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    Complete archive, 1999-present


      untitled (Silueta Series), 1980 in Ana Mendieta: Earth Body / Filmworks and Drawings
       Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection,courtesy Galerie Lelong
      untitled (Silueta Series), 1980
    Ground breaker

    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.


    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.

    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
    Summer hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
    Regular hours: Tuesday Saturday : 10 a.m. 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

    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.

    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.

      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.
    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.

    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.

    The transformation the material undergoes, ultimately returns it to nature.  

    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."

    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

    Reader comments on Ana Mendieta: Earth Body / Filmworks and Drawings:

  • Hirschhorn Exhibit   from Ana Mendieta, Nov 24, 2004
  • art   from Shaulene Ayton, Apr 20, 2005
  • Eww   from Tarea, Sep 28, 2005
  • I fell in love with her...   from Kathryn, Apr 16, 2006
  • Re: I fell in love with her...   from Magdalena, Nov 16, 2006
  • Wonderful!   from Craig, Oct 5, 2006

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