Cuban Art News asks, “Is Ana Mendieta having an art-world moment?” The article presents impressions and feedbacks by various curators and artists in the United States and Cuba:
Looking at the international museum landscape, it’s easy to draw that conclusion. The exhibition Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, which debuted in 2015, is still in circulation, opening next month at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Extracorporeal (Beyond the Body), an exhibition of work by five Latin American and Latino artists, presented as an homage to Mendieta, opens March 24 at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in California.
An exhibition of her work, curated for young viewers, is now on view at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum in New York. And Mendieta was very much in evidence during the recent New York Art Week, in booths and special projects at the Armory Show, Scope, and other fairs.
Mendieta’s work is also part of several influential group exhibitions, including We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–1985, which opened last year at the Brooklyn Museum and is now at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Her work is also featured in Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, which debuted last fall at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and opens next month at the Brooklyn Museum.
Among the pieces in that show is Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints), 1972, which is also included in The Matter of Photography in the Americas, on view at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in San Jose. A variant of the series, Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints–Face), 1972, was included in last fall’s exhibition Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950–1980, at the Met Breuer in New York.
What is it about Mendieta’s art that speaks so eloquently to this contemporary moment?
For Olga Viso, a longtime Mendieta scholar who curated a major survey exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2004, the current interest is an affirmation of Mendieta’s place in the art-historical canon. “Her work continues to stand out as being ahead of its time and groundbreaking,” Viso said, “and critical to interdisciplinary practices that characterize artistic production at this moment.” Viso pointed to the many group exhibitions, like Radical Women and We Wanted a Revolution, that are reassessing the work of artists in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Mendieta is a key figure within that context, she said. “Her work is grounded in her specific experience and identity, but also engages in a global conversation.”
[. . .] Restoring the films and presenting them as a body of work “helped to recalibrate her practice as an artist. The work had been seen as more photo-based—whereas for Mendieta, photography, sculpture, and performance were all different ways of witnessing the work, and the film works were as important as the photographic documentation.”
At MOLAA, curator Edward Hayes did not intend his upcoming show, Extracorporeal: Beyond the Body, as a tribute to Mendieta. “The exhibition was originally conceived as an intimate survey of Latin American and Latino video art and performance,” he said in an email conversation. [. . .]
In Havana for the opening of his exhibition Crónicas visuales at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Leandro Soto—a US-based Cuban artist of the ’80s Generation who was close to Mendieta—talked about her impact. “She was ahead of her time as a clairvoyant, a shaman who could predict the future,” he told Cuban Art News. “And as this art is made by an emigré woman displaced from her original cultural context,” the issues she addressed remain important. “The integration of indigenous local mythologies and land issues, as well as interdisciplinary expressive forms marked new dissident routes of art made with the industrial aesthetic that dominated the 20th century,” he said.
“Ana could explain and talk about her work as if she were a critic, an educator, an intellectual,” Soto continued. “Her conceptual clarity was supported by her artistic work and her creativity was subversive compared to those patterns already established for an artist of her time.” [. . .]
[Image above: Film still from Ana Mendieta, Sweating Blood, 1973, © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York. Accessed via Cuban Art News.]