Last November, I travelled to New York to participate in the Art & Dialogue series of studio visits and conversations. I was very happy to have been invited by Artadia for this program. Across four days I had the chance to participate in a public program at the Brooklyn Museum and to meet five Artadia’s awardee artists: Robert Pruitt, Fred Hayes, Ryan Foerster, Yevgeniya Baras and Accra Shepp –I was also scheduled to meet Park McArthur and Kameelah Rasheed but unfortunately due to last minute events they had to cancel. Even though I had been in New York several times before, I hadn’t had the opportunity to do studio visits beyond Latin American art community there, so this invitation was a fantastic occasion to get to know new artists and to reconnect with NYC dynamic cultural scene.
My first visit was with Robert Pruitt. Having seen some of his drawings online, I knew that his work was sharp way to talk about current social struggles in the US. For this visit I met Jonathan Gardenhire, the new Artadia’s Program Coordinator, and we both had an amazing conversation with Pruitt about how science fiction and black history appears in his large-scale drawings and paintings. In his studio, Pruitt was working mainly with portraits, including elements of popular culture, African mythology, futurist references, civil movements and comic books. Most of his work delves around the power of physical presence of female black bodies, creating ambitious scenarios where they challenge and expand traditional representations of race.
Later that day, my visit with Fred Hayes was in a way a continuation of my previous conversation with Pruitt. Hayes has been an important figure of African American art since 1990s. His work also uses portrait as an exploration of black identities but through a sort of expressionist, caricaturesque realism that emphasizes subjective impressions. Most of his work is inspired by urban life, like a recent series of black and white drawings he showed me that depicted a number of portraits of bus drives and politicians, pointing how usually black people are misrepresented in politics.
The next day I met Ryan Foerster, a Canadian NY-based young artist. His work is centered on the impact of time and weather in materials, using recycled and found objects to construct complex assemblages that evokes various layers of history. I was fascinated with his amateur video recordings, fanzines and publications and, in particular, with his huge collection of snapshots that he took since he was a child in Canada. His very fluid relationship with photography appears also in some experiments where he place photosensitive paper outdoors, which results in abstract compositions that are powerful comments about change and deterioration.
When I visited Yevgeniya Baras she was in preparations for a large solo exhibition in Los Angeles in January 2018, which make it a good moment to be with her in the studio as she was finishing and deciding what works to show there. Her abstract painting on small canvases usually evokes unexpected bodies, language, science fiction landscapes, and even erotic sensations –that appears in the form of orifices, fluids, and skin. She also incorporates quilting, embroidery and collage to create sculptural reliefs and intuitive colorful shapes that built a powerful and evocative vocabulary of marks and enigmatic sings. My last visit was with Accra Shepp, whose work I knew a little because I saw online part of his photographic series Occupying Wall Street (2011) dedicated to the protests in Zuccotti Park. Shepp, however, decided not to focus on that well-known work but in a series of photos printed on leaves, a process that he created in early-1990s. The traces of faces and hands on the leaf surfaces suggested a sensation of fragility and decay, juxtaposing the persistence and the ephemeral.
I was grateful that my visit gave me the chance to see great shows such as brilliant “José Leonilson: Empty Man” dedicated to the Brazilian artists, “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” at The New Museum, or “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” at the MoMA PS1.
The invitation to give a talk at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum was truly special for me. I met Catherine Morris more than three years ago, when we both were invited to accompany and give critical feedback to the curatorial process of “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985”, and since then I was following the program of this fantastic feminist art center. My public presentation reflected on opportunities that archived offers to curatorial and artistic research: first, by sharing some ideas related to a queer, experimental museum “Museo Travesti del Perú” founded in 2004 by drag queen and philosopher Giuseppe Campuzano (Lima, 1969-2013), and secondly, commenting few curatorial projects developed in TEOR/éTica in relation to art historical and research projects. The conversation with Catherine Morris that followed was a great chance to rethink my work and the challenges for a feminist institution. The audience was also very responsive and offered good questions about feminist curatorship and the importance to create cultural value around woman and queer artists in Latin America.
I am deeply grateful to Artadia and the whole team for making this amazing program possible and for creating the space for us to think and have meaningful conversations. Thank you!
Miguel López (Lima, 1983) is a writer, researcher, and Chief Curator of TEOR/éTicain San Jose, Costa Rica. His work investigates collaborative dynamics and transformations in the understanding of and engagement with politics in Latin America in recent decades. His work also focuses on queer re-articulations of history from a Southern perspective. He has published in periodicals such as Afterall, ramona, Manifesta Journal, e-flux Journal, Art in America, Art Journal,andThe Exhibitionist, among others. He has recently curated Frágiles. Obras de Patricia Belli, 1986 – 2015 at TEOR/éTica, San José (2016); Teresa Burga. Estructuras de aire (with Agustín Pérez Rubio) at the MALBA, Buenos Aires (2015) and the section ‘God is Queer’ for the 31 Bienal de São Paulo (2014). Among others, recent publications include The Words of Others: León Ferrari and Rhetoric in Times of War (with Ruth Estevez and Agustín Diez Fischer, REDCAT and JRP-Ringier, 2017) (Forthcoming);Agítese antes de usar. Desplazamientos educativos, sociales y artísticos en América Latina (with Renata Cervetto, MALBA and TEOR/éTica, 2016); Caderno Sesc_Videobrasil 11: AliançasdeCorpos Vulneráveis (Videobrasil, 2015); and A wandering body. Sergio Zevallos in the Grupo Chaclacayo, 1982 – 1994 (MALI, 2014). López is co-founder of the independent art space Bisagra, active in Lima, Peru, since 2014. In 2016 he was recipient of the Independent Vision Curatorial Award from ICI – Independent Curators International, New York.