Critics’ Picks

Eduardo Sarabia, Plumed Serpent and Other Parties, 2016,
acrylic, India ink, golden leaf, cotton paper, fiberglass, red clay, white ceramic, dimensions variable.

Eduardo Sarabia, Plumed Serpent and Other Parties, 2016,
acrylic, India ink, golden leaf, cotton paper, fiberglass, red clay, white ceramic, dimensions variable.

Mexico City

Eduardo Sarabia

Museo Tamayo
Paseo de la Reforma No. 51
July 30–November 13, 2016

Eduardo Sarabia’s latest exhibition is a celebration of birds, including the quetzal, a sacred species in many pre-Hispanic cultures. The show consists of one work that shares the exhibition’s title, “Plumed Serpent and Other Parties,” and comprises hundreds of fiberglass reproductions of this iconic bird, as well as of the lovely cotinga, the squirrel cuckoo, and the roseate spoonbill. Centuries ago, feathers from all those species were used to create Montezuma’s headdress, now in Vienna.

Installed in the gallery from floor to ceiling, evoking taxidermy at a natural-history museum, the bird sculptures surround a series of sixteen drawings depicting a revered Mesoamerican tree thought to be the origin of all gods—the ceiba, depictions of which were often historically topped by a quetzal. In Sarabia’s drawings, ceiba species are partnered with women ritual dancers, old coins, and symbols of national political parties and chess pieces—perhaps exalting the tension between nature and modernity, particularly as driven by economic ambition. Throughout this colorful and ornamental panoply of birds, “Plumed Serpent and Other Parties” acts as an admonition and commentary about deforestation and the continual loss of natural habitats, a threat faced by these species and many more around the world. Sadly, this seems to be an irreversible trend, whereby our knowledge of avian diversity will soon come only from artists’ re-creations that render birds as mute and flightless as they are beautiful.