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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Pia Camil

b. 1980, Mexico

Across Pia Camil's diverse practice—spanning painting, ceramics, public projects and gigantic patchwork garments—is an underlying inquiry into the relationship between a city and its people. Drawing from a wide range of inspirations including the visual form of Mexico City and the works of fellow artists, Camil examines the urban debris left behind by globalisation and consumer culture.

Born in Mexico City, Camil studied in the United States and Britain. When she returned to her hometown after university, she was astounded to find that the city's landscape had become unfamiliar to her. Particularly intrigued by the city's ruins, she began the painting series 'Highway Follies' (2011), comprising irregularly shaped, monochromatic canvases inspired by the forms of abandoned construction sites along highways. Camil covered each canvas in resin and mineral pigment, giving it a saturated and textured surface. The series also included photographic studies of the original sites, printed with a layer of pigment wash that lent an aged atmosphere to the images. In an artist statement, Camil noted a tendency to romanticise urban ruins: 'the aestheticisation of failure'.

Camil's interest in city debris has also led her to work with abandoned billboards in Mexico. In the 'Espectaculares Paintings' series (2012-2015)—shown in her 2014 solo exhibition The Little Dog Laughed at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles—canvases were sewn together out of pieces of hand-dyed fabrics cut to mimic the shapes of letters and numbers from billboards. Instead of replicating the text from the billboards in their entirety, however, Camil deconstructed them into fragments; their forms suggested a legible text from distance, yet were illegible up close.

Similarly containing abstracted text from billboards and also included in the exhibition was Camil's series of ceramic sculptures titled 'Fragmento' (2014). For this series, each work took the form of a portion of a number or a letter. In Fragmento 0 (2014), for example, the J-shaped sculpture was based on a section of the number 0.

Another of Camil's ongoing concerns is to engender an intimate, direct relationship between her artwork and the audience, in an effort to circumvent the often consumerist approach towards art-viewing. The artist has explored this idea with participatory projects such as Wearing Watching—commissioned by Frieze Art Inc in 2015—for which she distributed 800 ponchos stitched from repurposed fabrics, free of charge. Formally, the ponchos were based on wearable textiles designed by the late Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica. Whereas Oiticica sought to encourage an unrestrained approach to life through his formless garments, Camil responded to the commercial nature of art fairs by offering hers for free. Her only request to the participants was to post their selfies on social media while wearing her ponchos, which not only brought the poncho-wearers into physical contact with Camil's work, but also turned them into a spectacle at the fair.

As with Wearing Watching, Camil based the performance Divisor Pirata (2016-ongoing) on the work of another artist—in this case, Lygia Pape's Divisor (1968). In both Pape and Camil's performances, participants poked their heads through the openings of an enormous textile and marched in unison. However, Camil replaced Pape's single piece of white fabric with a colourful garment composed of T-shirts that were, for the most-part, originally manufactured in Mexico to be sold in the United States, and then were brought back to Mexico after being discarded by their owners. In bringing them back to North America for her performance, Camil recasts the T-shirts as sojourning carriers of cultural information and as reminders of the massive debris that globalisation generates. The performance was initiated in the streets of Guatemala City in 2016, followed by Dallas in 2017 and Savannah in 2018.

Camil received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in 2003, and an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, in 2008. Selected solo exhibitions include Fade Into Black at SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia (2018); Split Wall at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2018); and Telón de Boca at Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City (2018); in addition, Camil presented a performance during the 4th annual Do Disturb! at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2018). Her work has also been exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2018); Dallas Contemporary (2017); Blum & Poe, New York (2016); New Museum, New York (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2015); and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2015), among others.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Bust Mask Accessory (Earth and Copper) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Accessory (Earth and Copper), 2016 Enamelled ceramic
43.2 x 37.1 x 5.7 cm
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Sulphur by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Sulphur, 2016 Enameled ceramic
17.38 x 14.5 x 2.75 inches
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Charcoal (detail) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Charcoal (detail), 2016 Enameled ceramic, maple pedestal
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Sulphur (detail) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Sulphur (detail), 2016 Enameled ceramic, maple pedestal
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Eggshell White (detail) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Eggshell White (detail), 2016 Enameled ceramic, maple pedestal
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Accessory (Earth and Copper) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Accessory (Earth and Copper), 2016 Enameled ceramic, maple pedestal, copper accessories
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Jade (detail) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Jade (detail), 2015 Enameled ceramic, maple pedestal
Blum & Poe
Bust Mask Accessory (Jade) by Pia Camil contemporary artwork Pia CamilBust Mask Accessory (Jade), 2016 Enameled ceramic, maple pedestal, copper accessories
Blum & Poe

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Pia Camil, Slats, skins and shop fittings at Blum & Poe, New York
Closed
7 July–12 August 2016 Pia Camil Slats, skins and shop fittings Blum & Poe, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Pia Camil, Entrecortinas: Abre, Jala, Corre at Galería OMR, Mexico City
Closed
4 February–22 March 2014 Pia Camil Entrecortinas: Abre, Jala, Corre Galería OMR, Mexico City

Represented By

In Related Press

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In the Studio: Pia Camil Related Press In the Studio: Pia Camil Art in America : 1 April 2019

PIA CAMIL'S STUDIO in Mexico City is an expansive, windowless room on the ground floor of an old building tucked away between a wide arterial road and the city's Parque de Chapultepec. She keeps the basement-like space orderly, and during the workday it is almost impossible to imagine it moonlighting as El Cisne (The Swan), a lively cabaret Camil...

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Las historias del Tianguis del Chopo en “Telón de boca” Related Press Las historias del Tianguis del Chopo en “Telón de boca” Noticias N22 : 13 August 2018

Ciudad de México (N22/Redacción)–Realizada in situ, Telón de boca, es una pieza de la artista Pia Camil, que se construye con playeras de bandas musicales. Esto como una forma de invocar las historias que guarda el Tianguis Cultural del Chopo. Camil buscaba una obra que, como dijo en una entrevista publicada por el propio museo, “tuviera algo de...

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The strangely familiar world of Pia Camil Related Press The strangely familiar world of Pia Camil Apollo Magazine : 3 August 2018

Pia Camil’s first solo exhibition in the UK might be called Split Wall but it is actually entirely walled in. The large windows at Nottingham Contemporary that usually offer passers-by a sneak preview have been blocked up, and even the glass doors at the front of the space remain covered. The only way to experience the Mexican artist’s work is to...

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Pia Camil: 'A Pot for a Latch' Related Press Pia Camil: 'A Pot for a Latch' The Brooklyn Rail : 7 April 2016

If nothing else, Pia Camil’s work makes people smile. Or at least that’s the thought that struck me the other day as my companions and I exited the New Museum carrying a one-and-a-half-foot-tall green letter D and a wooden spoon large enough to serve peas to the Jolly Green Giant, to the amused stares of the people we passed on the...

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