Clotilde Jiménez, The Family Tradition, 2020, charcoal, fabric, and wallpaper on paper, 20 × 20 1/2".

Clotilde Jiménez, The Family Tradition, 2020, charcoal, fabric, and wallpaper on paper, 20 × 20 1/2".

Clotilde Jiménez

“The Contest,” Clotilde Jiménez’s first solo exhibition at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, featured eleven prodigiously sized collages and a quartet of bronze busts. Jiménez’s robust figurative oeuvre has consistently highlighted the intersectionality of queerness, blackness, class, religion, and Hispanic heritage. This show continued such investigations, but they were sifted through a more personal narrative: The artist described his presentation as an “open letter” to his formerly estranged father.

For the collages, Jiménez assembled a range of materials—including fabric, plastic, charcoal, and acrylic paint—to build a series of bulky athletic bodies complete with uniforms and equipment as a means of implicating competition and sports, pastimes that have conventionally bonded fathers and sons. Yet the activities highlighted across these works—boxing, bodybuilding—also figure prominently within the visual history of homoerotic art: Think, for instance, of photographer Bob Mizer’s glistening muscular gym rats, George Bellows’s oil paintings of handsome bloodied pugilists, or Collier Schorr’s photographs of bruised and beautiful collegiate wrestlers.

The wax-cast bronzes, which were displayed on gray pedestals, depict boxers wearing protective headgear in bright ersatz colors. Each sculpture was created from the same mold of a dejected-looking, simplified head with a gaping mouth, large nose, bullet-hole eyes, and stylized hair that called to mind the coiffures of ancient Greek statuary. Extolling the expressive process of working in wax, the heads possess an active and allover hand-built texture—indeed, they recall fighters who have spent one too many rounds in the ring. This approach is incongruent with the smooth helmet each bust dons: Works such as Pink Boxer and Green Boxer (all works cited, 2020) were seductive because of the striking contrast between the head’s crude facture and its smooth, highly realistic crown. The clash between the immaculate, halolike helmet and the pitiful appearance of its wearer is familiar in Christian iconography—a stock trope exemplifying the sins of the body and angelic perfection. Yet Jiménez puts his own imprimatur on this symbolism: One wondered if the headgear was an incarnation of a judgmental father, critical of his son’s perceived “manliness” and sexuality.

The handwork in the collages was executed mostly in charcoal and used to render the figure’s anatomy, while the subjects’ clothing and props were constructed from found materials. Pose No. 4, No. 6, and No. 7 commanded the gallery’s main wall. Each work offers up a single brawny superjock striking a pose on an abstracted two-tone gym mat with an interlocking pattern that has more in common with preschool foam tiles than with regulation apparatus—perhaps another juxtaposition evoking Jiménez’s relationship with his father. Squatting, knees spread, elbows out, and hands resting on her inner thighs, the subject of the Hannah Höch–like Pose No. 7—the only straightforward portrayal of a woman in the show—is composed with authoritative lateral symmetry except for her unusually small head, which is turned to the left in a three-quarter view. Her physique has been carved out with quick sweeps of charcoal, and she wears a bikini made from cut fabric with a stylized floral pattern.

A child’s chin is balanced on the bicep of a beefy and flexed arm in The Family Tradition, the smallest collage in the exhibition, yet the most compelling piece in the show. This autobiographical image unambiguously addresses Jiménez’s reference to a nurturing adult: The photographic cutout used for the grown-up’s eye reveals mascara-coated lashes and a carefully shaped brow, suggesting either a powerful mother figure or an idealized, queered-up father. The bearing arm fits snugly into the work’s borders, and the background’s swath of decorative wallpaper compresses the figures into a psychologically complex pictorial space—one that does not abide by portraiture’s rudimentary, unequivocal figure-ground tradition. The wispy flowery patterning behind the pair presses in like a blanket, emanating warmth and security—it is unmistakably gentle.