A Ponemos Chancla
On November 3, Troy Michie will begin work on A Ponemos Chancla, a project that will transform Recess into an installation that simulates a men’s formalwear shop to explore camouflage, the semiotics of fashion, and the complex political history of the zoot suit.
The zoot suit is a high-waisted, wide-legged men’s suit that was popular among Latino and African American communities in the 1940s and widely associated with the Zoot Suit Riots a series of racially motivated attacks in Los Angeles, California against Mexican American youth by white American servicemen in 1943.
A Ponemos Chancla reads this history of the suit in relation to the writings on camouflage by English surrealist Roland Penrose, whose lectures during WWII including “The Home Guard Manual of Camouflage” examined the utilization of texture and color in camouflage as a means of protection and concealment for strategic purposes. Drawing upon the ways that camouflage is used for protection in warfare, A Ponemos Chancla will engage how attire is employed strategically, both historically and today, in the daily lives of marginalized people. Michie’s project is equally informed by the artist’s recollection of Pachuco culture, a Mexican-American subculture originated in the artist’s hometown of El Paso, Texas and is associated with zoot suits, boisterous nightlife and Jazz music in the late 1930’s.
Throughout Michie’s Session, A Ponemos Chancla will showcase a series of unique custom zoot suits produced by artist Eric Mack, designer Nathan Qualley, and J. Alvarez a zoot suit tailor in El Paso, Texas. Custom suits created for the Session will adorn the Recess storefront, furnished by slatwall panels and storefront displays. Inspired by the film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, adapted from a short play by Ray Bradbury, Michie’s project will alter the space of Recess into part installation, part formalwear shop. The film tells the story of a group of friends who yearn to acquire an expensive fine linen suit to gain status. The friends combine their money and purchase the suit, taking turns wearing it out, with the most noticeable characteristic being their confident smiles. The evolving installation will include collage and assemblage works from fabric, found materials, and clothing accessories all influenced by the zoot suit and Penrose’s rules of camouflage.
In parallel with the project, author Shantrelle P. Lewis will develop an original piece of writing that engages with the themes of A Ponemos Chancla. Lewis’s text will be available online and in print form within a print broadsheet edition designed by artist Nontsikelelo Mutiti.
While the zoot suit is a standard of appearance of subcultural expression it also hints to notions of dandyism, blurring the lines between flamboyance and masculinity. A Ponemos Chancla draws upon these unique convergences to point to how the zoot suit is both a form of political resistance and a means of transgressive self-expression.
About the artist
On view: November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024
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