“I’m new to everything outside,” Gabby Prado writes in her notes as she looks back and tries to make sense of her memories of navigating the chaos and madness of the world as a young adult. Reflecting on these struggles, the solo exhibition “Plant What You Memorize” features works that somehow parallel these contemplations through her approach to abstraction. From paintings to objects, Prado guides us to understand the links between our vulnerabilities and our truths. We plant strength to liberate ourselves from familiar and unfamiliar chains. Thus, we begin from what we already know—like plants waiting to be watered and tended to in order to grow.
Her relentless search to transform memory informs Prado’s artistic practice. She produces a visual language that introduces sensory narratives into the pictorial drawn from her experience of synesthesia. This neurological condition causes the activation of a secondary sensory when one cognitive pathway is simulated. This situation leads Prado to occurrences where audio, for example, takes shapes and forms in the artist’s mind. These incidents are then translated onto the canvas through an intuitive yet guided method to present settings that express movements, gestures, and narratives. As Prado travels back to the past, she finds herself unearthing events from her high school years when she would randomly write her thoughts on pieces of paper, keep them in her pocket, and then read them as necessary while going about her day. These reminders strengthen the artist’s will —if she remembers, her mind is at work.
Moreover, the exhibition extends from the walls to an installation presenting objects where the artist’s hand continues. Inspired by the Argentinian-born architect Emilio Ambasz, Prado collaborated with Solano Lamps and Michelle Lao to produce these works made from Podrai Vanilla fabric and handpainted by the artist. A format that sheds light on the artist’s vision, Prado finds a sense of hope through them.
Developed mainly by artists from the New York school in the 1940s and the 1950s, abstract expressionism grounded art-making by presenting new perspectives in defining the space that occupies an image. The inner impulses and sweeping gestural marks occupy a canvas the same way memory inhabits our mind. Here, Prado polishes the background and commits the surface to become a host to layers and layers of action and maneuver. The act of painting in this exhibition parallels Prado’s planting of thoughts to make herself remember; the base layer of the painting is set and prepared to begin with the foreground. However, the artist becomes only confident working on the canvas when the underpainting is ready, and the initial surface is fixed. As Prado works on the layers, her execution becomes more assured. The strokes and lines appear more secure and certain. In working with different configurations, the translation and transformation of memories release the artist from inhibitions and constraints; if she can do all of these, then she remembers.
Curated by Gwen Bautista