“Time and history are covering me,” Ana Mendieta at the Palm Game
“Art had to start like nature itself, in a dialectical relationship between human beings and the natural world from which we cannot be separated. Ana Mendieta
Despite a relatively short career (from 1971 to 1985), the Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta (Havana, 1948-New York, 1985), internationally recognized and exhibited, had not been so far in France, although she was a pioneer in the advent of post-war visual arts, whose influence continues to be felt in subsequent generations.The exhibition devoted to him in the Jeu de Paume is therefore a first, all the more so as the emphasis is placed on his film works (104 listed) based on unpublished research work between the Estate of Ana Menieta, Collection, the Lelong & Co Gallery and the University of Minnesota. In total, 20 films, including 6 previously unpublished films that have been restored and nearly 30 photographs, are proposed in a thematic approach, the largest group ever assembled.
Throwing the beginnings of a radical eco-feminism at the borders of sculpture, performance and land art, she manages, through a great economy of means to go beyond the categories and practices in force from her painful experience of exile and loss when she flees Cuba with her sister, leaving her parents behind her at the age of 12. Moreover, her accidental and premature death on the 34th floor of the New York building of her husband, the sculptor Carl Andre, gave her the status of a real icon.
If it is imbued with the artistic movements of its time (minimalism, body art…) it nevertheless invents its own system of values (earth body) and beliefs around ancient myths, rituals of passage, memory and memories.
After using her own blood in violent actions suggesting rape or crimes committed against women (Blood Sign, Blood Inside Outside and Sweating Blood), she launches into her most famous corpus, the series “Silueta” made in Mexico, where she goes every summer from the 1970s, to the ancient site of Yàgul.
Blood but also fire, water and earth are summoned in a desire to merge with the 4 elements during outdoor actions documented by films where it is a question of imprinting, covering or burial from harvested natural materials: flowers, feathers, grass, which refer to the primitive cults of fertility. Soon the “silhouette” tends to replace the artist’s own body thanks to the action of water, as in “Creek” playing on the surface reflections or “Silueta de Arena” (1978).
Fire also embraces this metaphorical potential in powerful effects with “Volcan” or “Untitled: Silueta Series” of 1979 made in a cave that announces the cycle of rock sculptures (Esculturas Rupestres) that it will lead to Cuba.
Another favourite theme of the artist is the tree of life, which she willingly adorns with a dreamlike and spiritual dimension as in “Silueta de Cohetes” (Firework Piece) where the silhouette even floats in space before a large fire consumes it. To be part of the earth, to be part of the tree, to participate in the ordering of the world, so many obsessions that cross it linked to the escape of time and bonds, the presence and absence, the fragile and the ephemeral but also sacrifice and death (the silhouette becoming lying).
This quest for meaning and origin through ritual leads to a final tension (let us not forget the unexplained circumstances of his disappearance) from 1981 onwards with the return to Cuba to try a possible catharsis and reparation. A nostalgia for this native land that travels through the films shot on beaches or in the cave of the archaeological site of Jaruco.
Thus from her intimate experience she weaves the fabric of a universal history made of uprooting and fighting, discrimination and identity quest, life and death drives, mixing Cuban paganism, voodoo worship and Catholic traditions. Just like Francesca Woodman, who shares a tragic destiny with her and whose body eventually blends into the setting of her photographic self-portraits, Ana Mendieta has the ability to enchant us and challenge our conscience to the world. A vibrant message whose impact never wanes. A legitimate tribute to one of the other artists who were willingly dodged in the official story for the benefit of her companion, as well as decisive in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.
from 16 October to 27 January 2019
place de la Concorde, Paris
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