Roberto Tejada’s Exposition Park is the Baroque made uneasy again, from the antipodal tug of the poem as essay (think, say, of José Lezama Lima’s at once craggy and barren expanses, language as topography, accident as landscape) to shimmering transcrea tions of sonnets by Spanish Golden-Age masters such as Lope de Vega and Garcilaso de la Vega. The title immediately evokes Los Angeles, of which Tejada is a native, with its nod to a downtown multi-use public space whose history bridges fairground and technology park, polis and mausoleum. The titular conceit embodies what is perhaps at the heart of Tejada’s project: helping us see social space as simultaneously utopian and abject.  (Process notes. Series. The meaning of spare. Parts.) Tejada seems to be seeking out an expressive counter-economy in the interstices between a Latin American “barroco” and a post-vanguard minimalism—between channeling excess and resisting it altogether. The lists of “Diorama” reveal a heavy “cargo of division into parts” (31). The diorama—the staged and damaged public space of the exposition park—marks a failure but it also encodes a condition of possibility, partly through its reworking of histories plural. And so here Tejada constructs eccentric, deeply personal, yet inclusive genealogies of innovative political and process-centric art, just as he does in his work as art critic/historian, and as coeditor of the hemispheric poetics journal Mandorla (whose editorial board I’m on, disclosure and caveat emptor). At stake here, then, is a shareable conceptualism, process as politics but on a personal scale, where the body is sited, against the exhaustion of vanguard disjunctions and the forced dislocations of empire. (Exposition. Display. Out of position. But also visuality.) Art catalog text. These are poems as hemispheric responses to artists (Sandra Ramos, Melanie Smith, Magali Lara). Essays on displaced bodies. Écriture as embodiment. Tejada’s city still has echoes of Baudelaire (don’t they all?): the poet maps synapse in another walking tour of a stillborn modernity, but this time with no pilot plan, no manifesto. If there’s a program here, it’s mindful of seduction. Bataillean raza, perhaps? If at times Tejada’s method seems unnecessarily fastidious (the post-language art-geek riffs are by and large lovely, but a dirty or found vernacular would work just as well and be more, say, shareable), it may be necessarily so. (Though Bataille’s cuerpo is más puerco.) Exposition Park models eros-lingua to re-calibrate economies of body, against technocrat management: “Tyranny past participle desire” (40). (Desire’s erosion. Beauty. A sedimental journey.) Some come for the experiments or concepts. I stay for the poems unhomed, the promise of these scriptural awnings.
                                                                            

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