Critics’ Picks

Pia Camil, Knock, knock, 2020, watercolor, acrylic ink, and oil stick on paper, 61 x 47 1/4".

Pia Camil, Knock, knock, 2020, watercolor, acrylic ink, and oil stick on paper, 61 x 47 1/4".

Mexico City

Pia Camil

Córdoba 100 Colonia Roma
February 4–April 4, 2020

Raw, emotional images—a grim reaper, silver scythe in hand, materializing from a black cloak; a ghostly, mustard-yellow figure crying white tears; dark-hued breasts engorged from nursing—course through the twenty-one new drawings that comprise this show in the artist’s hometown. Pia Camil is known for bright, tightly composed abstract tableaux of ceramics, canvases (both stretched and hung like curtains), and suspended patchworks of T-shirts that celebrate Mexico City’s commercial landscape and informal economies. Now, as the artist enters the age of caring for both children and aging parents, she takes a turn, using watercolor, acrylic ink, and oil stick on paper to create inward-looking figurative works.

The most absorbing sheets on view in “Ríe ahora, lorra después” (Laugh Now, Cry Later), each of which has been mounted on colored canvas matching its custom five-by-four-foot frame, have a sketchy immediacy. Bodies outlined with gestural scrawls of color pop against stained, dreamy backgrounds that evoke inner landscapes. Take, for example, She sat deep inside herself (all works 2020), in which a seated woman floats among washes of teal and green; thick patches of color sit on the painting’s surface, covering her face with a masklike form featuring angry brows, and an oversize nose. The cycle of life weighs heavily in the imagery. From life to death to life . . . , an exquisite sketch of a woman defined in alarming, electric blues and reds, seems to show her giving birth amid a forbidding, muddy background of browns and purples. One wonders if, following this extraordinarily personal body of work, Camil will reach back to move her practice forward and, in so doing, create a visual language that elides divisions between abstraction and figuration, inner and outer worlds.