HomePage Artists

b. 1948, Chile

Cecilia Vicuña Biography

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.

Read More

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.

Exhibition view: Cecilia Vicuña, Quipu Girok (Knot Record), Lehmann Maupin, Seoul (18 February–24 April 2021). ​Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photo: OnArt Studio.

Cecilia Vicuña Featured Artworks

View All (20)
Niña Mapuche by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaNiña Mapuche, 1975–2021Photo lithograph on mulberry paper with bamboo and red thread
30 x 20 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Girl with Book and Gun by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaGirl with Book and Gun, 1975–2021Photo lithograph on mulberry paper with bamboo and red thread
30 x 20 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Untitled (Precarios) by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaUntitled (Precarios)Mixed media
30.5 x 87 x 0.3 cm
Thomas Erben Gallery Contact Gallery
Bola de cable (Precarios) by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaBola de cable (Precarios), 2014Mixed media
14.6 x 15.2 x 11.9 cm
Thomas Erben Gallery Contact Gallery
Hilito y Finadita by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaHilito y Finadita, 2019Oil on canvas
134.6 x 91.4 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Llaverito (Blue) by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaLlaverito (Blue), 2019Oil on canvas
43 x 36 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Nubes/Disappearing Jaguar by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaNubes/Disappearing Jaguar, 2018Oil on linen
132.1 x 264.2 x 2.5 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Locomotora (L'Amour Fou) by Cecilia Vicuña contemporary artwork
Cecilia VicuñaLocomotora (L'Amour Fou), 1970Oil on canvas
56.5 x 66.7 x 3.5 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery

Cecilia Vicuña Current & Recent Exhibitions

View All (4)
Contemporary art exhibition, Cecilia Vicuña, Quipu Girok (Knot Record) at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
Open Now
18 February–24 April 2021 Cecilia Vicuña Quipu Girok (Knot Record) Lehmann MaupinSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Haptic Narrative - The Aspen Edition at 535 East Hyman Ave, Aspen, USA
Closed
8 August–15 September 2020 Group Exhibition Haptic Narrative - The Aspen Edition 535 East Hyman Ave, AspenAspen
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, ecofeminism(s) at Thomas Erben Gallery, New York
Closed
19 June–26 September 2020 Group Exhibition ecofeminism(s) Thomas Erben GalleryNew York

Cecilia Vicuña Represented By

Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in 536 West 22nd Street, New York, USA Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, London, Seoul

Cecilia Vicuña In Ocula Magazine

Black Lives Matter Tops ArtReview Power 100 Ocula News Black Lives Matter Tops ArtReview Power 100 London, 3 December 2020

The list remains overwhelmingly dominated by people, institutions and movements in the Western world.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Gwangju Biennale Announces 69 Participating Artists Ocula News Gwangju Biennale Announces 69 Participating Artists Gwangju, 18 November 2020

Forty-one new works have been commissioned to help develop the theme of 'Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning'.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Who Won the $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize? Ocula News Who Won the $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize? New York, 22 October 2020

The six nominees for 2020 were Nairy Baghramian, Kevin Beasley, Deana Lawson, Elias Sime, Cecilia Vicuña, and Adrián Villar Rojas.

Fade out copy.
Read More
The Major Biennales Going Ahead in 2020 Ocula News The Major Biennales Going Ahead in 2020 London, 8 July 2020

Despite numerous cancellations and postponements, several significant biennales in Europe and Asia will take place this year.

Fade out copy.
Read More

Cecilia Vicuña In Related Press

‘An Awareness of Disappearance’: an Interview with Poet, Activist and Artist Cecilia Vicuña Related Press ‘An Awareness of Disappearance’: an Interview with Poet, Activist and Artist Cecilia Vicuña 29 October 2019, Frieze

Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith: How would you describe the relationship between your art-making, writing and activism? Has it changed over the years? Cecilia Vicuña: It's a relationship that keeps moving while remaining the same. I couldn't think of one without the other and so the limit between them is porous and shifting and leaky. Something in...

Fade out copy.
Read More
LOOSE CANON Related Press LOOSE CANON 21 October 2019, ARTFORUM

IN JUNE, NEW YORK'S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART WENT DARK to put the finishing touches on its contentious five-year expansion, which promised to put $450 million and 47,000 square feet of Diller Scofidio + Renfro architecture toward fostering a 'deeper experience of art' across boundaries of media, geography, and identity. Today, MoMA emerges from its...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Cecilia Vicuña's Spatial Poems to Female Resilience Related Press Cecilia Vicuña's Spatial Poems to Female Resilience 16 July 2018, Frieze

You enter Cecilia Vicuña's exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, 'La India Contaminada' (The Contaminated Indigenous Woman), as if stepping into a forest. Many of the 71-year old artist's hallmark, enveloping skeins of soft wool, or quipus, hang in a thicket from the ceiling of the front gallery.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Cecilia Vicuña on Female Power and Climate Change Related Press Cecilia Vicuña on Female Power and Climate Change 13 June 2018, 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...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Be among the first to know when new artworks and exhibitions by Cecilia Vicuña are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
;