By Paulina Ascencio, curator

History is written in soil and rock. We are living on top of millions of years of stratified knowledge; layers and layers of activity, experience, and wisdom constricted into the ground. To recognize the past, you have to look deep down. Ancient messages are hidden in strata.

Along the Amazon basin, highly fertile charcoal-black soils tell the story of native communities experimenting to improve the quality of farming land. Terra preta do indio is the proof that they succeeded. These dark earths found in different parts of South America are the consequence of anthropogenic activity and thousands of years of preparation. A once barren territory transformed by the traces of human occupation: a combination of broken pottery and ceramics, bones, and organic matter left behind to compost and nourish the ground.

Terra Preta presents the work of three Mexican artists to consider the sacredness of fertile soil and the relevance of ancient wisdom. Through depictions of Mesoamerican mythology and deity representation, the examination of the rituals and sageness of our precursors, and the construction of an underground imaginary, the exhibition aims to approach the intricate legacy of prosperity within black earth.

Circe Irasema, Replicas for a personal collection, 2019, papier-mâché, acrylic and natural pigments. Photo: Zach Hyman. Courtesy: Proxyco Gallery, NY
Circe Irasema, Black Memories I, 2019, two stafford carbon copy paper on lightbox 14 x 18 x 3.5 in. Photo: Zach Hyman. Courtesy: Proxyco Gallery, NY

Using embroidery techniques on stretched canvas, Isa Carrillo (Guadalajara, 1982) appeals to knowledge depiction presented in the form of sacred geometry. Combining basic shapes with a colorful palette, the artist reflects on the ideas and perceptions that original communities developed to understand the universe and its divinity. In the same line, the artist pursues the sophistication of this reasoning to approach the mysticism of mathematics and, specifically, the study of numbers and their meaning. This said, Carrillo relies on numerology as her own way of representation, portraying subjects and objects from the numerical amalgams that define them.

Throughout her artistic practice, Circe Irasema (Mexico City, 1987) has used carbon paper to copy archaeological and anthropological artifacts from books dedicated to Mesoamerican heritage. This process has left hundreds of used carbon sheets with hidden figures that can only be appreciated backlight. The selection of drawings that will be renovated several times throughout the exhibition explores notions of preservation and permanence through the integration of pottery pieces with coal to procure fruitful foundations. Continuing these reflections, Irasema created a series of papier-mâché replicas of pottery vessels that have been conserved in different Anthropology collections in Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Brazil. The artist painted the sculptures using vegetal and mineral pigments like achiote, goethite, Indian red and soot. Despite the great efforts to preserve them, these artifacts come from and will eventually return to the ground.

Lucía Vidales’ paintings are inspired by representations of Aztec female deities: Tlazolteotl, the goddess impurity, filth, and sin; as well as Coyolxauhqui, who became the moon after being killed and dismembered for leading an attack against her pregnant mother, Coatlicue. Both deities relate to fertility and birth, however, they are also associated with misdemeanor, rottenness, and waste. Vidales (Mexico City, 1986) explores the connotations of female energy as both destructive and generative, interpreting these archetypical depictions through bright colors, abstract backgrounds, and some figurative elements.

Isa Carrillo, Hidden Messages 2, 2019, thread on fabric. Photo: Zach Hyman. Courtesy: Proxyco Gallery, NY
Isa Carrillo, María Sabina, 2019, thread on fabric. Photo: Zach Hyman. Courtesy: Proxyco Gallery, NY
Lucía Vidales, The Familiar and Foreign, 2018, oil and encaustics on canvas, 47 x 40 in. Photo: Zach Hyman. Courtesy: Proxyco Gallery, NY
Lucía Vidales at "Terra Preta", Proxyco Gallery, New York, 2019. Photo: Zach Hyman. Courtesy: Proxyco Gallery, NY

TERRA PRETA

Isa Carrillo // Circe Irasema // Lucía Vidales
Curated by Paulina Ascencio

Proxyco Gallery, 168 Suffolk St., New York, NY

Hasta el 8 de abril de 2019