This article by Dominique DeLuque appeared in

Situated in the picturesque Rudolfinum auditorium along Prague’s Vltava River, Galerie Rudolfinum is currently hosting “Traces” a retrospective of multimedia artist Ana Mendieta’s work. Mendieta was an artist working in her own unique way at the crossroads of earth sculpture and performance art, emphasizing the use of the body and the sanctity of the female form.

Born in Cuba, Mendieta was a part of the “Pedro Pan” operation wherein Cuban parents sent their children to live with foster families in the United States after numerous red-scare campaigns warning against the totalitarian control that was to come from the Castro administration during the 1950s and 60s.

Being transplanted from tropic Cuba to the cold sterility of the Midwest United States is a major concept in Mendieta’s work and her conception of place and time. The mass of work on-display at Galerie Rudolfinum was a celebration of the artist but also a sober reminder of what could have been. Mendieta fell to her death in 1985 from her New York apartment just a couple blocks from NYU’s Washington Square campus after an altercation with her husband, artist Carl Andre.

The exhibition is set up chronologically, beginning with Mendieta’s early works that she created while working on her two fine arts masters degrees and ending with her more traditional “Rupestrian” sculptures that she made closer to her death. The exhibition also includes some personal things such as sketchbooks, diaries, and hand-written proposals and press releases without feeling invasive or exploitative.

Photos of Mendieta’s early performance works were accompanied by rare Super 8 footage that was archived by the artist’s sister, Raquelin Mendieta, for the exhibition. Her earlier more experimental works, such as Untitled (Death of a Chicken), (1972) create a dialogue between the human body and the mystical. In the case of Death of a Chicken, the naked artist stands as a chicken is beheaded. She holds its flailing body as it spurts blood across her.

The exhibition creates a narrative of her evolution as an artist with videos and stills from her Silueta series, wherein she lets her body become part of the landscape. In one Silueta, Mendieta’s body is covered in flowers and she disappears into the background of a cave in Yagul, Mexico.

This showcase of Mendieta’s oeuvre comes as a crucial time when people are paying attention to these artists. Her work and its often ephemeral nature pushed against many mainstream conventions of the art world that still exists contemporarily. The issue still stands that mainstream arts institutions often exclude and patronize female artists. Furthermore, they also often exoticize non-white artists, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean. This exhibition reflects a want and a need for an academical and sociopolitical dialogue that includes a diverse array of artists in the artistic discourse.

For the original report go to


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