Jerome Reyes’ first solo exhibition, “Until Today: Spectres of the International Hotel” is ambitious on a monumental scale, bringing together sculpture, drawing, indoor and outdoor installations, public programming, archives, and video. Curated by Julio Caesar Morales, “Until Today” is a relentless exploration into the buried histories of the brutal eviction of low-income and elderly Filipino tenants from the residential San Francisco International Hotel (I-Hotel) in the late 1970s. Reyes explores traces of trauma and fraught passage of time by manipulating or recreating artifacts and spaces.
Reyes’ video Analgesia (and Armament) (2010) is a video projection of an anonymous pair of hands holding a butterfly knife, which forcefully cuts through the tough skin of a cantaloupe. The piercing sound is visceral and uncomfortable. The effect alludes to moments before the police knocked down the doors of the I-hotel in order to forecfully remove the tenants, when tenant leader Wahat Tampao use a butterfly knife and earnestly began to cut cantaloupe into slices, feeding and calming the activists. Analgesia is a muted redux of potentials for instinctual generosity and collectivity.
Reyes’ series of dense, melancholic drawings (2010) depict simple and ordinary spaces, like an empty hallway or unoccupied stairwell. The vacant scenes are pregnant with the feeling something has just happened, or will soon. The ghosts of the I-Hotel evictions linger oppressively in the air and they weigh heavily. Francisco de Goya’s epic intaglio series, Disasters of War, dominate the canon of hauntingly visual protest and timeless remembrance of the gruesome atrocities of all war, and Reyes’ drawings offer a ghostly parallel reflection on the unjust consequences of political battles confronted on the home front. The elderly tenants would collect in the hallways of the boarding house to mingle—their private rooms were too small for guests. Their fraternization was more than habitual and casual social gatherings, more so what Michel de Certeau would recognize as the manifestation of the powerful yet muted tactics of resistance inherent in everyday life—walking the city streets, or in this case, organizing in the hallways of the hotel. The tenants unconsciously took over and refigured these common and unexceptional walkways that were meant for movement, passing, and transition and instead turned them into fleeting zones of autonomy, collectivity, and resistance. Until Today is an elegiac reminder of the forgotten social and political wars fought at home.