This is the first solo show of Ana Mendieta’s work in the UK since Traces at the Hayward Gallery in 2013. This exhibition, at Alison Jacques Gallery, London, focuses on themes of metamorphosis and transformation in Mendieta’s work.
Selected works include her early performances in the 1970’s to her later sculptural work in the early 1980’s along with groundbreaking work in performance and photography, film, drawings and leaf scuptures.
The theme of metamorphosis and transformation also includes camouflage, with a particular focus on the relationship of the body to nature. From 1974 until the early 1980s Mendieta worked outdoors, including a secluded location in rural Iowa, experimenting with natural materials such as moss, mud, grass and water. Later, as we see in the film Volcán (1979), she incorporated gunpowder into the work, which often resulted in smoking or burning, further emphasising the ephemeral nature of her work. Mendieta described her Siluetas – traces of her body that she outlined onto the ground or impressed into the earth – as ‘earth-body sculptures’. Like her peers Alyce Aycock, Michael Heizer and Robert Morris, whose work focused on associations with the landscape and who often studied archaeological sites, Mendieta made several trips to the ruins of pre-Columbian civilisations in Mexico as well as a visit to the Escaleras de Jaruco caves in her native Cuba. The burial mounds at Yágul, Oaxaca, and the prehistoric caves in Cuba, provided the subject matter as well as the backdrop for Mendieta’s practice, demonstrating the importance of ritual in her work.
Whilst the Siluetas often highlight the absence of Mendieta herself, her body features prominently in this show. Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants), 1972, documents Mendieta’s gradual transfer of male facial hair to her own face, signalling an appropriation of power that she believed to be inherent in a person’s hair. The pioneering nature of these performance photographs, which reference identity politics and gender transformation, precede the work of Cindy Sherman and clearly set a marker for other artists examining themes of self-transformation such as Gillian Wearing.
to 24 June 2017
Alison Jacques Gallery to 24 June 2017
16-18 Berners Street
London W1T 3LN