Exhibition: Mónica Félix’s “Estelio”

A news release from New York University (NYU) announced that the Institute of Fine Arts will present “Estelio,” and exhibition by Puerto Rican artist Mónica Félix. “Estelio” will incorporate both in-person and virtual experiences, including the online exhibition opening on March 24, on view on the Institute of Fine Art’s website www.ifa.nyu.edu until June 23, 2023, and an in-person film screening on April 28 at 6:30pm at the James B. Duke House (1 East 78th Street, New York, New York).

As part of the Great Hall Exhibition series, the exhibition continues a commitment to celebrating the practices of exemplary women artist and is the third in the series to take place online. Fluid like the sea from which Félix draws much of her inspiration, the exhibition will incorporate both in-person and virtual experiences, including the online exhibition opening on March 24, and two public programs. [. . .]

In addition, an in-person film screening will take place at the Institute on Apr. 28 at 6:30 p.m. (The James B. Duke House, 1 East 78th Street, New York, NY).

The exhibition title, Estelio, is Spanish for “stellium,” an astrological phenomenon in which three or more planets align under a single zodiac sign or house. Each of Félix’s artistic projects becomes a star within the larger constellation of her oeuvre, and the online exhibition acts as the birth chart to which these stars belong, situating them within their full context for the first time. The show’s site takes the form of the birth chart, through which audiences are able to navigate different works as they relate to each of Félix’s own astrological houses.

Projects such as Romance Tropical demonstrate Félix’s engagement with archival resources and what she calls “half-truths.” The series of photographic and video work revolves around the 1934 film of the same name. The second Spanish-language talkie in the world—and the first ever Puerto Rican film with sound—the movie depicted a man’s search for love and riches and his adventure on the “savage island,” Mu. Sometime in the late 1930s, the film vanished. With such an important piece of Puerto Rican media history seemingly gone forever, Félix reimagined—with the script and other archives that were available—the film through a feminist lens, by embodying the two lead female characters and the actresses who portrayed them. In her reimagination, the characters are named after their actresses. Félix’s body—and in turn, the characters’ bodies belonging to the actresses—become the sites for both rapture and doom. Her personas are allowed to feel pain, pleasure, and rebirth in opposition to the original film’s repression. When Romance Tropical resurface in 2017, Félix reimagined the film once again, this time, adding color to the monochrome film and its white-washed narrative.

The Institute of Fine Arts is also honored to present a rebirth of Félix’s series, Alláfuera. The film and accompanying pieces retell the story of The Little Mermaid, following La Sirenita as she travels ashore like her sisters did after their quinceañeros. The tale acts as a parallel to Félix’s own journey of migrating to and working between the United States and Puerto Rico. Caught between worlds, seaweed, sea glass, and salt, La Sirenita discovers alláfuera.

The first public program will be an in-person feature-length debut screening of selected video work from as early as 2014. The one-off screening will unify, for the first time, the expansive narrative of Félix’s video practice including excerpts from her works Alláfuera, Aves de Rapiña, Romance Tropical, Vaivén. The second program will be a virtual panel that puts into conversation Félix, Professor Laura Bravo López from the University of Puerto Rico, film director Mariem Pérez, and Professor Juana Suárez, director of the Moving Image Archive and Preservation Program at NYU.

For further information, please call the Institute of Fine Arts at 212.992.5800.

Mónica Félix (b.1984, Cayey, Puerto Rico) is an interdisciplinary artist, professional photographer, and hathayoga teacher based in Brooklyn, New York since 2010. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Puerto Rico, a Photography Certificate from Pratt Institute, and a Visual Arts MFA from Columbia University. Félix’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte at the University of Puerto Rico, and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. In 2017, she participated in an art residency in Barcelona where she explored the similarities and contrasts of independence ideals in Puerto Rico and in Catalunya, using self-portraits as her artistic medium. Also in 2017, she was selected to participate in the public art exhibition The Future is Female by SaveArtSpace, in which her objective was to explore and celebrate evolving and intersectional feminist movements with a piece from her 2012 series Reina. Her work focuses on representing the experience of female bodies in migration and a consequential search for identity. [. . .]

For more information, see https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2023/march/new-york-university-s-institute-of-fine-arts-to-present-estelio-.html

Also see https://www.puertoricoartnews.com/2023/03/estelio-exposicion-de-monica-felix-en.html

[Shown above: Mónica Félix, “Alláfuera.” Still from video performance.]

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