Critics’ Picks

  • Ana Mendieta, Weather Balloon, Feathered Balloon, 1974, Super-8 transferred to high-definition digital media, color, silent, 3 minutes 42 seconds.

    Ana Mendieta, Weather Balloon, Feathered Balloon, 1974, Super-8 transferred to high-definition digital media, color, silent, 3 minutes 42 seconds.

    Ana Mendieta

    Nogueras Blanchard | Madrid
    Doctor Fourquet 4
    February 15–April 11, 2020

    This intimate exhibition of Ana Mendieta’s work, curated by Cuban compatriot Wilfredo Prieto on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the artist’s death, revolves around three short films that intertwine absence with presence. Perhaps the most distinctive of the three, X-Ray, ca. 1975, records the artist’s X-radiated skull, her jaw moving up and down to rehearse a speech test. The work’s clinical imagery contrasts with the closeness of Mendieta’s voice, here somewhat childlike. Flower Person, Flower Body, made the same year, deepens the idea of understanding the body through its lack. If in X-Ray we visualize a body’s dark, medicalized interior, in the second film we see the outline of a human form, made of flowers, branches, and fabric, floating away in water, a clear reference to Santeria. An interest in ritual is felt, too, in Weather Balloon, Feathered Balloon, 1974, in which a weather balloon full of plumage rises, meteor-like, and explodes, its contents falling back to Earth to gently scatter. The bobbing shape in Flower Person, Flower Body and the strangely heartbreaking descent in this work share a poetics of lightness, all caught on tactile, wistful Super 8. The footage is accompanied by a series of drawings produced while Mendieta lived in Rome from 1983 to 1985. The quick sketches and rubbings—some with written notes, others on creased pages—lend the show an atmosphere of playful privacy, heightened by the voice coming from X-Ray but also by the handwritten postcards on display. The exhibition’s title—“Tropic-Ana”—furthers that sensibility: It was how, in a pun, Mendieta signed the missives she sent to friends and family.

    Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.

  • View of “Rosana Antolí,” 2020, CentroCentro, Madrid. Photo: Dominik Schulthess.

    View of “Rosana Antolí,” 2020, CentroCentro, Madrid. Photo: Dominik Schulthess.

    Rosana Antolí

    CentroCentro
    Plaza de Cibeles, 1
    February 12–May 17, 2020

    Bolstered by its continuous, hypnotic soundtrack, Rosana Antolí’s solo exhibition gesturally regresses to humanity’s primordial origins. Lining the exposed corridors of Madrid’s Cybele Palace, the show—an exploration of our shifting oceans, which are slowly being eclipsed by rising sea levels and expanding populations of poisonous jellyfish—winds through the baroque edifice in a tentacular circuit. Though the films, paintings, and sculptures on display, Antolí proposes that understanding these gelatinous organisms might be key to human adaptation and survival.

    Antolí’s previous works have considered social choreographies as forms of political organization, but now she shifts her focus to an underwater milieu. The dark polyethylene tubes of Chaos Dancing Cosmos—Las Huellas Del Aquasea (Chaos Dancing Cosmos—Aquasea Tracks), 2020, a new iteration of a similarly named piece presented at Tate Modern last year, have transformed into a patch of floating seaweed. Nearby hangs Gelata Skin, 2019, a mass of copper filaments suspended in the air, and its accompanying video piece, Medusa Immortal (Immortal Jellyfish), 2019, in which a performer dons the sculpture as a costume and gestures in a syncopated flux.

    Like the “immortal jellyfish” Turritopsis dohrnii, simple forms are often more adaptable to new conditions than complex ones. A minimalist, blue environment binds these galleries, where the artist will present a series of performances in which she will mimic the fluctuating movements of the hydrozoa that rule the watery world. Through gesture and sound, Antolí’s film Instructions, 2019, challenges its viewer to slip out of humanity, a survival strategy for a liquid age.