Have you ever walked into a public bathroom and noticed the wavy grouting revealed by missing tiles, the peering eyes of empty drywall anchors, the bits of trash that get tucked into crevices because no garbage can is nearby? Have you seen the peeling stickers of another era, the mysterious markings that don’t quite add up to coherent graffiti? For BUILD YOUR SELF, her BOLT Residency solo exhibition at Chicago Artists Coalition (closed due to the pandemic, but set to re-open in January 2021), Tamara Becerra Valdez not only evidences her own deep looking at quotidian spaces but helps to habituate the unaccustomed viewer. Valdez accomplishes this by taking advantage of the attention and valuation built into art and its spaces: when we see something in a gallery, we know that we are supposed to contemplate it. Her wall-hung panels may look as if they have been cut whole out of decrepit public facilities—à la Gordon Matta-Clark—but close inspection reveals everything to have been meticulously assembled by Valdez, down to the cast concrete soda bottles. Noticing is the first step to caring.
—Lori Waxman 2020-10-12 1:45 PM