Rhona Hoffman Gallery is pleased to announce Gentle Content, an exhibion of new work by Danny Bredar, Alberto Ortega Trejo, Martha Poggioli, and Davina Semo, and curated by Julia Birka-White. Through painngs, sculpture, and drawings the arsts respond to some of the most urgent issues of our present moment.
Although not inherently obvious, the objects in Gentle Content are invested in varying polical, social, and environmental concerns such as climate change, domesc gun violence, reproducve rights and histories, internaonal imperial invasions, and contemporary Indigenous issues. Yet it is immediately apparent, when viewing the quality and crasmanship of the works in the exhibion, that each arst is dedicated to making art as a means to support experimentaon, growth, surprise, and reflecon.
In making his suite of six painngs for Gentle Content, Danny Bredar has considered the massive distribuon of selected figurave photographs through major media corporaons. The grim faces of Bredar’s painngs intenonally float in layered, muddled atmospheres. Removed from their inial release in the news, the faces are no longer recognizable as individuals in parcular, but their hardened expressions are universally understood. These heads belong to grieving subjects whose private loss is either de-differenated for communal recognion, or is instrumentalized for propaganda purposes. Real people become symbols or placeholders (a doubled loss) for pervasive contemporary problems such as domesc gun violence or foreign wars. The arst is interested in the disseminaon of image culture, how meaning becomes subverted, and how empathy diminishes through the technological lens. Visage and value are detached in the transit of Bredar’s interpretaon and imaginaon.
Akin to Bredar, Alberto Ortega Trejo’s contribuons to Gentle Content were prompted by recent news events that illuminate class struggles — specifically in his home country of Mexico — in addion to his research regarding Indigenous Mexican cosmologies. When creang these new objects, Ortega Trejo considered the deadly 2019 explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico of a pipeline owned by Pemex, the state oil company. The illegal extracon, possession, and sales of theed fuel has been a long standing issue in the country, the result of larger class and economic disparies affecng sites of mineral extracon and oil processing as is the case of Tlahuelilpan, an Otomí territory. Ortega Trejo’s metal figurave cut-outs adhere to the wall, and similar to Bredar’s painted suspended heads, are disjointed and cut off from their whole. Discernable is an amputated leg referencing the overcirculaon of violent images in contemporary Mexico while engaging with Otomí God-making pracces. Next to it, a nebulous form that is actually an alcohol sack, hovers among other silhouees. The alcohol sacks the arst is referencing are used for pulque (a tradional Mexican alcoholic drink of fermented agave nectar) storage and typify the effects of alcoholism on colonized Indigenous communies globally. Addionally, six charcoal on sandpaper drawings mounted on metal plates and organized in a grid unite to form an atlas bone. Interested in bones and the pracce of their display in sacred and communal spaces in Central Mexico as well as in their polical and forensic register, Ortega Trejo’s precise drawing could be read as a warning or a sign of perpetuaon and regeneraon.
Martha Poggioli offers a series of so sculptural objects and new prints on silicone. Broadly throughout her pracce, Poggioli’s artwork tracks the history of the IUD (an intrauterine device) and their varying patents and associated intellectual properes. Her research-based pracce involves studying patents and IUD histories as they demonstrate “the endless repeon of reproducon, as well as the associaon of the female body that is placed onto and into an organized system, largely configured through eurocentric, patriarchal, colonial, and capitalisc frameworks.”1 The arst’s patent drawing pracce, as is evidenced in her art in this exhibion, includes transferring a carbon drawing into a silicone casng, resulng in a translucent skin blueprint. The patent drawings are also used as source material from which to cast so, bodily forms. Untled (so body plane 1), for example, is a sculptural wall work where a vibrant green warped grid made of an epoxy casng encompasses a bulging silicone pillow-like form, loosely contained by its welded aluminum frame. Historically the grid has been understood as a mode of organizaon and control; Poggioli’s organic grid challenges these concepons of order and control as they relate to the body as well as the grid throughout art history.
Davina Semo works in two and three dimensions, oen ulizing industrial materials that examine tensions between nature, society, and the self. Semo’s three metal works for Gentle Content connue her tradion of engagement with the ways in which the built environment affects our lives. The arst has been making metal bells since 2016, but Bloom serves as the first me she has presented a bell cast in stainless steel. Semo is interested in the dual possibilies of the bells being instruments for personal reflecon, as well as tools for gathering community and calling for aenon to pressing concerns. In this exhibion, the large glistening bell is peppered with blossoming floral mofs, the arst’s first me translang textures from her bronze relief works into a three-dimensional object. In today’s contemporary moment where we are inundated with media, Semo’s polished bell Bloom encourages reflecon literally and metaphorically, a “feeling of moon, of change, of becoming.”2 In addion to Semo’s beaufully rendered bell, on view are two substanal metal wall works. Foundaon is composed of a metal frame with an acrylic mirror that peeks through woven stainless steel mesh; waxy, 3D printed resin flowers sprout through the fence-like surface. The flower imagery in both Bloom and Foundaon reference nature, and concurrently climate catastrophe and humanity’s relaonship with the natural world. The viewer is confronted with their own reflecon when gazing into Foundaon, implicated. The third artwork by Semo, Braid, is a cropped self portrait where a braid, neck, and chest are pictured. Like Foundation, the piece contains a wire mesh fence-like facade, simultaneously displaying and obscuring the human form. Semo’s works successfully reach towards the natural and the industrial, considering our collecve trauma over the health of our planet as the background context of contemporary life.
Danny Bredar, Alberto Ortega Trejo, Martha Poggioli, and Davina Semo are four different arsts with seemingly disparate pracces and preoccupaons, but they are very much contemporary arsts, collecvely responding to our present. Despite it all, their artworks remind the viewer to pause, reflect, and hold space for hope.
Danny Bredar (b. 1992, Denver, CO) lives and works in Chicago, IL. He received his MFA from The School of the Art Instute of Chicago in 2019 and his BA from Harvard University in 2014. Current and upcoming group exhibions include David Lewis Gallery (NYC), Internaonal Center for the Arts (Monte Castello di Vibio, Italy), and STARS (Los Angeles). Bredar's work has been exhibited at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, the Elmhurst Art Museum, The Arts Club of Chicago, the Armory Show 2020, Taos Center for the Visual Arts, Sullivan Galleries at The School of the Art Instute of Chicago, and with the ficonal gallery Currency in Münster and Zurich. Solo and two-person exhibions have been held at The Arts Club of Chicago, Soccer Club Club, Extase, Sandbox Industries venture capital firm, and Taqueria Los Alamos. Bredar also collaborates with Leah Ke Yi Zheng, with whom he is a 2019-22 Fellow at The Arts Club of Chicago.
Alberto Ortega Trejo (b. 1989, Pachuca, Mexico) is an architect, arst, and designer based in Chicago, IL. He is currently a lecturer at the School of the Art Instute of Chicago. Ortega Trejo has been a grantee of the New Arsts Society of the School of the Art Instute of Chicago; The Jumex Foundaon for Contemporary Art, Mexico City; the John W. Kurch Travel Fellowship; and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundaon. His work has been exhibited at venues such as Fundación Andreani for BienalSur, Buenos Aires, Argenna; Ca’ Foscari Zaere for the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale; Harun Farocki Instut, Berlin, Germany; Chicago Design Museum; Extase, Chicago, IL; SITE Galleries at the School of the Art Instute of Chicago; SpaceP11, Chicago, IL; and Centro de Arte y Filosofia, Pachuca, Mexico. Ortega Trejo has been a lecturer at CENTRO; University of Pennsylvania; University of Illinois Chicago; American Instute of Architects, Washington, D.C; the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago; and BomDiaBoaTardeBoaNoite, Berlin, Germany.
Martha Poggioli (b. 1988, Brisbane, Australia) lives and works in Chicago, IL. Awards and Residencies include the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (2022-2023); John Michael Kohler Arts Center Arts/Industry Residency in Foundry; The Leroy Neiman Foundaon Ox-Box Fellowship; Australian Tapestry Workshop Arst-in- Residence; Australia Council for the Arts Career Development Grant; and the DCASE Individual Arst Grant, among others. Poggioli has had solo presentaons at SPACES (Cleveland, OH); Julius Caesar (Chicago, IL); and Extase (Chicago, IL). Her work has been included in museum exhibions at RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne; Müer Museum in Philadelphia; MAAS Art Museum in Boston; and Kunstgewerbemuseum in Dresden. Poggioli holds an MFA from the School of the Art Instute of Chicago and a BFA from Queensland University of Technology.
Davina Semo (b. 1981, Washington, D.C.) has a BA in Visual Arts and Creave Wring from Brown University and an MFA from University of California, San Diego. In 2021, the arst’s work was exhibited at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 in the solo installaon Reverberaon commissioned by Public Art Fund. Semo recently enjoyed the solo show Core Reflecons at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, Napa, wherein the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Forrest Gander composed poetry and crical reflecons to accompany the arst’s new sculpture. Her work shows naonally and internaonally. Semo has exhibited in prominent group exhibions at San Francisco Arts Commission; Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; SOMArts, San Francisco; and Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles. Her work was recently in the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century,” a major survey exploring recent feminist pracces in contemporary art. Semo lives and works in Los Angeles. She is represented by Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.