essential themes that emerge in the content and construction of Toranzo Jaeger’s works. From 15th-century altar paintings to the interiors of hybrid cars, Toranzo Jaeger’s subjects speak to the many vehicles for continued colonization and control of vast territories, including outer space. In Toranzo Jaeger’s depictions, however, she imbues these vehicles of colonization and the worlds they inhabit with the potentiality of love as an antidote to colonial thinking. In this sense, Toranzo Jaeger’s work transforms spaces of technological domination. Leveraging hybridity and automation, her paintings signal ontological shifts and queer becomings that resist existing power structures.

Dates

September 22, 2022–March 13, 2023

Location

MoMA PS1

Credit

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: Autonomous Drive is organized by Ruba Katrib, Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, MoMA PS1.

Sponsors

Generous support for Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: Autonomous Drive is provided by MoMA's Wallis Annenberg Director's Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art and The Deborah Buck Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Jeff Magid.

Installation Views

Artworks

Audio Guide

Introduction

Time remaining:

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: Hi, I’m Frieda Toranzo Jaeger. I’m a Mexican painter. I want people to feel invited to my paintings. My paintings are made, most of the times, in a 1:1 scale, meaning, in most of my altars, they’re made for your body to fit. So, I guess this gives you a sensation that you can immerse yourself in this piece because you physically fit.

The mobility of the body, it’s a privilege. We don’t have the same mobility privileges, depending on where you are or where you come from, what’s your nationality. So, I guess, for me, to give myself the freedom of depicting the most fast and speed-oriented symbols was giving me an agency that I don’t necessarily have. And, I just wanted to explore the kind of power that painting can have as something that can really take you anywhere.

You see the seat and then you see the steering wheel, and it will be basically made for your hands, for your body. It’s an invitation to take the power of painting and let it take you out for a ride.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: What I’m most interested in altar painting is the way it functions. It functions like a performance. Altar painting used to open in special locations. But it was meant to be closed most of the year and then open in certain festivities.

Also, they were to travel. They travel a lot, these pieces. They were the first autonomous paintings. I want my paintings to function in the same way. I want them to be a performance. So that’s why they have hinges, because then you are forced to imagine them also closed and in other positions.

Also, they are put in different forms depending on the architecture. If the space is smaller, they will be more enclosed. If the space bigger, they will be more open. I really like to give this functionality of performativity to my paintings, that it’s a reference to the altar.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: This work is about the duality between the prospect of the future of global warming and social collapse and the hope for the future. I think this is when expectancy and hope meets. I guess for me, the end of the world has begun already for so many people. For many indigenous groups, it has happened already. Everything that they relate to have started to collapse until they disappear. I guess the end of the world, it has always been going on. But I guess my work wants to tap into the complexities of that, of the world ending, and then the hope that we as humans can have and how hope helps you to imagine the future and construct it.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: I just want to say that for me, technology is very important. Modernity can never come from the colonies. That was something that was really, or it still is, really important for capitalism. So if you control modernity, you control the future, and basically you control everything. So I thought, again, to appropriate the most technological stuff and impute all my pre-colonial ambitions on it.

So that’s why, for example, the car and spaceships are really important. I think in the interiors of them, they are like a psychological space. It’s the psychological space where we all are because even if we criticize capitalism, we criticize it from within. So, nobody can really say what capitalism is, but we can just really say, “In my opinion, it’s a psychological space now because it just permeates everything.” If you consume something, you benefit from capitalism and oppress other people. There is no ethical consumption within capitalism. So, I think my proposition is, if we are already inside the psychological space, where are we going? So this is a proposition for the future. It’s not a critique. I think we’re beyond that. So, this is a proposition for the future.

Where are we going, now that we are here? How is our future look like? In the future is the only space where capitalism doesn’t exist, because the future never exists. So, I like to give myself that freedom of think that everything could change. So, if it could change, where should this take us?

So I think the car is like this present, psychological space. And then I think about space as the neo-colonial thinking. But again, as with electric cars, what will we do if everything changes and suddenly there is not this oppressive structures anymore? What will we do with the idea of the space, of the future?

I have only painted, so far, hybrid and electric cars, and I like the idea of combining two and creating a new thing. So I guess I feel very hybrid, also as a feeling. My experience of being is very hybrid. I also like the idea of complexity. So the two things, even if they seem really opposite to each other, can coexist in the same space.

I think that’s what hybridity in the cars is also about. It’s electric, but it’s also gas, and it’s just like, well, one is good, one is bad, but they all exist in the same cars. So I think driving a car was an extension of a certain virility that was totally linked with masculinity. It was like an extension of dominance. It was an extension of speed. It was an extension of habiting space and occupying space. But now we are like babies. We are babies inside a womb, and we are completely powerless and we’re going to be completely passive, and this car with an algorithm is going to drive us everywhere.

So this shift in power, in this on ontological power, I just think it’s just fascinating. What’s going to happen? So I guess my proposition is to inhabit these spaces as a spaces of queer futurity. Because these spaces don’t exist. So the future is just endless possibilities. So I kind of took the audacity to kind of inhabit those spaces and said like, “Well, in the future those spaces will be queer, and will be for queer joy and pleasure.”

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: Untitled for me is a very important work because I guess it talks about the potentiality of painting. I really think in this world we are always generating content and knowledge. So everything now is very algorithmical, even our thinking is becoming really algorithmical. So for me that means we hear what we want to hear and everything else, it’s canceled and it doesn’t appear anymore. So we are always hearing things that reinforce our own beliefs and our own opinions over and over again, and things that we like. And everything that we don’t like and dislike is just discarded and canceled, and you just don’t see it anymore.

But I really want to point out that I really believe that painting creates another type of knowledge. It’s not scientifical knowledge, it’s not verbal knowledge, it’s not language knowledge. It’s a type of knowledge that it’s so ambiguous and so subjective to subjectivity. It’s really hard to pinpoint what actually painting is creating, but it’s creating a type of knowledge that nothing else can create.

For me, Untitledis like the layout of all of this kind of potential. So I put all of these painters that I was seeing at the moment, and this is what they inspire me to do. And they’re painters from the Rococo era, like Chardin. It has nothing to do with space or anything, but their knowledge that they are creating for me right now seems really far away from what maybe the painter in the 1500s thought. So I just think that this epistemological potential in painting is really important to underline. I mean, I guess, this piece really shows the potential of the medium.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: I reference a lot Lucas Cranach, he was a painter from the 1500, a German painter, and he basically did a lot of commissions for mythologic works. So obviously, he was one of the painters who visualized the idea of faith, the ideology of Christianity. So I thought, well, if he could do that, why can’t I be this painter for new mythologies? So we can have new futures? And obviously it’s a queer attempt. I mean, it’s meant to fail as well. I just think this work is about that. It’s also a satellite, column, and it’s also really, really vertical. I really wanted it to just take off and go. it’s a relic for the future of how we, as minority cultures, how can we construct our own future? If we don’t own technology and if we don’t own the future, basically that’s what people are saying to us.

What are we doing? I think we do have to give us the agency to imagine our own future, and by imagining it, creating it at the same time. And I guess this is where the spaceships want to take you. I think it’s not––or at least I don’t work with melancholy––I really like to go and revisit history, but repurpose it for anti-colonial thinking, which I think is possible and super fun. And I love history, but also it’s about how to rewire history so we can rewire the future.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: The metaphor of the fountain of youth in itself was that the water, that’s actually depicted, is love and that love cleanses you from all of your mistakes or impotencies, and then you’ll be young again.

But I thought about in terms of futurity, like queer futurity. For a queer world, we really need love as a main element and also queerness is full of joy and celebration. I really want to depicted that in this huge, very far away landscape, that it’s the only painting in the show that has no hierarchy. Every symbol is just as important as the other. There’s actually not something on front or anything, it’s just a very anarchist composition in that way.

And I had a lot of interest in embroidered skin and I wanted to tie the flesh with the canvas. I wanted them to be indivisible because I think that’s how we experience flesh in our own bodies. It’s indivisible from us. I wanted that the canvas could have the same experience when it comes to flesh. And they’re all queer bodies and they’re all very diverse and they’re just having fun after a big apocalypse, which is also, I guess also as people who come from other spaces, other geographies, one of the things that I have the feeling people mistake the most is that joy can also coexist with conflict. We are not victims. We are more complex than that. I guess this is a painting about that. This is a painting about that future that we also need because if capitalism is to fall, collapse will also take place. So that we can understand that even if collapse comes, joy and pleasure and queerness can also coexist in within it.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: I did this piece while living in LA, and I was a mess. Literally, my life was a bad reality show of an immigrant moving to LA, trying to make a life. It was such a cliche life. I could never explain you how bad it was. I think this is very important, I guess not every piece has to be a success. I think it’s very important, especially as a queer person to show failure, to show that some things can be crazy and exhausted and show like a zeitgeist that maybe is not such a clean one. It’s like a punk song. It’s not a pop. This is my first work where I incorporate ceramics. I really wanted people to feel the weight, the costs, the personal costs of making this work, and how heavy it was on me. I thought: I have to put something really heavy, otherwise it’s not going to come through. I never see my works as sculptures. I just think that they’re paintings with sculptural aspect. So I guess this was once again, another way of taking sculpture as a material and not as a medium.