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The Artist Project: Pre-Columbian Gold - Teresita Fernández

The Artist Project: Pre-Columbian Gold - Teresita Fernández

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Teresita Fernández on Precolumbian gold

"We know that this represents greatness, and yet we only have a handful of examples to point to it."

The Artist Project is a 2015 online series in which we give artists an opportunity to respond to our encyclopedic collection.


Unearthing Place: An Interview with Teresita Fernández

Fata Morgana, 2015. Installation view. Madision Square Park, New York
2015-2016. © Teresita Fernández. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco.

Through her sculptures, drawings, and installations, artist Teresita Fernández consistently expands the definition of landscape, moving notions of place into a conceptual realm that both seduces and challenges the viewer. The question Where am I? swells into What happened here?, Who has been here before me?, alongside the more metaphysical How does my presence define this place and my experience of it?

Lindsey Davis: You’ve said that the word “landscape” is often lazily used. I see your work as creating sculptural landscapes, one with an emphasis on LAND and a ‘scape that requires bodies move in and around it. How do you see your work utilizing traditional notions of landscape, and how do you see it working against those same notions?

Teresita Fernández: I cull from a lot of established ideas of landscape, but I’m also questioning them and trying to provide a very different series of lenses to amplify what the word “landscape” means. And so, when I say it’s used in a lazy way, it means that, especially for the West, we use that word to pretty much mean a traditional pictorial representation that comes from European landscape painting and/or American landscape painting. And so that’s a very limited notion of what the idea of landscape is, especially if you look at non-Western traditions—and not just traditions, but conceptualizations of what place and landscape are. It’s an entirely different language, and an entirely different set of reference points to understand this idea of place and one’s own placement as an extension.

Blind Land (Green Mirror), 2013. Two layers of polished precision-cut stainless steel, 46.5 x 70.5 inches. Courtesy the artist, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

LD: The anthropomorphism in your sculptures seems to give your work a fantastical feeling—as if they’re from another planet similar to ours, or that our world’s elements are being seen through a prism of understated elegance. Is there a particular place you hope your work transports viewers to, or a particular feeling you hope it gives them?

TF: More than a particular feeling, the reaction that I value most in the viewer is one of intimacy. If you think of places that you have a connection to, you have a very subjective and a very personal intimacy with those places.

What I’m asking is “where am I? How does this place exist in our collective imagination?” In this way, landscape comes to mean a totally constructed notion that’s very far away from whatever physical vista is in front of you.

That sense of intimacy is, I think, what’s transportive. It’s an idea linked to phenomenology that’s about, for lack of a better word, a kind of significant daydreaming. It’s about projecting yourself onto something, and moving through a space without necessarily physically moving through it. It’s a different way of inhabiting a place, or another aspect, let’s say, of inhabiting a place. And the anthropomorphism really has to do with one’s body in relation to place. I’ve made works that are literally references to the body, for example, I made a series of works that had to do with a very specific rural landscape in Cuba called Viñales and I spent a lot of time in the Viñales caves themselves. I made a series of drawings that were these views of the landscape framed from within the caves. The artwork titled Viñales (Cervix) suggests that the opening of the cave is a reference to the feminine body. Another sculptural piece in that series was called Viñales (Reclining Nude). There’s no figure, my work is never figurative per se, but the figure is always implied and it’s often you the viewer that functions like a figure in the landscape. We have this conventional notion of the “figure in the landscape,” but in my work I’m trying to give a different sense of what that means, a sense that you’re in the landscape but the landscape is also in you. In this way, landscape becomes something that is not fixed the formation of what you think of a place becomes thoroughly subjective and constantly evolving.

Blind Land (Green Mirror) (detail), 2013. Two layers of polished precision-cut stainless steel, 46.5 x 70.5 inches. Courtesy the artist, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

LD: Where do the ideas of transporting viewers somewhere else and transforming their existing surroundings intersect in your work?

TF: The work functions like a prompt. Much like when you’re in the real landscape, half of what you see is in fact what you bring to it. The work asks you to fill in the blanks. Again, I have that reciprocity with the viewer, but the work can’t solely create that affect. There is a kind of willingness to participate, to project onto that thing, to unravel something experientially that’s essential.

I’m often interested in mined materials—materials from particular places. For example, the graphite I’ve used is from Sri Lanka. I’ve used gold, pyrite, and iron ore. These materials are literally parts of places. They’re physically extracted from particular places—in that sense part of a real landscape. When I create a new image using these raw materials, it becomes loaded with being more than one thing at once. It becomes simultaneously the landscape it came from as a material, but also the secondary image that’s created, which may be entirely different and unrelated. So I’m playing with this notion that we’re always in many places at once and that each place that we think of is really a sort of layering, a stacking, of many places, whether they’re physical, or imagined, or remembered.

Viñales (Reclining Nude), 2015. Wakkusu ® Concrete, bronze, and malachite, 48 x 64 x 101 inches. Courtesy the artist, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

LD: A lot of your sculptures invert ideas about their subjects—Waterfall is almost industrialized in its singular output, while Dune is a staircase you climb into not on top of. It seems the natural elements your work explores require a human presence to be fully understood. In what ways do you see humans as a perpetually present part of landscape itself?

TF: If you look at ancient Chinese landscape ideas, they’re not separate from the viewer. It’s not like you’re in the landscape or you’re a privileged entity viewing what’s around you. You’re more of an integrated component of landscape. I’m really interested in the sort of reciprocity of that you are simultaneously looking at the landscape, but the landscape is also looking at you. In fact you are also creating that landscape, you’re an active part of what that is. I employ these ideas in my work when I make a site-specific installation, or when I make a body of work that’s a reference to a specific place. Not only am I interested in the physical coordinates of place, but in this notion that we are always very actively placing and looking for ourselves, repositioning ourselves within place. Again, the idea of landscape isn’t this fixed idea, it’s more a sense that we’re constantly negotiating and redefining by our presence in it. It becomes a way of looking at place as both a verb and a noun simultaneously. So you have a physical place but you’re also actively placing yourself within place.

Viñales (Reclining Nude) (detail), 2015. Wakkusu ® Concrete, bronze, and malachite, 48 x 64 x 101 inches. Courtesy the artist, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

LD: Can you talk a little about your process of creating site-specific installations? What aspects of a place are you most attuned to?

TF: When I do something site-specific is I ask myself, “Where am I?” It’s this very simple question but it’s also a very loaded question depending on how you ask it. Because histories are very contradictory and skewed, I often ask myself that question about place: Where am I historically, physically, socially, geographically, racially? Where are these coordinates? What’s around me? What happens if I dig a hole three-hundred feet down, what would I find? What’s above me? This notion that the landscape is behind your head as well and underneath your feet and above your head—rather than something we only experience frontally—means that you also move through places as they in turn move through you.

I’m looking at place not just as physical place, but as imagined place—really thinking about places and landscapes as the history of human beings, rather than as these static sites. A landscape from one century to the next can look completely different, certainly if it’s near urban environments. And for the most part many aspects of the history of a physical site can remain completely invisible to a present-day viewer.

Waterfall, 2000. Aluminum, plastic, 144.09 x 144.09 x 335.83 inches. Courtesy the artist, In Arco, Torino and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

LD: Many of your works refuse the definitions of a start and end point, but Fata Morgana gave viewers a clear entry, a place where they became part of the work. In your public installations, at what point do you see people transitioning from passersby to viewers to part of the artwork itself?

I think of all of those three as interchangeable. With Fata Morgana (2015) in Madison Square Park, over fifty thousand people a day walked through that park and under the piece. Regardless of whether they were choosing to or not, they became projected onto the piece and they also became projected onto a shared space with other commuters and passersby. In the case of that particular project there was a democratizing effect to how I used the public realm and public space, and it meant that as a passerby you were the viewer and you were also the artwork. The artwork wasn’t the metal, or the steel, or the footings, but rather the dynamic surface created by people interacting with it and the shifting light. So from one moment to the next, the piece could look entirely different. The project was almost like a barometer to the space and shifting atmospheric conditions and light and everybody around it. It was like one gigantic mirror to the site itself and to the urban activity of New York City.

Dune, 2002. Painted aluminum, glass beads, 336 x 60 x 96 inches. Courtesy the artist, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

LD: Your work consistently weaves cultures and locations together and yet somehow seems to represent all of them. What places have you visited that especially struck you, that you knew you had to include an element of in your work?

TF: I’ve been traveling a lot since early on in my career. I spent a long time just doing residencies in different places, so Japan of course is a very important place to me, and a lot of my formation about the landscape, but also about intimacy, I think came from my time in Japan. There are some specific landscapes that are important to me because I’ve spent time there. Bali is an important place for me Cuba is an important place because it’s where my family comes from. It’s a historically very rich landscape full of complex human narratives.

The artwork is not meant to be an illustration of those places. In fact I have a very universal sensibility about places. One of the most interesting things about being an artist is that my work is based on this very strange way of linking and making connections between things that normally would have nothing to do with one another. There’s a kind of universality in the work, so that in the same thing I could be referencing a very European image or idea, layered with something that came from a very Japanese experience, with a historical piece of American literature that I read in something else. And there’s no hierarchy to these references because I’m not illustrating any one of those things, I’m actually drawing connections between them in ways that are unconventional and through a very personal lens.

Night Writing (Hero and Leander), 2011. Colored and shaped paper pulp with ink jet assembled with mirror, 49.21 x 66.14 inches. Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and STPI Singapore.

LD: So would you say it’s not so much a single experience that you have in a place that drives your work?

TF: Sometimes it’ll be one very strange fact about a place, like Borrowdale, England, for example. My sculpture Drawn Waters (Borrowdale) (2009) is a reference to Borrowdale, England, which is the place where graphite was discovered in the 1500s. That one fact, the idea that pencils, and therefore drawings came, literally, from this landscape that was just solid graphite underground. The idea that the pencil that you draw with could come from a physical landscape, where you could stand on that landscape and everything underneath your feet would be solid graphite, became another way for me to think about the act of drawing.

Sometimes it’ll just be one very quirky detail that attracts me to a particular landscape. What becomes important isn’t the big overt characteristics, but rather the quirky detail that relates to something else, at least in my mind. In hindsight, after I make the work and I draw those connections, I am giving a form and sensibility to them. But beforehand, it is actually very mysterious and complex to draw those connections between things and places—that’s the inventive, conceptual and challenging part of my process.


Teresita Fernández’s Powerful Art Lays Bare Ongoing Histories of Colonial Violence in the Caribbean

Some artists train their eye on the small things of life. Teresita Fernández isn’t one of them. Her art, she said, is driven by a desire to know more about the human condition and the ways in which the past continues to impact the present. “I’m curious always just for myself: Where am I? What is this place? So many of us don’t even know our own history,” she said.

Over the course of her career, Fernández, who was born in Miami to Cuban parents in exile, has taken it upon herself to learn her own cultural lineage, focusing on the Caribbean and its intellectuals like Cuban poet and philosopher José Martí, Jamaican novelist Sylvia Wynter, Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott, and Martiniquan-born philosopher Édouard Glissant. &ldquoIt&rsquos an ongoing research project to learn about who I am,” she said, “as well as the underlying Indigenous erasure around the Caribbean.&rdquo

Many of these sources may not be readily evident in her sculptures and installations, however, and her latest work bears out these influences in somewhat unseen ways. During a socially distanced visit to her Brooklyn studio in November ahead of her new solo exhibition in New York, at Lehmann Maupin gallery, Fernández recalled her time spent in Europe as part of a college study abroad program and visiting the museums there. She came to realize that all of the wealth that was displayed in museums and cathedrals could be traced to the exploitation of the Caribbean and the labor of enslaved people.

&ldquoI became really interested in how we can decolonize the way in which we think of this region, which for most of the world is this periphery, this tiny thing on the edge of something that’s often very vulgarly associated with leisure or resorts,&rdquo she said. &ldquoIt&rsquos this paradise where real people somehow don&rsquot make the picture&mdashthey&rsquore invisible.&rdquo

For her Lehmann Maupin show, titled &ldquoMaelstrom&rdquo and on view through January 23, Fernández has created several new bodies of work that look at the histories of colonialism in the Caribbean, particularly that of Puerto Rico. (Alongside it, she also has on offer a “visual essay” microsite to contextualize the works and offers additional readings, which she described as the show’s “underlying social structure.”) &ldquoWe are often in this conditioned mode of talking about colonization historically as though it&rsquos something that happened a long time ago. But Puerto Rico is this experiment in colonization that never ended,&rdquo Fernández said, calling it the world&rsquos oldest colony.

Puerto Rico&rsquos ongoing colonial history informs one of the show’s series, &ldquoHurakán,&rdquo which is composed of 20 6-by-8-inch abstract mixed media collages that Fernández created earlier this year, alone in her studio during the pandemic&rsquos initial lockdown, a process she described as &ldquocathartic.&rdquo The series takes its name from the Taíno people&rsquos name for the god of storms, which was then adopted by Spanish colonizers (and later into English) to name hurricanes, the region&rsquos tropical cyclones. (&ldquoThe only place in the world where hurricanes get called hurricanes is in the Caribbean,&rdquo Fernández added.)

Each work in the series is named after a historic hurricane&mdashMaria, Katrina, Paloma, even Teresita. Notably, the names are female, and Fernández connected this to the historic and ongoing practice of forced sterilization for women of color in the Americas, which has taken place in Puerto Rico since the 1930s. Between 1930 and 1970, 35 percent of Puerto Rican women were forced to be sterilized. Some of those women were also required to participate, often unknowingly, in clinical trials that led to the development of the birth control pill. &ldquoThose drugs were FDA-approved because they were tested on Puerto Rican women,&rdquo she said.

Fernández, who won a MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2005, is intimately familiar with this history of medical experimentation because her mother experienced it. When her mother was 24 years old, she was forced to have a hysterectomy in the United States. &ldquoIt was always referred to as la operación,&rdquo Fernández said, adding, “Things happened to them that they didn’t even know about.&rdquo

But, Férnandez said, these are not only horrible tales from the past&mdashthey are also &ldquopresent-day realities as well,&rdquo as evidenced by the recent whistleblower revelations of forced sterilizations in ICE detention centers, primarily on Caribbean women. &ldquoThe series was a way of taking all of these violent occurrences and recurrences and stacking them up and shaking them around this violence and abuse and dehumanization of certain women&rsquos bodies. This is a big part of Caribbean history,&rdquo Fernández said.

&ldquoThat it recently came to light in ICE detention centers is nothing new,” she continued. “It&rsquos as old as colonization. It&rsquos never gone away.&rdquo Taken together, Fernández said the exhibition becomes “a portrait of violence in many ways.”

The image of a tropical storm appears in another work in the exhibition, Caribbean Cosmos (2020), a 16-foot-long panel made of thousands of glazed ceramic tesserae that together form a created image of various swirls that mimic aerial maps showing hurricanes forming over the Caribbean. The work is at once beautiful and captivating&mdasha gripping depiction of devastating destruction.

&ldquoThat movement that you see looks like that kind of swirling hurricane,&rdquo Fernández said. &ldquoIf you shrunk it down to a microscopic level, it would look like everything that’s happening in your body, and if you exploded it to be as expansive as the cosmos, it would look like the Milky Way.&rdquo

For another series, titled &ldquoBlack Beach(Unpolished Diamond),” Fernández has created a suite of three large-scale works that each feature hundreds of pieces of whole charcoal, burned wood from whiskey barrels, and lava rocks (along with other materials) that are laboriously affixed to a panel of polished aluminum.

Because these materials have their own identity, they are “not neutral,” Fernández said. “It&rsquos not like going to the paint store, buying a bunch of paint, and then painting a picture of a burnt landscape. I’m actually making an image of a burned landscape with pieces of a real burned landscape, which already has its own history. It’s almost like they’re haunted materials.&rdquo

For the artist, the landscape she has created contains the very elements it is meant to depict, and therefore it is intimately linked to those who inhabit that land. &ldquoIt’s really about the history of people,&rdquo she said. What is represented is not just nature, but something more&mdashan artwork that exists as “the history of human beings, the history of power, a history of ownership, a history of conquest. What we think of as the landscape, usually a passive thing that just exists, is actually very much a construct that&rsquos created around notions of power and visibility.&rdquo


How Artist Teresita Fernández Turns Graphite, the Stuff of Stardust, Into Memories

From a distance, contemporary artist Teresita Fernández’s sculpture Nocturnal (Horizon Line) appears to be a simple, modern rectangle of silvery gray. In the artist’s words, “when approached directly, you see nothing, just a simple dark gray rectangle. But when you start moving, the pieces become animated. . . . It’s almost as if the image develops before your eyes.”

Gradations of color and texture emerge, forming three distinct horizontal bands. The first, smooth and flat, evokes the sky. The second, shiny and polished, nods to water. The third, chunky and organic, represents the Earth.

The differences in consistency are made possible by Fernández’s use of graphite, a mineral formed over thousands of years under the Earth’s surface. A new episode of “Re:Frame,” a video web series produced by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, investigates the compelling role graphite has played in the history of art—and in Fernández’s work.

“Teresita Fernández is a researcher in many ways and she's also a conceptual artist,” says E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino art and the museum’s deputy chief curator.

Born in Miami in 1968, Fernández received her BA from Florida International University and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2005, she was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant and, in 2012, President Obama appointed her to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Her sculptures and installations can be found in museums throughout the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Fernández’s work focuses on the natural world, which she explores using unconventional methods and materials. “She's created images of cloud formations, volcanic eruptions and bodies of water,” says Ramos. “In many cases, she uses a wide variety of materials to create these illusions that become experiences for the viewer.” To create Nocturnal (Horizon Line), the artist investigated the material properties of an unexpected substance: graphite.

The development of landscape as an artistic focus, and its connection to the material graphite, served as the inspiration for Nocturnal (Horizon Line) by Teresita Fernández . (SAAM, © 2010, Teresita Fernández, 2012.38A-C)

“Graphite is a naturally-occurring mineral. It occurs all over planet Earth, and in space, and it's formed just of the element carbon,” says Liz Cottrell , curator-in-charge of rocks and ores at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

“Humans, animals and plants are composed of carbon. We, humans, are carbon-dominated lifeforms, and when we die, our bodies and tissues decompose, and under heat and pressure in the Earth, organic carbon turns into graphite,” says Cottrell.

Though often mistaken for lead, the workhorse material at the end of our pencils is actually graphite. According to Cottrell, “graphite is super soft, and that's because the carbon atoms are arranged in plains, in sheets, and those sheets simply sluff off when you rub it.”

Graphite has been a popular art-making material since the 16th century. It was a favorite of Renaissance master Leonard da Vinci, who used graphite to create some of the earliest “landscapes” in Western art history.

Prior to da Vinci’s time, artists considered nature a backdrop—not a subject—for artwork. Da Vinci was among the first to create drawings that foregrounded nature, celebrating the landscape rather than human civilization. “There is this deep connection with graphite, which is related to pencils and the depiction of landscapes,” says Ramos.

“One of the most popular graphite localities historically is in England. . . where pencils were first developed,” says Cottrell. Borrowdale, in the Cumbria region, became particularly famous among Renaissance artists for its high-quality deposits. Even before da Vinci began drawing with Cumbrian graphite, English shepherds used it to identify their flocks by marking the wool of their sheep.

The development of landscape as an artistic focus, and its connection to the material graphite, served as the inspiration for Nocturnal (Horizon Line). As an artist whose work centers on the natural world, Fernandez was drawn to the physical location—and material—that inspired the genre she continues to explore.

Teresita Fernández focuses on the natural world, which she explores using unconventional methods and materials. (Noboru Morikawa, Wikimedia Commons )

While da Vinci sketched with a graphite pencil, Fernández sculpts with graphite itself. “She was really intrigued with this idea of creating a picture whose material is intimately and completely integrated with the image that she's creating,” says Ramos.

But Fernández is not depicting Borrowdale in Nocturnal (Horizon Line)—or any specific landscape.

“When you think about historic landscapes from the 19th century by Thomas Moran and Frederic Church, they represent very specific places, right? Whether it's the Chasm of Colorado or the Aurora Borealis,” says Ramos. “When you look at this work, it has a kind of generic feel.”

“Teresita Fernández is not interested in depicting a specific place, but is really interested in triggering our personal associations, a visitor’s personal association, with a place of their own choosing,” Ramos says.

Grounded in centuries of art history and millennia of geological processes, Teresita Fernández’s sculpture Nocturnal (Horizon Line) is ultimately about personal experience—it’s the stuff of stardust evoking memories. Her use of graphite connects the sculpture to the land, but its lack of specificity allows viewers to project their own setting, either imagined or remembered, onto its shimmery surface.

“Whenever I look at it, I think of when I lived in Chicago and all of my walks looking at Lake Michigan. It has that experience for me. While it's not depicting Lake Michigan, it triggers that memory in my personal history,” says Ramos.

Teresita Fernández' 2010 Nocturnal (Horizon Line) is on view on the third floor, east wing of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

About Melissa Hendrickson

Melissa Hendrickson is the host and co-creator of the web series Re:Frame from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she is also an Interpretation and Audience Research Specialist.


EXHIBITION GUIDE

Teresita Fernández: Elemental is the first mid-career retrospective of internationally acclaimed American artist Teresita Fernández (b. 1968, Miami lives in New York). Fernández is a conceptual artist best known for her immersive installations and sculptures and her monumental public art commissions. Her conceptually-based work is rooted in challenging conventional definitions of landscape by deconstructing traditional genres of landscape painting and Land art to reveal more urgent narratives. Fernández places particular importance on her critical choice of materials, such as gold, graphite, charcoal, and other minerals that have complex histories often tied to colonialism, land, and power.

©2019 Pérez Art Museum Miami

“Landscape is often more about what you don’t see than what you do see.

I start by asking myself this very simple question: Where am I? Historically, economically, socially, racially, geographically, visually, emotionally, and physically?

Teresita Fernández
INTRODUCTION

Teresita Fernández: Elemental is organized as a series of experiential installations featuring diverse works made over the past 20 years. These environments invite viewers to interact with a series of “landscapes” in an effort to prompt contemplation of identity and personal narrative through a quiet unraveling of visibility, materiality, and intertwined sociopolitical histories. Along with the new sculpture Chorus (2020), the exhibition displays together for the first time, some of Fernández’s most important sculptural works and the presentation of her rarely seen drawings, which offer an intimate view into her artistic practice. More recent series, such as Fire (United States of the Americas) (2017–19) and Viñales (2015–19), address the political and social complexities of landscape.

As a whole, Elemental asks viewers to confront established notions about who they are through a deeper understanding of where they are, while also offering exuberant, visually dazzling artworks that reference the cosmos, the subterranean, natural phenomena, and the palpable beauty of the natural world.

The artist’s recent use of fire imagery, however, proposes a more urgent, threatening narrative. Fire (America) (2016–19) is composed of several works that question how American violence is framed according to who is telling the story. It is also a reference to Fernández’s interest in how indigenous people have shaped and cultivated the land through slash-and-burn techniques to promote its sustainability, exposing the myth of a pristine American wilderness prior to European contact.

IMAGE CREDIT

Fire, 2005. Silk, yarn, steel armature, and epoxy. Collection SFMOMA Accessions Committee Fund purchase. Created in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

In works such as Fire (America) 5 (2017) and Fire (America) 6 (2019), Fernández creates night scenes made of rich, color-saturated, glazed ceramic tesserae depicting landscapes engulfed in flames. These works provide visual representations of the erased, warped, and invisible histories that are deliberately omitted from our perception of what we define as the American landscape.

Surrounding the viewer is Charred Landscape (America) (2019), a horizon line of raw, sculptural, charcoal “land masses” made from burned wood that transforms into diffused gestural charcoal drawings created directly on the walls. The dramatic images have an almost cinematic effect, suggesting a panoramic landscape scene dissolving into smoke.

The largest wall work on view in this series is Fire (United States of the Americas) 3 (2017–19). Made from solid charcoal elements arranged in the shape of the continental United States, the piece emerges from a wall of gestural, smoky, hand-drawn marks depicting a country burning, falling, and slipping away. About the work, Fernández states:

The piece reinserts the shape of Mexico into the map, newly configured and reimagined as so immense that its redemptive, ghostlike presence starts to dissolve into the cosmos, looming large over the United States. The charred image prompts viewers to contemplate and question the social history of the United States of America—only here are we in the habit of using the term “America” in its singular form. Throughout the rest of the Western Hemisphere, the term is customarily used in its plural form, “the Americas.”

IMAGE CREDIT

Fire (United States of the Americas) 3, 2017–19. Charcoal. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. Photo: Beth Devillier.

GRAPHITE

The idea that the pencil that you are drawing with could come from a physical landscape, where you could stand on that landscape and everything underneath your feet would be solid graphite, became another way for me to think about the act of drawing and Land art. Drawn Waters (Borrowdale) is like making a sculpture that’s really a drawing, a kind of dimensional, physical smudge. So that the act of drawing, the object of drawing, and the physical landscape become one and the same. To assemble the parts of a sculpture like Drawn Waters (Borrowdale) becomes precisely to engage in making a drawing.

Similarly, Sfumato (2019) is an immersive, site-specific installation that sweeps across the walls of the gallery like an organic, dissolving swarm. It is made of thousands of small rocks of raw, mined graphite—each with a feathery drawn mark that emanates from it like a cosmic trail. Sfumato’s scale shifts from intimate to vast, from miniature to panoramic so the work appears like a spreading constellation from a distance. Up close, the individual graphite elements each become their own tiny, solid landscape.

Fernández’s use of graphite, a mined, subterranean material, can also be seen in her Nocturnal series (2009–17), where dark-relief, graphite panels allude to mysterious night scenes and explore the material’s sculptural qualities beyond its common association to traditional modes of drawing. The panels suggest monochromatic, minimalist paintings, but the dimensional, carved, polished, and layered graphite slowly transforms to reveal a reflected surface of lustrous relief landscape paintings.

IMAGE CREDIT

Drawn Waters (Borrowdale), 2009. Natural and machined graphite on steel armature. Sfumato, 2009. Graphite and magnets, dimensions variable. Installation view: Lehmann Maupin, New York, 2009. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul.

SUBTERRANEAN

Fernández draws from her personal experience in the elaborate cave system of the Viñales Valley. Used since prehistoric times, the caves were once occupied by Taino indigenous people before colonization and were later used as a place of refuge for Maroons, or runaway slaves, who fled from surrounding plantations to freedom and formed small communes by hiding in the caves by day. As viewers engage with the immersive sculpture, the suggested landscape expands and contracts, prompting them to visually construct the image and become the size of what they are looking at.

Here, Fernández uses malachite rocks brought from the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their visual similarities to the lush, vibrant, and green Viñales Valley. This choice of material asserts what Fernández refers to as “stacked landscapes.” The malachite comes from a real landscape in the Congo and is used to create another imagined landscape, in the process highlighting the historical, cultural, and conflicted colonial relationship between Africa and Cuba. The idea is that when viewers unravel the landscape, they are always in more than one place simultaneously. Surrounding glazed ceramic panels reveal mineral-like, subterranean views that further reinforce the idea of the caves as protective, womb-like interiors.

IMAGE CREDIT

Viñales (Reclining Nude), 2015. Wakkusu concrete. bronze, and malachite. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul.

NIGHT WRITING

The title of the series is a reference to “Écriture Nocturne,” a code devised in the early 19th century to enable Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers to communicate at night, silently and without light. The code was also an early precursor to braille.

Each sumptuous, paper-pulp image of the night sky in the series is covered with words that have been translated into braille patterns, which become an abstracted field of perforated constellation points superimposed onto a mirror backing. Each dot appears to flicker, catching reflections of viewers moving in front of the works.

Artworks such as Night Writing (Tristan and Isolde) (2011) and Night Writing (Hero and Leander) (2011) contain cryptic words lost in an undecipherable code of dots. The works become a statement on the ephemeral quality of abstracted language as viewers attempt to grasp the content hidden within the invisible text. Fernández’s works often explore this subtle space between blindness, vision, and the tactile.

IMAGE CREDIT

Night Writing (Hero and Leander), 2011. Colored and shaped pulp paper with inkjet assembled with mirror. Made in collaboration with Singapore Tyler Print Institute. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul.

I’m very interested in the idea of gold as a cultural phenomena in ancient traditions of mining that originated in Africa, China, and Mesoamerica well before the more familiar European traditions ever evolved. Gold is present all over the world and has, across every time period and culture, been synonymous with the sun, with light, with radiance—subterranean metals connected to their heavenly counterparts. But my use of gold is also a very deliberate reference to colonization. The history of gold as a material is also, always, the history of landscape in the Americas, of land, conquest, power and, by default, of the erasure and decimation of indigenous peoples for European greed.

IMAGE CREDIT

Nishijin Sky, 2014. Silk, polyester, paper, nylon, brass, and aluminum. Made in collaboration with HOSOO, Kyoto, Japan. Courtesy the artist. and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. Photo: Noboru Morikawa.

BORROWED LANDSCAPE

The installation Borrowed Landscape (Citron, Cerulean, Violet, Blue) (1998) is made of sculptural volumes of colored light, sheer fabric, and wood that hover in a dark room and exist somewhere between architecture, sculpture, and painting. Each “room” has a floor covered with thousands of miniature, hand-drawn shapes taken from 17th-century garden hedge patterns. Together, they read simultaneously as rugs and aerial landscape views, toggling between scales to create something akin to an indoor landscape or an outdoor room. Much like in a real garden, viewers trace the space by walking through the mazelike, geometric volumes that contract and expand into shifting vistas.

IMAGE CREDIT

Borrowed Landscape (Citron, Cerulean, Violet, Blue), 1998. Wood, fabric, oculus light, graphite, and paint. Originally commissioned at Artpace, San Antonio, Texas. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul.


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A domed ceiling of white plaster tops the space, which will be used for large-scale installations and &ndash after the coronavirus pandemic &ndash large gatherings.

Art by Teresita Fernández occupies one wall of the Williams Forum

Displayed on the east wall of the Williams Forum is a map of America made from pieces of charcoal by American artist Teresita Fernández.

Called Fire (United States of the Americas), it "points to the cycles of destruction and regeneration on which the history of this country is built", according to the museum.

Tiles have been restored and pipes laid below the Vaulted Walkway

The Vaulted Walkway, a 640-foot-long (195 metres) corridor running the breadth of the exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has been reopened again after 50 years.

The Guastavino tiles in the vaults between the collonades have been restored, and new steam pipes, water lines, electric and internet cables have been installed below the paving to improve the museum's infrastructure.

The South Hall has been turned into a sculpture room

A room at one end of the Vaulted Walkway, called the South Hall, has been refurbished and turned into a sculpture display area.

Gehry is a much-lauded architect and the recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Japan's Praemium Imperiale, and America's Presidential Medal of Freedom amongst other accolades.

Notable museum projects from his practice include the upcoming Luma Arles arts tower in southern France, which is slated to open in June, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.


Teresita Fernández (b. 1968, Miami, FL, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a conceptual artist best known for her monumental, public projects that expand on notions of landscape and place. Her work, often inspired by natural phenomena—meteor showers, fire, and the night sky—invites experiential engagement with the work and the space it occupies. Fernández places particular importance on her choice of materials such as gold, graphite, and other minerals that have loaded histories, often tied to colonialism, history, land, and power. Her work is characterized by a quiet unraveling of place, visibility, and erasure that prompts an intimate experience for individual viewers. In 2015, Fernández installed her largest public art project to date, Fata Morgana, in New York’s Madison Square Park. The work was composed of overhead, mirrored canopies above all of the park’s walkways, and its title refers to mirages that hover right above the horizon.

Fernández is a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a number of awards including the Aspen Award for Art in 2013, a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award in 1999. Appointed by President Obama, she was the first Latina to serve on the US Commission of Fine Arts, a 100-year-old federal panel that advises the president and Congress on national matters of design and aesthetics. Her upcoming mid-career museum retrospective, Teresita Fernández: Elemental, is currently on view at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Surveying over 20 years of work, the exhibition will travel to the Phoenix Art Museum followed by the New Orleans Museum of Art. Fernández’s public art project, Paradise Parados, will be installed on the rooftop of the BAM Harvey Theater, Brooklyn, NY, in 2020.

Fernández’s recent site-specific commissions include Vînales (Mayombe Mississippi), New Orleans Museum of Art, Sculpture Garden, New Orleans, LA (2019) Island Universe, Ford Foundation, New York, NY (2019) Autumn (…Nothing Personal), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2018) Stacked Waters, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX (2009) Blind Blue Landscape, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan (2009) and Seattle Cloud Cover, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA (2006).

In 2001, Fernández worked with the Public Art Fund to realize Bamboo Cinema, a large-scale, maze-like installation made of colored, translucent polycarbonate tubes in Madison Square Park, New York City.

Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948 in Santiago, Chile is a poet, artist and activist. She lives and works in New York and Santiago) integrates practices of performance, Conceptualism, and textile in response to pressing concerns of the modern world, including ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization. Born and raised in Santiago, she was exiled during the early 1970s after the violent military coup against President Salvador Allende. This sense of impermanence, and a desire to preserve and pay tribute to the indigenous history and culture of Chile, have characterized her work throughout her career.


Teresita Fernández

“ ..Best known for her unique installations and immersive public projects, Fernández explores ideas of the figure in the landscape, the natural world, the extremes of scale, as well as the act of looking.. ”

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Lehmann Maupin, New York (West 22nd St)

“ ..She is an artist best known for her conceptual, experiential works, prominent public sculptures, and unconventional use of materials.. ”

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Lehmann Maupin, Chrystie Street

“ ..Fernández's work is characterized by an interest in perception and the psychology of looking.. ”

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Lehmann Maupin, Chrystie Street

“ ..Fernández here seeks to revise our notion of what is the “American Landscape” and who gets to define it.. ”

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Teresita Fernández is an American Postwar & Contemporary artist who was born in 1968. Her work was featured in numerous exhibitions at key galleries and museums, including the SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Teresita Fernández's work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $195 USD to $132,000 USD, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2006 the record price for this artist at auction is $132,000 USD for Burnout, sold at Sotheby's New York in 2006. Teresita Fernández has been featured in articles for the ArtLyst, the ARTnews and the ARTnews. The most recent article is Teresita Fernández Depicts Caribbean Colonialism and Eco-Trauma written by Louis Bury for the Hyperallergic in January 2021.


In Focus: Teresita Fernández

Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce In Focus: Teresita Fernández. This special installation debuts the artist&rsquos most recent series, Dark Earth, begun in 2019. The presentation will feature four panels made of solid charcoal on chromed metal that delve deeper into the artist&rsquos interest in the buried, layered, and often violent histories of landscape and place. In Focus presentations are a recent addition to the Lehmann Maupin program that create a space for the gallery to highlight a critical aspect of an artist&rsquos practice. These installations offer unique public access to recent, timely, or significant works by the gallery&rsquos artists. There will be an artist-led walk through on November 23, at 11am. Capacity is limited reserve a space at [email protected]

Merging the conceptual and the material within her Dark Earth series, Fernández sculpts raw charcoal into sumptuously textured, abstracted images that challenge conventional notions of landscape art traditions. These panoramic landscape scenes expand and contract to suggest ancient mountain ranges, bodies of flowing water, subterranean minerals, radiant skies, and the immensity of the cosmos. Fernández&rsquos sense of the landscape suggests not only the physicality of the land, but also the history of human beings who have carefully cultivated it, or abused it, and the subsequent erasure that continues to shape our present-day perceptions of the people and places around us. Elaborating on ideas of the traditional &ldquofigure in the landscape,&rdquo Fernández uses the reflective quality of the golden metal to prompt viewers to consider their own role in this system, as their gaze is returned and distorted within this constructed landscape, and to re-examine their place in the eroded physical and psychological spaces produced by centuries of dominant colonialism. Imbuing the landscape with an anthropomorphic sensibility, Fernández has stated, &ldquoyou look at the landscape, but the landscape also looks back at you.&rdquo Each panel presents a spectral scene that echoes the ancient and the vast, while also referring to the cultural histories of its material makeup&mdashgold, conquest, violence, agriculture&mdashand the fluctuation of power that surrounds natural resources.

Exhibited concurrently with the artist&rsquos retrospective, Teresita Fernández: Elemental, on view at the Pérez Art Museum Miami through February 9, 2020, these new works represent a direct through line of her career-spanning consideration of landscape as it is tied to human history and the emerging narratives that shape our understanding of it.

About the artist
Teresita Fernández (b. 1968, Miami, FL, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a number of awards including the Aspen Award for Art in 2013, the 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award in 1999. Appointed by President Obama, she was the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a 100-year-old federal panel that advises the president and Congress on national matters of design and aesthetics.

Recent site-specific commissions include Night Writing, Park Tower at Transbay, San Francisco, CA (2019) Vînales (Mayombe Mississippi), New Orleans Museum of Art, Sculpture Garden, New Orleans, LA (2019) Island Universe, Ford Foundation, New York, NY (2019) Autumn (&hellipNothing Personal), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2018) Fata Morgana, Madison Square Park, New York, NY (2015) Stacked Waters, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX (2009) Blind Blue Landscape, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan (2009) and Seattle Cloud Cover, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA (2006). Fernández&rsquos public art project, Paradise Parados, will be installed on the rooftop of the BAM Harvey Theater, Brooklyn, NY, in 2020.

Fernández received a BFA from Florida International University, Miami, in 1990 and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, in 1992. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ (forthcoming 2020) Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL (2019) Harvard University, Boston, MA (2018) Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, NY (2017) Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2014) Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX (2011) Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, OH (2011) University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, FL (2009) Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (2005) and Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2001).

Fernández&rsquos work is featured in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY Bloomberg Family Foundation, New York, NY Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisernos, New York, NY Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.


In Focus: Teresita Fernández

Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce In Focus: Teresita Fernández. This special installation debuts the artist&rsquos most recent series, Dark Earth, begun in 2019. The presentation will feature four panels made of solid charcoal on chromed metal that delve deeper into the artist&rsquos interest in the buried, layered, and often violent histories of landscape and place. In Focus presentations are a recent addition to the Lehmann Maupin program that create a space for the gallery to highlight a critical aspect of an artist&rsquos practice. These installations offer unique public access to recent, timely, or significant works by the gallery&rsquos artists. There will be an artist-led walk through on November 23, at 11am. Capacity is limited reserve a space at [email protected]

Merging the conceptual and the material within her Dark Earth series, Fernández sculpts raw charcoal into sumptuously textured, abstracted images that challenge conventional notions of landscape art traditions. These panoramic landscape scenes expand and contract to suggest ancient mountain ranges, bodies of flowing water, subterranean minerals, radiant skies, and the immensity of the cosmos. Fernández&rsquos sense of the landscape suggests not only the physicality of the land, but also the history of human beings who have carefully cultivated it, or abused it, and the subsequent erasure that continues to shape our present-day perceptions of the people and places around us. Elaborating on ideas of the traditional &ldquofigure in the landscape,&rdquo Fernández uses the reflective quality of the golden metal to prompt viewers to consider their own role in this system, as their gaze is returned and distorted within this constructed landscape, and to re-examine their place in the eroded physical and psychological spaces produced by centuries of dominant colonialism. Imbuing the landscape with an anthropomorphic sensibility, Fernández has stated, &ldquoyou look at the landscape, but the landscape also looks back at you.&rdquo Each panel presents a spectral scene that echoes the ancient and the vast, while also referring to the cultural histories of its material makeup&mdashgold, conquest, violence, agriculture&mdashand the fluctuation of power that surrounds natural resources.

Exhibited concurrently with the artist&rsquos retrospective, Teresita Fernández: Elemental, on view at the Pérez Art Museum Miami through February 9, 2020, these new works represent a direct through line of her career-spanning consideration of landscape as it is tied to human history and the emerging narratives that shape our understanding of it.

About the artist
Teresita Fernández (b. 1968, Miami, FL, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a number of awards including the Aspen Award for Art in 2013, the 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award in 1999. Appointed by President Obama, she was the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a 100-year-old federal panel that advises the president and Congress on national matters of design and aesthetics.

Recent site-specific commissions include Night Writing, Park Tower at Transbay, San Francisco, CA (2019) Vînales (Mayombe Mississippi), New Orleans Museum of Art, Sculpture Garden, New Orleans, LA (2019) Island Universe, Ford Foundation, New York, NY (2019) Autumn (&hellipNothing Personal), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2018) Fata Morgana, Madison Square Park, New York, NY (2015) Stacked Waters, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX (2009) Blind Blue Landscape, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan (2009) and Seattle Cloud Cover, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA (2006). Fernández&rsquos public art project, Paradise Parados, will be installed on the rooftop of the BAM Harvey Theater, Brooklyn, NY, in 2020.

Fernández received a BFA from Florida International University, Miami, in 1990 and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, in 1992. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ (forthcoming 2020) Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL (2019) Harvard University, Boston, MA (2018) Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, NY (2017) Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2014) Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX (2011) Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, OH (2011) University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, FL (2009) Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (2005) and Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2001).

Fernández&rsquos work is featured in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY Bloomberg Family Foundation, New York, NY Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisernos, New York, NY Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

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