Belkis Ayón at the 10th Berlin Biennale


In “5 Artists You Must Not Miss at the 10th Berlin Biennale,” Hili Perlson (Artnet News) includes the late Cuban artist Belkis Ayón, whose work is on view at Akademie der Künste (ADK). Another late fellow Cuban artist on view is Ana Mendieta. Caribbean artists still living, who are represented in this exhibition, include Tony Cruz Pabón (Puerto Rico), Lorena Gutiérrez Camejo (Cuba), Simone Leigh (U.S.-Jamaica), Tessa Mars (Haiti), and Las Nietas de Nonó (Puerto Rico). See full list of artists here.

The 10th Berlin Biennale runs from June 9 to September 9, 2018, in multiple locations in Berlin: the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the Akademie der Künste, Volksbühne Pavilion, ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics, and the HAU2 theater.

Here is Perlson’s description of Ayón:

The late Cuban artist Belkis Ayón’s stunning black, white, and gray collographs, presented in a generous hanging at the ADK, are based on explorations of the secretive Afro-Cuban religious fraternity known as Abakuá. Ayón inserted female figures into the all-male society using allegories of the religion’s mythological goddess, Sikán. As a printmaker, Ayón settled on one of the most labor-intensive forms of the medium, collography, and mastered it to great effect, producing richly textured albeit chromatically restrained iconographies. The artist created the dozen arresting large-scale collographs and circular prints shown in the biennial between 1991 and 1998.

A retrospective dedicated to the work of the artist who committed suicide in 1999, aged 32, was on view in several museums across the US in 2017. (The shows prompted the New York Times to publish a belated obituary on the artist, in its series “Overlooked,” earlier this year.) The bewitching images feature mouthless figures with piercing, almond-shaped eyes engaging in occult rituals set in nature. The centerpiece is the triptych La Consagracion I, II, III (1991), which depicts a ceremony in progress. While Ayón herself was an atheist, she was intrigued by and even saw a reflection of herself in the symbolism of the goddess Sikán, who, according to myth, betrayed a great secret to a leader of a rival tribe, for which she was punished with a death sentence.

[Belkis Ayón, exhibition view of La consagración at the 10 Berlin Biennale. Lent by the Collection Ludwig-Museum at the Russian Museum, St Petersburg. Photo by Timo Ohler.]

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