- Gaby Cepeda
I’m fed up with the trend of all-women shows. So many of them are put together carelessly, with curators assuming a shared gender to be enough common ground to justify an exhibition. Delightfully, that was not the case at “La luz proviene de ahí” (The Light Comes from Within), a thoughtful grouping of artworks by young Mexican artists. Here, the relationships the pieces wove among themselves allowed fresh insights.
The highlight—and a thematic anchor for the show—was Astrid Terraza’s Cantando himnos en el jardín atrás de Walgreens (Singing Hymns in the Garden Behind Walgreens), 2020. Its imagery, in flat bright acrylic colors on a large unstretched canvas, might recall the illustrations from some nineteenth-century spiritual tract in which all beings are dutifully assigned their places in an inflexible hierarchy. But Terraza subverts this rigid order by proposing an alternative one that centers relationships over individuals. The work is divided into two distinct halves. On the left, a lightly clothed woman cups her breasts and crosses her legs in a slightly protective stance. Around float circular sigils with delicately painted images of hair braids, cells, and zygotes, as well as tiny graphs of seasons passing. On the right, curving tree trunks intertwine, flowering with what look at once like limes and ovaries, but endowed with sweaty faces side-eyeing the woman. A long braid of synthetic hair hangs from the painting’s top left corner.
Similarly preoccupied with care, but from an oppositional standpoint, was Paloma Rosenzweig’s oversize handmade felt sculpture Dos vértebras (Two Vertebrae), 2021. Soft pliable material worked into intricate tridimensional forms serves to emphasize the ductility of the human body as opposed to the unyieldingness of medical knowledge, which classifies every organism as normal or abnormal, healthy or unhealthy. Berenice Olmedo’s sculptures using ready-made orthoses—medical devices prescribed to modify or “heal” deviations from the orthopedic norm—seem to share this critique. Olmedo sources the clunky contraptions from local markets, focusing especially on those made for children: Many of them sport cutesy prints and colors, as in Tea, 2021, a child’s rigid corset covered in pink and blue bunnies. As striking as the works of this nature are, I wondered if they actually articulate a sound questioning of the medical gaze, as they can seem to have the opposite effect: of fetishizing disabled people’s bodies or of expressing a prurient interest in that which falls outside the restrictive category of the “normal” and thereby reinforcing it.
Alicia Ayanegui’s ghostly, diaphanous oil-on-paper paintings represent the changing attributes of difference in natural phenomena, reminding us once more of the importance of the relational. There was a charming stubbornness to her 2021 work that lent the exhibition its title. In the painting, she attempts to capture the interaction between dark and light in wide brushstrokes that dwell in the depths of shadows, from black to navy blue to grays, menacingly surrounding a rough spot of yellow light. In Dentro (Inside), 2021, similar brushstrokes delineate the experience of being indoors while the sky dissolves in rain outside. The storm appears monumental; the top part of the frame is pitch-dark, with grayish-brownish matter seemingly falling from it, but the title reminds us we’re merely watching the painting’s window-framing of the scene, experiencing it at a few levels of remove.
As the first-ever exhibition from a brand-new gallery that aspires to present a female- and queer-oriented program, “La luz proviene de ahí” was a very promising start, evincing a level of care and engagement with young artists’ production and with the local that is, perhaps sadly, unusual to see. Now that would be a nice trend to catch on next.