| || Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection,courtesy Galerie Lelong|
| ||untitled (Silueta Series), 1980|
Famous for using her body like a paintbrush and the
earth as a canvas, Ana Mendieta is the subject of
concurrent shows at the Whitney Museum and Galerie Lelong.
By JEFFREY CYPHERS WRIGHT
Born in Cuba, Ana Mendieta was a Pedro Pan child or political refugee.
She was sent without her parents from the island to the United States,
to landlocked Iowa, and spent years in foster care. By
the time she died in 1985, when she fell or was pushed
from a window in New York, her experience with
displacement had become a vision. The blaze marks she left
on her trail place her among the most influential and
innovative artists of her time.
She stayed in Iowa through graduate school at the State
University and began studying art with Hans Breder,
who became her lover and helper. Breder was a
proponent of happening-type, performance art and had
begun the University's inter-media program.
When Mendieta mixed in her vision and heritage,
the results were profound.
|Exhibition: Earth Body / Filmworks and Drawings.|
Works by: Ana Mendieta.
| May 21 - July 30, 2004|
Gallery: Galerie Lelong
528 West 26th Street
New York NY
Hours: Tuesday ö Saturday : 10 a.m. ö 6 p.m.
Phone: (212) 315-0470
Ana Mendieta: Earth Body is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through September 19, 2004; and at the
Hirshhorn Museum from October 14, to January 5, 2005
Breder often photographed or filmed her. He documented her
running on a beach in Mexico covered with white
feathers. Margaret Krug, the Senior Educator at the
Whitney as well as a former student of Mendieta's
related that, "Much of the work that is considered her
signature work was photographed by him. He was a very
important part of that work." In the Museum there is a photo series of the
Actualist poet Morty Sklar, shaving his beard and
Mendieta gluing it on her face. The final pictures of
her looking slyly at the camera are candid at once
humorous and protean.
Using the body as a central element in her craft,
Mendieta is a seminal figure in many of today's major
artistic vortices. Her body was literally her
paintbrush in "Body Tracks." The film clip of this
performance shows the artist using her tempera and
blood-covered forearms and hands to wipe down a wall
almost to the floor. The act of leaving the marks
becomes a choreographed capsule, ironically preserving
a finite ritualistic event and presenting it as a
timeless work of art. Several of the resultant
paintings of the hand streaks turning into downward
arching smears are on view as well.
| ||The act of leaving the marks becomes a choreographed capsule, ironically preserving a finite ritualistic event and presenting it as a timeless work of art.|
Another section of the Whitney is devoted to a
project in which Mendieta made a cast of her hand that
she then used as a brand and branded a book, page by
page. The random differentiations in the burns are
alluring. Her marks are left indirectly a basic strategy
Mendieta explored in her relentless investigation of
our connection to the earth.
In her most recognized work, formulated in the
"Silueta" series, Mendieta often leaves a trace of her
body in some earthy medium. In an untitled film, a body form
has been gouged out of the beach. We watch as waves
breach the border and begin to obliterate the
depression. The artist sometimes used fire and even
gunpowder to accelerate a dispersal process. The
transformation the material undergoes, ultimately
returns it to nature. Much of the work is a
documentation of such transient "acts." But also there is a
room at the Whitney of wooden stelae and burn marks on
bark. There are womb or tomb shapes formed
out of mud, rocks, and even black candles in a loose
outline of a body.
At Galerie LeLong some two dozen drawings done late in
the artist's life, bewitch and transfix. Each
drawing is streamlined generally one line or a couple
of shapes with a cryptic sense, often translating
into a stylized female figure such as the "Madre Selva,"
or leaf woman. These works, with their use of various
materials and methods such as tracing and rubbing,
echo her performances. In their directness and
focus, the drawings reveal a depth of cool distilment.
She described her endeavors at this time, as an effort
to "bring the nature inside."
|The transformation the material undergoes, ultimately
returns it to nature.|| |
Some of the films are presented in tandem in darkened
interiors that resemble the caves where Mendieta sculpted
some of her final works. One film depicts the
artist lying naked in a creek, suggesting cleansing
and rebirth. In another film, "Keane College Volcano"
at Galerie Lelong, the wind is gently stirring a mound
of ash that swirls up from a stone form's breast. The
bluish powder twirls up and teasingly dissipates.
This breathless little dance,this choreographed chance
of the elements is the best. Ana Mendieta may
have written her name on the earth in disappearing
ink, but she did it so well that we can't erase it.
|JULY 27, 2004|
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