The phrase “cutting for sign” means searching a landscape for clues. This might refer to the search for a lost herd of cattle or sheep, or the staking out of a wolf-assassin. Besides physical tracks, one might look for grass that’s reflecting light a little differently, or subtle variations in the dirt. When border patrol agents – or the coyotajes who move people across – cut for signs, they are looking for a human presence.
Upon entering Pace Gallery for Border Cantos, a collaborative show of work by Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo, this was my first instinct: I was cutting Richard Misrach’s large-scale photographs of the US-Mexico borderlands for signs of life. In one crisp photo, there’s a long and lonely stretch of desert, the sky awash in pastels, the land dotted with shrubs and bisected by an undulating wall. In another, there’s a ghostly image of a different wall, this one with wire mesh, pointed toward a grey sky, part of it shrouded in fog. Then there are photos of tall fences with people clearly visible behind them, some peering at the camera – no cutting required.
Counterpointing the photographs throughout the exhibition are sculptures, created by Guillermo Galindo, composed of objects found along the border during the two artists’ snaking travels. Rickety ladders fashioned from scavenged wood and clothes tied together as means of conveyance; assemblages of donkey jaws, tires, and boots; a display case showing a backpack and its contents, including a dirtied shirt, a bag of Queso Ruffles, a blue Corona hat, a pack of Trojans.
(published in Momus, July 2017)