Elementos Vitales: Ana Mendieta in Oaxaca | MASA Galeria
MASA is delighted to present “Elementos Vitales,” an exhibition that honors the work of Ana Mendieta by returning the aftereffects of an encounter — its documentation and subsequent influence — to the place itself. For the first time, five of the artist’s celebrated filmworks will be presented in the state of Oaxaca, where they were made, including the first filmwork from Mendieta’s ‘Silueta’ series, filmed at the Yagul archaeological site in 1974.
Paired with newly commissioned installations by five contemporary artists, architects, and designers, and curated by Mexico City-based writer Su Wu, the exhibition highlights the prodigious period in which Mendieta’s travels to Mexico coincided with the development of her singular approach to earth-body works. After an adolescence in exile and foster care in the United States, the Cuban-born artist traveled in the 1970s repeatedly to Mexico, where she made many of her best known pieces. In Oaxaca, Mendieta embedded, incised, and burnt her silhouette in the region’s waterways and temples — what she called a “voluntary submersion” — letting the traces disappear except for their filmic documentation. In these interactions with the terrain, monumentality derives not from geographic scale but from temporality, and the brevitic moments when consciousness, effort and epochal time intersect.
“Elementos Vitales” also invites five contemporary artists and designers to consider, as Mendieta did, what traces we leave in our surroundings, as we are changed by the world in return. With works by Frida Escobedo, Pia Camil, Solange Pessoa, Adeline de Monseignat and EWE, the Mexico-based and Latinx artists present gallery seating for the exhibition not as an afterthought but as a tactile part of the experience, and as critical vantage points from which we frame and reflect.
By offering a rest, physically and conceptually, the seating and installations also suggest new possibilities for accessibility in the pandemic era — celebrating the vital interconnectedness of the elements and how we make space for one another. In many cases the works use materials from the same regions that appear in Mendieta’s films, or bring the viewer low to the very ground that Mendieta immersed herself within.