Artist: Abraham Cruzvillegas
Venue: Chantal Crousel, Paris
Exhibition Title: La Señora de Las Nueces
Date: January 23 – February 27, 2021
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Chantal Crousel, Paris. Photos by Martin Argyroglo.
Galerie Chantal Crousel is pleased to host the fifth Abraham Cruzvillegas solo exhibition, La Señora de Las Nueces, in which the artist presents a set of sculptures, a series of monoprints and a video. The works are the result of a long term reflection about the material and cultural history of the Señor de las Limas, also known as Las Limas Monument 1, a sculpture dating back to 900-400 BCE, emblematic of Olmec culture.1 Found in 1965 by two children from Las Limas village looking for a stone with which to crack a nut from a palm, the sculpture represents a person sitting cross-legged with the loose body of a were-jaguar baby laying over his arms.2 Their skin is incised with symbolic motifs that archeologists attribute to the main divinities of the Olmec pantheon and to the power insignia of several meso-American cultures (rectangle with a cross in the middle). The back of the sculpture is flat, at the lower half of which are two symmetrical holes which seem designed for passing a rope through to facilitate its transport.
The uncertainty in the hypotheses put forward as to the usage and symbolism of the Señor de Las Limas, as well as the conditions of its discovery and the veneration it inspired prior to inclusion in the Xalapa museum of anthropology’s collection are a starting-point for understanding the works of Abraham Cruzvillegas shown here. Entitled La Señora de Las Nueces, a video in the exhibition shows the close-up of a woman’s hand —archeologist Patricia Carot, specialist in pre-Columbian Purepecha culture— using two stones to break a nut, then peeling it. The almost instinctive familiarity of gestures allowing the fruit to be opened is like a replay of the original discovery of the Olmec sculpture in the 1960s. Recorded by the artist, the short clip of the archeologist’s hand in action focuses the viewer’s attention on her movements. And while Cruzvillegas is intrigued by Patricia Carot’s reproduction of ancestral gestures, he is equally fascinated by the dialogue between body, stone and fruit.
Attention to movement is central to Cruzvillegas’ process of creating the hanging sculptures in the main gallery. Made from urban objets trouvés and materials picked up around the city (odd bits of furniture, wooden boards and planks, metal strips, strings, stones, computer keyboard…), they are all put together to be carried and carry something else. Their architecture includes a platform or a basket, a back, and straps. Based on scientific proposals as to the transportation techniques the Olmecs used for the Señor de Las Limas and its symbolic function, Abraham Cruzvillegas completes his sculptures by a hybrid activity: strapped to his body, he embarks each one on a journey between the gallery and a place of personal importance in this day-to-day life (The École des Beaux-Arts where he teaches and his home, amongst others). Brought back to the gallery, they signify the end of a series of performances in which the artist attended to his serendipitous encounters with the fragments picked out of the urban fabric. Creating the sculptures in part expresses a quest to understand the body as tool. Handling and moving them is akin to physically experiencing the reproduction of routine gestures. The question of the relation between the body and the work of art is fundamental to Abraham Cruzvillegas’ thinking. In the present exhibition, he examines the notion of labor, understood figuratively as a “continuous process of transformation”3 of both the body and the œuvre. The task is to trigger an encounter between two living things (the human body and matter) and observe the resulting mutual metamorphoses: how do the body and sculptures interact in the wanderings in town? How do they ply a bodily attitude or position when carried or handled?
1 The Olmec were a multiethnic, pre-Columbian people established on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the Valley of Mexico and along the Pacific coastline down to present-day Salvador. Their presence in the region ranged from 2500 to 500 BCE and was revealed in the mid- 19th century by the discovery of a colossal head, sculpted from basalt, on the now archeological site of Tres Zapotes in the state of Veracruz.
2 Hybrid figures are part of the sculptural repertory of Olmec art, the werejaguar is a recurrent example of which. It belongs to a religious art form and imagery that researchers interpret as describing the relations between man and animal.
3 Definition: CNRTL.