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Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 19721985
Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 19721985 is the most comprehensive survey to date of the artist's work.
It aims to place Mendieta's art in a broader, international context and
to examine her life and development
as an artist. The exhibition, organized by Olga Viso, Deputy Director, the
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington,
D.C., premieres at the Whitney Museum of American Art on July 1, launching
a four-venue national tour. (right: Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Body
Tracks), 1974, lifetime color photograph, 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3
cm), Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.
© Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection.)
The life and art of Ana Mendieta have frequently been the source of intrigue and speculation for decades as considerable debate about her untimely death has dominated public and critical discussion. As a result, the richness and complexity of her art, as well as its important legacy to contemporary culture, have not been fully acknowledged," said Olga Viso. "This exhibition decidedly shifts the focus to Mendieta's life and significant production as an artist and places it in a broad international context as well as the social and artistic fabric of the 1970s and 1980s."
Ana Mendieta: Earth Body includes more than one hundred works and traces the artist's development from the early performance-based works she made as a student at the University of Iowa, where she was grounded in the conceptual and body-oriented practices of the 1960s and 1970s, to the creation of independent sculptures and objects in the early 1980s made with fragile, earthen materials. The objects on view include photographs, drawings, sculptures, film, and, sequenced slide projections documenting early performance works and time-based actions in nature, which are drawn from numerous public and private collections in the United States and Latin America as well as from the Hirshhorn's own significant holdings of Mendieta's art.
Rooted in nature and in the body, Mendieta's art was inflected by personal identity and femininity, and distinguished by the singular hybrid form she created. Her earth-body works, or Silueta Series (silhouette series) -- sculptural interventions in the landscape that inserted her naked figure (or its outline or contours) in a natural setting -- fused aspects of Conceptual, process, performance, body, feminist, and land art. While contributing significantly to these varied dialogues, her work does not fit neatly within any of the accepted terms used to describe artistic activity in the decade of the 1970s.
Embracing the aims of feminism, Mendieta quietly subverted the monumental gestures of male land artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer by working at a human scale in the landscape. Critical of the exclusion of artists of diverse races and ethnicities from the art world and early feminism, she vehemently asserted her own trans-cultural identity. Borrowing freely from a variety of cultural traditions throughout the world, she frequently appropriated symbols and aspects of the ritual practices of ancient and indigenous cultures of the Americas, Africa, and Europe in her art. While abnegating all forms of boundaries, Mendieta's cipher -- the naked female form that performs in the studio, merges with the landscape, is etched on a leaf, or is burned into the soil or a tree trunk -- remained at the center of her production.
Born in 1948 in Havana, Cuba, Mendieta came to the United States without her parents in 1961 as a twelve-year old fleeing Castro's Revolution. Her personal and professional development was greatly informed by the painful experience of exile as well as the cross-fertilization of Caribbean and North American values. In 1980 she returned to the island of her birth, eighteen years after her traumatic exile as an adolescent. Over the next three years, Mendieta made seven visits to Cuba, developing strong ties with a community of emerging artists there and immersing herself in the island's rich Afro-Cuban traditions. She also served as an important conduit of information between Cuban and North American art worlds. To this day, Ana Mendieta remains the only Cuban expatriate from the United States to participate fully in Cuban national exhibitions. (right: Ana Mendieta, Isla, 1981/1994, black and white photograph, 40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm). Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York. © Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection.)
While deeply rooted in her personal experience, Mendieta's art reveals a passionate desire to connect with a wider, collective human heritage. Her aim to unravel layers of individual and society history and unmask latent ethnic, cultural, and gender biases in society, was to foster greater self-awareness and comprehension of the complex diversity of humanity. It is for this reason that her humble yet prolific production as an artist continues to be relevant today. The meaning of her work has particular resonance in a global society struggling to grasp the overwhelming points of correspondences and differences between individual, nation, and culture.
Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972-1985 was organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The exhibition is made possible by The Henry Luce Foundation, the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation, and The Judith Rothschild Foundation. Initial research was supported by Craig Robins and a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Getty Grant Program. Additional support for the exhibition catalog was made possible through the generosity of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz and Isabel and Ricardo Ernst.
Following its presentation at the Whitney, the Mendieta exhibition will be on view at the Hirshhorn from October 14, 2004 through January 6, 2005; the Des Moines Art Center from February 25 through May 22, 2005; and the Miami Art Museum from October 7, 2005 though January 15, 2006.
Artist's Talk: On Thursday, July 8 at 7 pm, artist Janine Antoni will present Under the Influence of Ana Mendieta, the first of a new Whitney series exploring important inspirations and influences among artists. Antoni discusses her sculptures and performances and their relationship to the work of Ana Mendieta. Olga M. Viso, curator of Ana Mendieta: Earth Body Sculpture and Performance 1972-1985, identifies Antoni as a contemporary artist working in an idiom pioneered by the elder artist. Like Mendieta, Viso explains, Antoni "evolved an approach to sculpture rooted in performance and focused on the efficacy of her physical mark and its relationship to the history of art and contemporary culture." In this artist's talk, Antoni discusses Mendieta's example against her own distinct practice.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 288-page catalog, co-published by the Hirshhorn and Hatje Cantz Verlag in Ostfildem, Germany, and distributed by DAP. The publication is the most definitive monograph produced to date on the work of Ana Mendieta, and contains biographical, analytical and interpretive essays by Olga Viso, curator of the exhibition; Chrissie Iles, curator of film and video, Whitney Museum; art historian Julia Herzberg; and art critic Guy Brett. Additionally, art historian Laura Roulet has contributed an extensive chronology of the artist's life and career.
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