NEW YORK.- Since emerging from the Cuban avant-garde in the late 1980s, the artist Quisqueya Henríquez has attracted international attention for her masterly ability to endow the quotidianwhether encountered on the street or in the most personal corners of daily lifewith new, wry, and layered meaning. Yet Henríquez has remained little known in the United States.
This fall New Yorkers will have the opportunity to take the measure of this artist at mid-career and absorb her particular brand of irony and conceptualism. The Bronx Museum of the Arts presents Quisqueya Henríquez: The World Outside, the first museum survey of Henríquezs work, from Sunday, September 16, 2007 through January 27, 2008.
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, featuring essays by guest curator Amy Rosenblum Martin and poet/critic Monica de la Torre. Each copy also features a special edition artwork, Henríquezs winning take on wrapping paper, designed with images of trash photographed on the beaches of the Dominican Republic. Constructions, installations, videos, sound art, photographs, and the documentation of performances and participatory art will be featured. These range from a series of recently created collages fashioned from fragments of found news photographs of baseball players, to photographic documentation of the honeycomb-pattern arrangements of seaweed the artist created on a beach during a period when she chose to live without art materials in the Yucatan.
This exhibition is the latest in a long line of exhibitions organized by the Bronx Museum to give important artists attention at critical junctures in their careers, a number of whichlike the examination of Willie Coles oeuvre in 2001are now seen as milestones, says Holly Block, Executive Director of the museum.
The motifs of Henríquezs work are the sights, sounds, tastes and textures of the city: all the sensory experiences that make urban life chaotic and provocative, says Amy Rosenblum Martín, an independent curator, a former assistant curator at the Bronx Museum, and the organizer of the exhibition. And because she lives in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, much of Henríquezs work captures the life of that city. For the exhibition, Henríquez will send a daily visual dispatch from Santo Domingo to the Bronx Museum. Repeat visitors to the exhibition and those visiting the museums website will be able to keep abreast of the postings of this daily diary.
Humorous examples of how the artist draws from the daily life around her include Jugando con la adversidad (Playing with Adversity), 2001-06, a series of sculptures fashioned from actual playing balls comprising, among other things, a basketball gutted and carved into a womans purse, a soccer ball turned inside out and trimmed into a stylish womans cap, and a basketball divested of all but its seams.
Henríquez takes inspiration from situations that present a challenge and even some degree of constraint, including the scarcity of traditional artistic material. This approach has informed such strategies as working with seaweed washed up on the beaches of the Yucatan, the documentation of which will be presented to the museums audiences in a series of elegant, understated photographs. The artist says, You dont have something, but you cant stop and you wont stop just because you dont have it. You find a way to have it.
Another exhibition highlight is El mundo de afuera (The World Outside), 2006, a 46-minute video edited from hundreds of hours of footage shot from a camera set on a tripod on the balcony of the artists apartment. Henríquez explains: I stood in my balcony for three years, filming everything that happened outside. I wanted to use the static situation of my private life to film whatever was happening outside.
She continues: There was a guy in front of my building, two floors down, who got up everyday to exercise, but he didnt have a fitness bench or proper weights. So he exercised with concrete molds, really badly done. The artist eventually recreated those concrete barbellsbut rendered in pastel colors. Entitled Pesas caseras (Homemade Weights), 2006, the sculpture is featured in the exhibition.
Henríquez has designed several patterns for gift wrapping papersbright designs that entice and then surprise as parts of the geometric coalesce into scenes of garbage and litter washed up on the beaches of the Dominican Republic. While these sheets of wrapping paper exist as objects, they were first conceived to be used in a participatory project. Henríquez approached store owners in Santa Domingo and invited them to wrap customers purchases with the paper: a few accepted the offer.
Guest curator Rosenblum-Martin says: Although Quisqueya has been described as a neo-Dadaist, her true fascination seems to lie with how a process or activity can become a work of art and how audience participation can give work meaning. She spins clichés into fresh paradigms.
One of Henríquezs best known artworks was indeed conceived as a humorous commentary on the stereotype of the Caribbean as being hot-blooded. Helado de agua del mar Caribe (Caribbean Sea Water Ice Cream), 2002, which the artist presented at Art Chicago several years ago, is actual ice cream made with Caribbean sea water. For the opening of the exhibition in September, The Bronx Museum of the Arts is shipping six gallons of seawater from the Dominican Republic to fabricate the artwork in collaboration with the Bronxs venerable Delicioso Coco Helado company.
Other works featured in Quisqueya Henríquez: The World Outside will include an installation/sound work built inside a sofa (Bornnaked, 2004); a photographic series documenting found spaces (Espacio público /Public Space, 2006); a digital animation exploring the iconic nature of cars; and a video projection that spills over into a vinyl wall installation (Intertextualidad/ Intertextuality, 2005).
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1966, Henríquez studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana and the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo. The artists first name is the indigenous name given to Santo Domingo before the coming of the Spanish. Quisqueya Henríquez has been featured in solo exhibitions at Artists Space, New York; Miami Art Museum; Miami; the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; and The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. She has also been included in many international exhibitions and biennials, including 23 Bienal Nacional, Santa Domingo (2005) and INSITE 97, San Diego (1997), and several groundbreaking group shows, such as Defining the Nineties: Consensus-making in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Miami: Human Nature, at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; No Lo Llames Performance at El Museo del Barrio, New York; Island Nations: New Art from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Diaspora at the RISD Museum of Art, Providence; and currently on view at New Yorks El Museo del Barrio, This Skin Im In: Contemporary Dominican Art from the Permanent Collection.