The 58th Venice Biennale, May You Live In Interesting Times (11 May–24 November 2019), certainly benefitted from low expectations, given the lacklustre curatorial of the previous edition, when different segments of the show were conceptually framed with titles like 'Pavilion of Joys and Fears' and 'Pavilion of Colours'. Add to this the...
Hong Kong-based artist Zheng Bo's social, ecological, and community-engaged art practice has, in recent years, focused on moving beyond a human-centred perspective to an all-inclusive, multi-species approach. He takes up marginalised plants and communities of people as subjects in his large-scale interventions, which reintroduce wildness into...
The weather was clement for the annual Auckland Art Fair (2–5 May 2019), which was again at The Cloud on Queens Wharf. This year's edition was a get-together of 41 galleries, mostly from around Auckland and across New Zealand, with 5 spaces hailing from Sydney and the rest from Cook Islands (Bergman Gallery), Hobart (Michael Bugelli Gallery),...
Cecilia Vicuña. Courtesy Elephant.
Arriving at Cecilia Vicuña's TriBeCa apartment-cum-studio, I am ushered in through a dramatic drapery of plastic that partially obscures numerous floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, as if I'm entering some secret hideaway. The artist assures me that the plastic is temporary; just the result of some old building facets that needed a facelift. The books, however, prove to be the bones of the seventy-year-old artist's home, if not her artistic life on the whole.
Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948 in Santiago, Chile; lives and works in New York and Santiago) integrates practices of poetry, performance, Conceptualism, and textile craft in response to pressing concerns of the modern world, including ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization. Born and raised in Santiago, she was exiled during the early 1970s after the violent military coup against President Salvador Allende. This sense of impermanence, and a desire to preserve and pay tribute to the indigenous history and culture of Chile, have characterized her work throughout her career.
While living in Chile during the mid-1960s, Vicuña began an ongoing series of small sculptures she calls precarios, spatial poems in which she combines feathers, stone, plastic, wood, wire, shells, cloth, and other human-made detritus. These tiny sculptures are often loosely fastened together with string, so the materials appear to have gathered naturally. These works are defined by their fragility and ephemerality: Vicuña initially composed the precarios along the ocean's edge, so that they would inevitably be erased by the high tide. Around the same time, Vicuña became interested in ancient quipus—an Incan method of visual communication and record-keeping involving the knotting of colored strings. Her first spatial weavings date from the early seventies, and soon after she began to make her own Quipus from unspun wool—ephemeral, site-specific installations which combined the tactile ritual of weaving and spinning with assemblage, poetry, and performance. Vicuña's surreal figurative paintings of the 1970s are more explicitly personal and political than her other bodies of work, and were in direct response to the unrest in Chile and her subsequent exile. These paintings refer to the subtly subversive images made by 16th-century indigenous artists in Latin America after the Spanish conquest, when they were forced to paint angels and saints for the Catholic church. In Vicuña's paintings, religious icons are replaced by personal, political, and literary figures, commemorated and mythologized by the artist.
Vicuña received her MFA from the National School of Fine Arts, University of Chile in 1971 and continued with postgraduate studies at Slade School of Fine Art, University College London from 1972-1973. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA, 2017; Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile, 2014; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile, 2014; FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France, 2013; Institute for Women and Art, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 2009; The Drawing Center, New York, 2002; and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO, 2002. Group exhibitions and biennials featuring her work include Documenta 14, Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany (2017); Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2017; 18th Sydney Biennale, Australia (2012); DANCE / DRAW, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2011; ONLIN__E, Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010; WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2007; BIENNIAL Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1997; and INside the VISIBLE curated by Catherine M. de Zegher, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, traveled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 1996. Her work is in numerous international private and public collections, including Tate Gallery, London; FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile; UC Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; and the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, TX.
Vicuña is the author of 20 volumes of art and poetry published in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. Her filmography includes documentaries, animation, and visual poems. Vicuña has received several awards, including The Anonymous Was a Woman Award, New York (1999); and The Andy Warhol Foundation Award (1997), and in 2015 was appointed the messenger lecturer at Cornell University.
Lehmann Maupin is pleased to present La India Contaminada, the gallery's inaugural exhibition for Cecilia Vicuña. While the Chilean-born artist has lived in New York and exhibited widely in the United States and abroad for over three decades, this is the first comprehensive survey of her work in New York. The exhibition will feature Vicuña's raw wool installation and sculpture known as Quipu, mixed-media sculptures referred to as Lo Precario, video, and painting, spanning 1969-2017. La India Contaminada will run concurrent with a solo exhibition exhibition of her Disappeared Quipu at the Brooklyn Museum, opening May 18, with her early performance and photographic work also included in the museum's iteration of the traveling exhibition, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985. The gallery will host a reception for the artist on Saturday, May 19, from 6 to 8 PM.
Vicuña's Quipu (translated as 'knot' from Quechua) works reinvent the ancient Andean system that recorded statistics and narratives through the knotting of coloured thread. Historically, the quipu has been regarded as a simple bureaucratic device, but research demonstrates they represented a complex system of knowledge with symbolic and virtual dimensions of enormous existential and social value that connected communities. Addressing this larger paradigm, Vicuña constructs her Quipus as poems in space. These tactile representations of the expansive interconnection of the cosmological and human realms relate her work to the Quantum Poetics movement that seeks to describe a reality that does not conform to standard perception. For Vicuña, Quantum Poetics are aligned with the indigenous worldview of the Americas.
At its core her work is poetical and philosophical rather than anthropological. Vicuna's use of dyed, raw and unprocessed wool, coiled in Caracol Azul (Blue Snail) (2017) or suspended as in Quipu Viscera (Visceral Quipu) (2017) creates a visual meditation on the liminal spaces between life and death, humans and nature, the past and the present, represented in the diffuse fibrous strands of wool. With our mutual fate now in question as we venture into the anthropocene, Vicuna's Quipus serve as a reminder of the hubris that separates humanity from nature, asking us to reconsider our origins and interconnectedness.
This cosmological connection is evident in another sculptural series, Lo Precario, 'the precarious. Each component—found scraps of cloth, shards of plastic, a feather, a leaf, a butterfly, a pencil—is included for its formal and representational potential. This gives each object infinite complexity on its own, a synecdoche of the larger installation as a whole, meant to be interpreted as a constellation. Originally, Vicuña composed these along the ocean's shores, intended to disintegrate and wash away with high tide right after creation. She continues to perform this ritual in waterways around the world, while also bringing them indoors to display on walls and in vitrines, where the fragility of the composition and materials warns of their precarity.
Vicuña, a noted poet and author, has garnered her reputation as an activist through her multidimensional art, performances, films, and writing that confront the patriarchy, white supremacy, violent totalitarian rule, and ecological plundering. Nowhere is this more visually evident than in her paintings, primarily created during the 1970s. While several are explicitly political in content, such as her Lenin (1972), Vicuña's most radical act, perhaps, is to embody and depict the undoing of centuries of indoctrination and dogma.
Like her quipus, the paintings refer to Latin American history, in this case the points of first contact between the Spanish and indigenous people when Incan artists were forcibly converted to Catholicism and enlisted to paint and worship European religious icons. They nevertheless found ways to subvert the rulers by incorporating their own cultural iconography and worldviews into the renderings. These early South American, Christian paintings are a tangible visualization of the miscegenation that defined the colonial period, where fusing one's way of life with the alien form imposed upon them was required for survival. Vicuña similarly adopts this method by using this colonial style of image making, but incorporating revolutionary iconography. Paintings like Leoparda de Ojitos (1976) offer evidence of this 'contaminated' mode of thinking—daring to position an indigenous, decolonized woman's perspective, presented to the viewers throughout La India Contaminada, as emblematic of human history and potential. A return to the past, in order to understand and transform the future.
Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948 in Santiago, Chile; lives and works in New York and Santiago). Vicuña received her MFA from the National School of Fine Arts, University of Chile in 1971 and continued her postgraduate studies at Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, from 1972-1973. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA (2017); Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile (2014); Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile (2014); FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France (2013); Institute for Women and Art, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (2009); The Drawing Center, New York (2002); and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO (2002). Group exhibitions and biennials featuring her work include documenta 14, Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany (2017); Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012); DANCE / DRAW, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2011); ONLINE, Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007); 12th Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1997); and INside the VISIBLE, curated by Catherine M. de Zegher, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which traveled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (1996). Her work is in numerous international private and public collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, Tate Modern, London; FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile; UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; and the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, TX.
Vicuña is the author of 25 volumes of art and poetry published in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Her filmography includes documentaries, animation, and visual poems. Vicuña has received several awards, including The Anonymous Was a Woman Award, New York (1999); and The Andy Warhol Foundation Award (1997). In 2015, Vicuña was appointed a Messenger Lecturer at Cornell University.
LONDON — A cluster of snails are glued, like barnacles on a ship, to a disused metal post, which stands in a field of dry grass, a shabby apartment block looming in the background. In the photograph, Snails (2009) by French artist Kader Attia, the molluscs are not a culinary delicacy served on a platter with garlic butter, but a symbol of the...
Her current show features work by three artists: Yuji Agematsu, Charles Harlan, and Nari Ward. The theme of 'everyday objects'—ranging from carefully salvaged dross to mundane materials—loosely binds the selection.
The ten paintings in McArthur Binion's show (all 2017 or 2018) were from a series called 'Hand:Work.' In one sense, the title is literal: a photographic image of the artist's hand recurs throughout the paintings, serving as a building block and a serial motif.
In 2009, when Kader Attia visited Picasso and the Masters at Paris's Grand Palais, he was surprised to find that the show included works by Caravaggio, El Greco and Cézanne, yet made no mention of the African art that inspired Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (1907). His response was to dig out a mask he'd found in a Dakar market and cover it with mirror...
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