Critics’ Picks

View of “Teresita Fernández: Elemental,” 2019–20.

View of “Teresita Fernández: Elemental,” 2019–20.


Teresita Fernández

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
1103 Biscayne Blvd.
October 18, 2019–February 9, 2020

Each day the sinking reality of climate change deepens, manifesting in rising sea levels and blazing fires. A human reckoning is unavoidable. Teresita Fernández’s retrospective immerses viewers in a series of elemental environments that sensuously summon the might, terror, and fragility of nature. The artist’s material decisions—particularly her use of gold, graphite, bronze, concrete, and malachite—function as ethical indictments of the violent histories of extrication and exploitation associated with each substance.

While many of Fernández’s installations are expansive in scale and in meaning, her smaller works provocatively investigate the textures and intimacy of vision and perception. “Pinhole Series,” 2007, features delicate pencil-and-ink drawings on Mylar that look like snowstorms, and in “Puerto Rico (Burned),” 2018, burnt paper depicts seared palm fronds. Reflective surfaces appear often, including in Night Writing (Hero and Leander), 2011, where mirrors appear beneath assemblages of shaped paper colored with vibrant pink maelstroms reminiscent of northern lights. The sculpture draws viewers in and then disorients them.

Fire is the finale. In the last gallery, Fire (United States of the Americas) 3, 2017/2019, consists of a map of the continental United States reduced to scorched, broken fragments of charcoal. Outside its edges, bits of graphite splinter across the wall, forming constellations. The entire room is sliced horizontally; trails of black carbon pour from the cut in ashy streams and smoke upward in curling trails. Despite being ostensibly unpeopled, Fernández’s elegiac installation emblematizes the artist’s call for an embodied recognition of the human impact on the world of elements.