María Berrío's collages, created by layering pieces of torn or cut paper with glue and delineating details with watercolour, are often populated by exquisitely dressed female figures and a surreal blend of natural elements and patterns.Read More
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, María Berrío studied in New York, receiving a BFA from Parsons School of Design in 2004 and an MFA from the School of Visual Art in 2007. Primarily trained in charcoal drawing and painting at school, she later began incorporating Japanese paper into her collages, after discovering the material during her MFA. As she told The Guardian in 2020, 'sometimes it can be very expressive, sometimes it can be very contained', which allows her to express her voice.
María Berrío frequently draws from South American literature and folklore in her work, as well as her childhood memories of Colombia. In Aluna (2017), a group of women are waist-deep in water; one bends over what appears to be the body of a tiger, while two others, impossible as it seems, hold a stream of water in their hands. This collage is inspired by a tradition of the Kogi people from Colombia, who raise their mamas or chosen priests in a cave for the first nine years of their lives so that they may experience aluna—'the mind of nature', as the artist explained in her interview with The Georgia Review in 2019—in its fullest.
Women are the main protagonists of María Berrío's collages. Whether by themselves or in groups, their piercing gazes often stare straight back at the viewer. Berrío's female figures are dignified and powerful beings, such as the woman who wears a cactus around her neck in A Universe of One (2018). As the artist told The Georgia Review in 2019, they embody both the traditional ideals of femininity and strength, 'the common force found in all women'.
María Berrío's collages have increasingly engaged with contemporary issues, merging elements of magical surrealism with her experiences as a Latin American woman. Wildflowers (2017), for example, depicts a railway carriage seemingly stranded in a field of flowers, surrounded by women and children, in a possible reference to La Bestia—the freight train that migrants take to reach the Mexico-U.S. border. Oda a la Esperanza (Ode to Hope) (2019), in which eight girls—each caging a bird in their hands—blankly look back at the viewer, was inspired by the separation of families at the U.S. border.
Flowered Songs and Broken Currents, Victoria Miro, London (2020); A Cloud's Roots, Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2019); In a Time of Drought, Praxis International Gallery, New York (2017); The Harmony of the Spheres, Praxis Gallery, New York (2015).
Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020, University of Art Museum at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces (2020); Psychic Wounds: On Art & Trauma, The Warehouse, Dallas, Texas (2020); María Berrío, Caroline Walker, Flora Yukhnovich, Victoria Miro, London (2019); People Get Ready: Building a Contemporary Collection, Nasher Museum of Art, Durham (2018); Prospect.4 Triennial: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (2017).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020
To look at a María Berrío work is to engage in a staring contest. The Colombian-born, Brooklyn-based artist, known for her surreal large-scale collages made with Japanese print paper, typically has at