123 Astronaut, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
11-14 April 2019
Bonbons Diplomatiques is an exhibition by Bolivian-American artist Agatha Wara. Centered around the reconstruction of a business card belonging to Wara’s father, who was a vice-consul of Bolivia in the late 70s and early 80s. Wara stumbled upon the original business card last year, but only as a low-res image, while in La Paz trying to fix a mix-up with her birth certificate.
In many ways this is an exhibition about international diplomacy, or Wara’s version of it. In the straightforward sense, diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states. Diplomats are appointed government officials who promote the government’s interests in foreign countries.
In the framed pieces Wara plays with her own history, through that of her father, against the larger context of what was happening in Bolivia at the time—the economic hyperinflation that incentivized her family to immigrate to the United States. In replacing her father’s name on his business card with her own, she injects into the exhibition a meta-narrative: her desire for connection with her father, which she aims to accomplish through her own form of diplomacy, on assignment in Los Angeles, though neither the impetus or brief are revealed.
Rather than formal or transactional, the professional titles that appear in the second frame are playful and function to further allude; they switch between sincere and self-deprecating. Resting on the ground, a clear plastic garment bag contains an earlier work titled Death Suit (2018), later re-titled Banana Suit – an exquisitely tailored velvet tuxedo jacket made for the artist.
The exhibition also features an arrangement of Dahlia Pinnata flowers made by the artist.
The business cards have been printed by a technique called “thermographic printing”, which raises letters through a process of applying heat after the ink is applied. Today only two locations in Los Angeles still use this technique, and none in Wara’s current home of Norway—an important detail to note, as it was the finding of another thermographically-printed business card on Wara’s studio floor in Oslo that set into motion distant memories of her father’s business cards from yesteryear, as she picked up and thumb-fondled the letters “JENNY’S” repeatedly.
Bonbons Diplomatiques is an exhibition about an aimless diplomat and the playful shuffle of self-tailored identity.
Agatha Wara is a Bolivian-American artist living and working in Oslo. She is the editor of the eponymous magazine “Agatha.” In keeping with an expansive practice which includes writing, curating, and publishing, Wara has developed and presented projects for a variety of institutions and contexts including UKS MINIBAR (Unge Kunstneres Samfund / Young Artists’ Society), Norwegian Sculpture Biennial Oslo, Soppen Performance Festival, Lofoten International Art Fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Gucci Vuitton Gallery, Red Bull Studios NYC, Kunstkritikk.com, and Dismagazine.com.