Art Exhibition: “Juana Valdés : “Mettre Noir Sur Blanc”


As curator Julie Chae writes, in “Mettre Noir Sur Blanc,” Cuban artist Juana Valdes explores the global trade and the manufacture and import/export of china throughout history. Through her installations, the artist explores transculturation, pigmentocracy, history and memory. The exhibition has been on view since July 3 and will continue through August 1, 2015 at the Guttenberg Arts Gallery (so you have a few more days to catch it if you are in New Jersey). The Guttenberg Arts Gallery is located at 6903 Jackson Street, Guttenberg, New Jersey. [Many thanks to Mary Ann Gosser for bringing this item to our attention.]

Description (by Julie Chae): In Juana Valdes’ solo exhibition “Mettre Noir Sur Blanc” (literal translation: “to put black on white”), the artist invites the viewer to ponder the history of global trade through the display of china and other domestic wares she collected for this show. A multi-media installation artist trained in Western post-Modern philosophy and with backgrounds in sculpture and printmaking, Valdes presents a Duchampian project in which the artist’s selected objects become the art. Each of the domestic wares presented embodies the cultural values of its time and place, reflecting aesthetic and economic decisions made by the manufacturer and by various consumers throughout its existence. Having exhibited art installations with maps, ships, sails and various other media in the past, Valdes continues with her latest project to explore transculturation, pigmentocracy, history and memory.

Valdes began exploring the manufacture and import/export of china throughout history during her ceramics residency in Holland in 2012. She discovered that the first corporation ever formed – and the model for many of today’s businesses – was a Dutch trading company created in 1602 for selling china from Asia to European countries. The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) was the first public company to issue negotiable shares, and its hugely successful trade with Asian countries made the Dutch a major global commercial trader. The profitable business of making and selling china for export as well as domestic use spread throughout the world by other companies, and Valdes displays examples of china made in different countries and time periods in the centerpiece of her show, An Inherent View of the World (2015 – ongoing).

Beautifully and wittily arranged on a tall, multi-layered table Valdes built herself using the variety of home construction materials available at Home Depot, these domestic wares reveal a surprising wealth (pun intended) of information about economics, migration, colonialism, valuation, aesthetics, collecting, selling and even women’s history. At one point in the chain of all the economic activity in global trade is the women who purchased and used the china as vessels for food, drink and other sustenance, and Valdes encourages us to think about how the design and decoration of the domestic wares each woman chose for her home provided her children with their first aesthetic experience.

Juana Valdes completed her M.F.A. in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in 1993 and her B.F.A. in Sculpture at Parsons School of Design in 1991. She was born in Cabañas, Pinar Del Rio, Cuba and came to the United States in1971. Ms. Valdes’ work has been included in exhibitions at the Hudson River Museum, Art in General, El Museo del Barrio, WhiteBox Gallery, Bronx River Art Center, P.S.1 Contemporary Art, Center and Paul Sharpe Contemporary Art, and Nohra Haime Gallery, Newark Museum’s, The Caribbean Abroad: Contemporary Artists and Latino Migration, Un-staged at Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, D’ailleurs – I Won’t Play Other to Your Sameat Galerie Art & Essai, University Rennes, France and many international venues. Ms. Valdes’ is included in Newark Museum’s permanent collection and many private collections in the United States.

[All images courtesy of the artist and Guttenberg Arts: “Juana Valdes: Mettre Noir Sur Blanc” at Guttenberg Arts Gallery (installation view).]

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For more on the gallery, see or contact STUDIO@GUTTENBERGARTS.ORG or call (201) 868.8585.

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