Lea Cetera Southard Reid
Lea CeteraSouthard Reid
Lea Cetera, Chassis, 2022. Photography: Jason Mandella. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London.




The work of New York-based artist Lea Cetera re-stages the processes of dissection and manipulation to which marginalised human and animal bodies are subjected under conditions of capitalism, immortalising cultural and material detritus through sculpture, film and performance.



In Cetera's installations, ephemeral forms and disposable objects are cast in porcelain, resin and plastic. Often mounted on shelves, tables and chairs crafted from gridded steel and wood, her forms disclose a fixation with often exploitative mechanisms of display and consumption, and with the aesthetics of production and its attendant waste materials. Visualising the debris produced by capitalism's excesses, the effect is that of a defunct functionality: HD television screens obstructed by thick mesh; lounge chairs occupied by discarded face masks; plastic boba tea cups left half-full on a coffee table.


Utilizing techniques culled from a background in theatre and film-making, Cetera interrogates the ways in which identities are constructed and performed, with particular attention to the ways in which contemporary technologies and media intersect with the physical reality of inhabiting a body within an often hostile environment.


In September 2022 Cetera will open Southard Reid's new London space at 10 – 16 Grape Street, with the solo show Chassis, a presentation loosely centred around a titular kinetic sculpture. The work is currently included in 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut, USA. Other solo shows and commissions include Expanding Brain, Southard Reid, London, UK (2018); The Lighthouse Works Public Art Commission, Fishers Island, NY, USA (2017); Threshold, Southard Reid, Frieze NY, USA (2017); Emerging Artist Fellowship, Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY, USA (2016); TRANSFERENCE, Southard Reid, London, UK (2015); Sprawl, Art In General, New York, NY, USA (2015); Observational Comedy, Southard Reid, London, UK (2014).



Lea Cetera CV.pdf
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Chassis, 2022

Southard Reid, London




“Chassis is a gyroscopic machine that spins a hollow resin cast female figure filled with liquids. The word chassis refers to the body or framework of a car, but is also colloquially used to refer to the body or the frame of a woman in an objectifying manner. I wanted to make a piece about an irreconcilable conflict or a plurality that exists inside all of us, but specifically for the female body, and the double standards that women often find themselves caught in; to create a machine that was a chaotic environment that the body is subjected to.”

- Lea Cetera





The rotocasting machine which Chassis's structure emulates refers to the process by which the hollow cast – in this case, a transparent acupuncture model – is made, becoming both its means of creation and presentation. Containing two liquids of different consistencies (one red, one blue) the figurine is spun and revolved until the two colours and fluids emulsify, combining into a viscous purple substance before separating back into their respective primary colours at intervals of stillness. Suggestive of the hues used to depict blood vessels in medical diagrams, the liquids streak like veins across the interior of the figure, forming patterns equally evocative of “the acupressure points of the nervous system which form a motherboard-like highway across the body.”


Tracing a shared concern with the manipulation and dissection of the body, Giant Cuttlefish, Giant Conch and Rainbow Lobster (2021 – 2022) each comprise a large screen mounted in a gridded expanded steel structure. Reminiscent of a lobster trap used for catching marine life, the steel cages frame footage consisting of documentation culled from Youtube of sea creatures being expertly gutted, prepared and plated. The cool detachment of the looped video is punctured by words flashing over the screen in bright fragments: texts which raise questions around the complicity of the viewer as consumer of images, as well as consumption at large.







Giant Cuttlefish, for example, draws parallels between the infamous thought experiment, Shrödinger's cat – “that there is a moment in time where a cat is both alive and dead in the same thought” – and our often unconscious involvement in the systems which wage war on the planet and human life: “how can we unlearn and interrogate our assumptions of conditions of the systems that govern our bodies, when it is the water we swim in?”





“how can we unlearn and interrogate our assumptions of conditions of the systems that govern our bodies, when it is the water we swim in?”




Chassis opens on Friday 2nd September, 2022, at 10 - 16 Grape Street, London.



Expanding Brain, 2018

Southard Reid, London


Expanding Brain, Southard Reid, London, 17 May - 7 July 2018. Photography: Mark Blower, courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London.



The grouping of discrete sculptures in Expanding Brain comprise a vernacular arrangement of objects that reference functional, utilitarian and civic design: wall shelves, filing cabinet, trash can in formica, plywood, acrylic and expanded steel. Upon closer inspection the sculptures hint towards a more private experience of the artist’s personal relationship to identity, art and art-making as a woman of colour, incorporating signage and laser etched excerpts from her correspondences and sketchbooks. No response (2018), for instance, sees excerpts of an email thread between Cetera and an unnamed curator (“Just wondering if you are Latin?”) etched ono the surface of an acrylic shelving unit, a quip in which questions around identity are quite literally imprinted onto contexts of artistic display.


Artist Interview (2018) similarly addresses the exploration of self and artistic identity with a blunt use of language extracted from the routine lines of questioning with which Cetera is confronted as an artist. Here, she presents a confessional style artist interview taking equal inspiration from a 2016 BBC interview of a female assassin hired by President Duterte of the Philippines and the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre by Louis Malle. The subject – an autobiographical, yet fictional version of Cetera, physical and vocal characteristics obscured as if protecting her identity from the viewer – appears in a subtitled, single shot Q&A. The figure responds and reflects on her position towards and within an environment where artists, specifically of colour, are expected to perform their identity, race, and gender.





“Do we have to perform our race and identity constantly to an insufferable end? Identity is more nuanced than we give it credit for. You might want to look harder.”

Artist Interview, 2018





Threshold, 2017

Frieze New York


Threshold, Southard Reid at Frieze New York, 2017. Photography: Mark Blower and Ernst Fischer. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London.



“I view the installations as sets, the objects as props and the video as the performance, so the character and function of each object is shifted from conception. I am interested in the disjunct that happens between the experience of the three-dimensional space and the flattened, illusory, pre-recorded projections of the same space. In the case of the installations, the video projections need the sculptures and the sculptures need the video projections. However, I’ve made sculptures that exist on their own as well as videos that only function as videos. It’s a fun game of shifting and finding new permutations between these time-based formats. I like the audience to be involved within the work. In the case of large-scale projection installations, the viewer is forced to walk into the projections, their shadows becoming as much a part of the work as the rest of the installation. I am very adamant about the work not being read as theatre. We are not peering through an imaginary fourth wall at the players - we are experiencing an illusory disjunct in time and space.”

- MARFA Journal 5, Lea Cetera in conversation with India Salvor Menuez, Spring 2016







Cups, plastic and resin, all 2017. Photography: Ernst Fischer. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London.



Chairs, 2016 - 2017


The Lighthouse Works Public Art Commission



Inspired by Brazilian dramatist Augusto Boal’s acting exercise “The Chair of Power”, which addresses the invention and reconfiguration of space and the spatial structures of authority, Chair Totem Pole is a monument to the ordinary and everyday objects and props that make up the mise-en-scène of daily life. Drawing from Boal's theatrical methodology of the Theatre of the Oppressed, which sees theatre as a critical space of rehearsal for radical action in which the audience are welcomed to disrupt and intervene in the proceedings of the drama, Boal’s acting exercise is a monument to the idea that we have the ability to harness the power and agency needed to create and recreate our realities as we see fit.



Scan from Augusto Boal, Games for Actors and Non-Actors (2002)





Design Within Reach, Socrates Sculpture Park, Emerging Artist Fellowship, Long Island City, 25 September 2016 - 13 March 2017



Lea Cetera’s Design Within Reach is a series of enamel painted steel chairs based on iconic designs of Modernist architects Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. By presenting counterfeits of luxury designs in durable materials in a public park Cetera makes accessible what is typically available only for private consumption.





Sprawl, 2015

Art in General, New York


Sprawl, performance at Art in General, New York, 22 January - 21 February 2015



In Sprawl, commissioned by Art in General for the Storefront Project Space, New York, Cetera draws inspiration from the consumer language of the storefront window, employing its specific layers of flattened perspective produced by glass-walled architecture, and tight proximity of space that is both public and private. As with her broader artistic practice that often updates the concerns of 1960s Minimalism, Cetera here engages with the phenomenological aspects of navigating the built environment that influence our psychological and emotional states.


This project includes performance, live-feed and prerecorded video, and a series of new sculptures that recall the window grates and security fences that are prominent features of the urban landscape. Her objects reference these peripheral, precautionary elements found in New York City in their formal relationship to the human body’s scale and shape, as well as their functionality in guiding or blocking the body’s capacity to grasp, reach, or climb.


Addressing the condition of simultaneous visibility and invisibility that comes with city dwelling, Sprawl draws the street viewer and passerby into a fourth, projected space that implicates them in the acts of viewing and being viewed as participants in the constructed and surveilled environment. For the artist, these gestures serve as metaphors for aggression, control, and self-preservation, as well as comfort, safety, and order — all omnipresent concerns of contemporary urban life.










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