By Glenn Adamson
The materials list for Tania Pérez Córdova’s We Focus on a Woman Facing Sideways (2013/17) reads as follows: “Bronze, Swarovski Crystal drop earring, and a woman wearing the other earring.” The work is a simple bent rod, charting a transit in space. A single earring bereft of its mate, hangs from the rod like a lure. It’s meant, perhaps, to catch a thought, and hold it for a while, before throwing it back into the ocean of possibility.
There are a few things to notice here. First, observe how Córdova activates the conventional framing language of the work. The title and materials list do not describe the piece in the usual sense, but rather help to constitute it—an old Conceptual art trick, here applied to novel poetic effect. Córdova conscripts us, her viewers, into a wholly imagined, yet psychologically charged, act of looking. (Idea for an art history seminar: try pairing the work with Barbara Kruger’s Untitled [Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face], 1981, in which that phrase is emblazoned over a photo reproduction of a Classical female head, another instance of pronouns arrestingly deployed.) We Focus on a Woman Facing Sideways, which was part of her breakthrough exhibition, “Smoke, Nearby,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2017, has a particularly personal association for the artist, having been inspired by her grandmother’s comment that the loss of one earring rendered its match virtually worthless. But Córdova has used the same legerdemain in other works as well.