Critics’ Picks

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Botanic Insurgencies: Phaseolus lunatus (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Botanic Insurgencies: Phaseolus lunatus (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Mexico City

Ximena Garrido-Lecca

Sala de Arte Público | Proyecto Siqueiros (SAPS)
Calle Tres Picos #29 Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco
March 1–May 14, 2017

For her latest exhibition, Peruvian artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca has turned the gallery into a botany lab. A wooden structure that climbs up three walls like bleachers supports bean plants (grown and nurtured for five months) and an irrigation system made of clay inside a room with a regulated temperature and water supply. The exhibition’s subtitle, “Phaseolus lunatus,” references this species of bean, which dates back to pre-Hispanic times. On a small table facing the botanical structure, a copy of an Edict Against Idolatry (written in 1621) regarding the native tradition of worshiping plants is placed next to a wooden grid that will be periodically filled with a selection of beans during the exhibit, enacting a cultural (re)assessment and restitution of the edict as a metaphor of other beliefs condemned by the Spaniard missionaries—for instance, that no Moche language ever existed (the Moches where the original settlers in the area), even though archeologists have determined they had a spoken language represented in ideograms. Garrido-Lecca effectively and symbolically turns the invader’s language back on itself as she’ll perform a shamanistic translation of the edict from Spanish into a graphic form using the beans during the exhibition. The particular shape and colors of each bean placed inside the wooden grid will be painted on the facade of this institution as the work evolves. Botanical, sculptural, and architectural in nature, the entire installation works on an aesthetic level, but also on a historical-political one.

The show develops questions about colonialism and its burdens—issues that remain relevant today—and the reticent existence of these pinto beans. Each time a leaf sprouts, the plants continue to vanquish their violent past, and it is this work’s underlying hope for survival that allows us to breathe.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.