Mexico City

View of “Sol Pipkin,” 2017–18. Photo: Diego Berruecos.

View of “Sol Pipkin,” 2017–18. Photo: Diego Berruecos.

Sol Pipkin

View of “Sol Pipkin,” 2017–18. Photo: Diego Berruecos.

The sculptures in Sol Pipkin’s exhibition “Maleza sin pies ni cabeza” (Weeds Without Heads or Tails) were ephemeral works that contained unseen moments of decay, incorporating materials such as dirt, seeds, and leaves. At the same time, many of the objects seemed familiar, since they were made to mimic items sold by street vendors or at neighborhood markets. They subsist as memories both personal and public, reminding us of the fragility that comes from earthquakes and heartbreak.

Pipkin created most of the work for this show while on a residency at the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City during and after the earthquake of 2017, one of the worst natural disasters in the city’s modern history. While wounds were still fresh for many, Pipkin transformed the Machete gallery into a place of refuge. You could take a breather on one of many pigment-stained pillows or stretch out on a mat. Pipkin mined the iconography and materials of Mexico’s indigenous cultures to establish something as much like a sacred place as possible. Tapping into the colors and materials of the city’s street life, the artist seemed to have created personal meeting points between pre-Columbian artifacts and Mesoamerican ideas of communal experience.

While several of these works were installed on the gallery’s white walls, some were hung from the ceiling or placed on the floor, meant to be stepped on and around. The sculptures worked with and against functionality. Abstract but resembling furniture and vessels, they played sly tricks on the usefulness or uselessness of an object. Freed from the economics of the neighborhood market, dyed clothes become paintings and bean-filled cushions, sculptures. The fact that these objects were evidently handmade transformed the gallery into a more intimate place, charging it with domesticity, welcome mats included.

Pipkin’s interest in the spiritual history of her Latin American home was handled tenderly, with many of the hanging sculptures resembling dream catchers. Equally sensitive was the thought she put into the dynamics of the body as it played into the exhibition. It was impossible for viewers not to be acutely aware of how they occupied the small gallery and of each decision to engage with the work. For example, a single piece made of papier-mâché and gouache, titled Escuche el pulso de la tierra (Listen to the Pulse of the Earth; all works 2017), was in a hallway at the back of the room, facing the rest of the show. In order to see it up close, you first had to engage with the aptly named Cómo atravesar la materia (How to Traverse Matter), a pink, prismatically colored, hand-dyed cotton cloth that hung from ceiling to floor in front of the doorway. Whether you went around the piece on the left or right, or even walked straight through it, was up to you. In a global situation offering few spaces of refuge, Pipkin had created an environment in which we could rest our weary heads.

Lee Escobedo