The Museum of Latin-American Art (MoLAA) will soon host Extracorporeal (Beyond the Body), an exhibition curated by Edward Hayes and dedicated to the late conceptual artist Ana Mendieta (Cuba, 1948–1985). On the 70th anniversary year of her birth, the exhibition explores her aesthetic footprint in today’s contemporary art practices.
Antonio Paucar (Peru, b. 1973), Carmen Argote (Mexico, b. 1981), Daniela Riojas (U.S., b. 1989), Roberto Tondopó (Mexico, b. 1978) and Tadeo Muleiro (Argentina, b. 1983) present video, performance, photography and sculpture in transcendental projects that explore personal and historical trauma in profound ways, according to MoLAA.
As Mendieta did over the course of her brief but prolific life, each artist in the exhibition employs their own body to explore a variety of themes and modalities of self-expression. Temporary performances and interventions in the landscape are documented in still and moving images. In many works, it is through a personal narrative that the artist leads the viewer on paths to explore ancestral roots, family histories or more abstract notions of being and belonging. At the core, a sensibility of transcendentalism unites the selection; artists have uprooted themselves from everyday life to explore what is beyond their fixed position in time and space, whether that be defined as spiritual, transcendental or simply extracorporeal– beyond the body.
Similar to Mendieta’s earth-body works of her Silueta series (1973-1980), Paucar marks his presence in open fields and unexpected urban sites. “Suspendido en un Queñua/Suspended in a Queñua” (2014) recalls his childhood spent sowing and harvesting crops in the Andes. Other works such as “Esperando un cambio/Waiting for Change,” (2005), situate the artist in the city, as he performs a stoic headstand that starkly contrasts with a city intersection.
Argote presents new work developed from her Mansión Magnolia series (2016) in Guadalajara, Mexico, while inhabiting Mansión Magnolia, her ancestral home turned public-events space. Growing up in L.A., Argote regarded Mansión Magnolia as a place of myth. Her father’s stories of an imagined Guadalajara, where her family would one day grow and prosper, created a complex and layered narrative of personal identity and familial history. The photographs produced in the mansion explore the ways in which domestic space can impact the body and construct notions of self.
The work of Riojas, for example Limpia 1-3, (2014), recalls ancient ritual practices that engage in anachronistic couplings of pre-colonial world concepts and contemporary cultural theory.
“I physically place myself in a mode of abstract worship as a way to connect to indigenous deities, totems, archetypes and new mythic characters,” Riojas said. “I capture this process through self-portraiture, performance, installation and video. The images and performances become vehicles for remnants of a lost spiritual history.”
Tondopó, in describing his work “Transito” (2017), said, “ Transito is a modern way of making a votive offering through visual narration, the ritual of the fiesta and my participation as a Chuntá. We Chuntás are men dressed as women who dance during the celebration of the Fiesta Grande in Chiapas, a place where I perform a personal reading after the symbolic offering of my body as a self-image, alongside the presence of the Chuntás’ allegorical offerings…”
Muleiro makes use of that ancestral legacy to build an intimate mythology that takes the shape of a domestic drama. His works “El hijo/The Son” 2008), “El abuelo/The Grandfather” (2012) and “El padre/The Father” (2015) each build a story in which cosmological entities intersect with specific moments from the artist’s private life. According to MoLAA, each work delves into customary ceremonies and legends that, when brought to bear on contemporary life, produce immediate interactions with modern times.