Héctor Velázquez is a Mexican sculptor and the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Jóvenes Creadores Prize. He has also participated in the Yucatán and Monterrey Biennials. His work explores the relationship between emotion, sensation, and the human body, involving an artistic process of 'introspection, almost ritual.'Read More
Velázquez was born in Mexico City and grew up in a large family that favoured the arts and humanities. His father studied architecture and founded a company that built maquettes. He also enjoyed painting landscapes and 16th-century churches in watercolour and would frequently take his son on trips to paint outdoors. Although Velázquez never aspired to be an artist, this experience proved to be formative: Velázquez was inspired to produce drawings and photographs and eventually to begin working on wooden figurines.
Velázquez attended the National School of Fine Arts in Mexico City, graduating in 1988. He then travelled to Germany to study at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart after gaining a scholarship to study abroad. Graduating in 1995, he moved to Berlin to continue his education at the Berlin University of the Arts, where he met his wife. He remained in Germany until 2006.
Velázquez's work first gained attention in 1993 when he and a group of young artists organised a collective exhibition at 44 Temístocles Street in Polanco, Mexico City. His installation featured a series of bags of soil that appeared to emerge from a hole in the wall that was actually the hallway, spilling out as though the house itself was overflowing with organic material. The connection between the body and the earth would remain central in Velázquez's work.
Héctor Velázquez's practice utilises 'open portraits' of his close family and friends to create artworks that explore the relationship between body, land, and psyche, along with mythical links to pre-Hispanic history. His sculptures are highly tactile, using yarn, fabric, silver, and porcelain in order to invite the viewer not just to look but to involve themselves physically, culturally, and emotionally.
In 2001, Velázquez was inspired by an exhibition at Berlin's Ethnological Museum on the Aztec ceremony devoted to Xipe Tótec, the god of spring and regeneration. Tlacaxipehualiztli or the 'Flaying of Men' involved a sacrificial offering whereby the victim would be skinned and their skin then worn by a priest for 20 days, symbolising the rejuvenation of the earth at the beginning of the agricultural cycle.
Velázquez's interpretation highlighted the importance of emotional reciprocation from those close to him, creating yarn portraits around plaster casts of friends and family members and then attaching them to self-portraits, with sunken eyes, ears, and lips beneath to show the effect of this secondary skin. The artist also replicated hands and feet cradling one another in tones of red to show the symbiotic relationship of social interaction. The series was first exhibited at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin in 2004.
In 2005, Velázquez began a series of 'open portraits' that depict both his own portrait and a topographical map of his surroundings, inspired by his residency at the Banff Centre in Banff, Canada. In order to capture his own silhouette in fabric, he lay on his back on the canvas, then rolled over onto his stomach and traced the entire form.
In Open Héctor (2005), the front of the sculpture features flecks of green, brown, and yellow, resembling mountains and rivers. On the reverse, Velázquez knotted hanging threads of red and blue on white fabric, resembling a cross-section of the human body with veins exposed.
Velázquez continued the 'yarn painting' technique of 'Xipe Tótec' in a series entitled 'Tangles' in 2011, using plaster casts of his mother's arthritis-stricken hands gripping one another rendered in similarly organic shades of red and green. The artist created these works during the decline of his mother's health as her memory faded, often sitting next to her, holding her twitching hands. The sculpture is intended to be both a record of her physicality and the complexity of grief.
In 1998, Velázquez won the Jóvenes Creadores Prize, awarded by Mexico's National Fund for Culture and the Arts (FONCA). He was selected for the Monterrey Biennial, Mexico (1999), the Yucatan Biennial, Mexico (2004), and several residencies at the Banff Centre, Canada (2001, 2005, 2008).
Héctor Velázquez has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include The Garments of St. Christopher, Kunst in der Kirche, St. Christopher Church, Berlin (2017); Testimonies – Evidence of a Transformation, Pavillon am Milchhof, Berlin (2013); Unfolding Bodies, Puerta Roja Gallery, Hong Kong (2012); Collection 1800, Terreno Baldío Arte Gallery, Mexico City (2011); Héctor Velázquez, Unfolding bodies, Querétaro Art Museum, Querétaro (2008).
Group exhibitions include Territorios Compartidos / Shared Territories / 共享領土, Puerta Roja, Mexico City (2019); Verstrickt: Mariel Poppe & Héctor Valázquez, Friedman Projekte, Berlin (2019); La Memoria Programada, Terreno Baldio, Mexico City (2018); Reflections, Puerta Roja, Hong Kong (2018); Concentric Rings, San Pedro Factory, Uruapan (2017).
Velázquez's website can be found here.
Annie Curtis | Ocula | 2022