Friday 26 April 2013


Zilia Sanchez at Artist Space, New York

Zilia Sanchez, exhibition views at Artist Space, New York

Zilia Sanchez and friends during the opening

Stuart Comer contemplating Zilia Sanchez' erotic topologies

Zilia Sanchez at Artist Space, exhibition views and opening crowd during the opening

Mima Reyes, Zilia Sanchez and Carla Acevedo Yates at Artist Space during Zilia's opening

press release:
Zilia Sánchez
April 21 – June 16, 2013

Artists Space is pleased to present the first US survey exhibition by Puerto Rico based artist Zilia Sánchez, spanning a period from the early 1950s to the present day.

Born in Cuba in 1928, studying at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, Sánchez has since the early ‘50s developed a language that is highly significant when reconsidering the seemingly resolved history of minimalism.

“I guess I am not a Minimalist, but rather a Mulata.”

Sánchez’s early work in Cuba developed an approach to formal abstraction through paintings and drawings, alongside the design of furniture as well as theater sets. Influenced by the Havana based modernist painter Victor Manuel, she became associated with a group of artists and intellectuals known as Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo. She designed scenography for guerilla theater group Los Yesistas (The Plasterers), signaling her involvement with the pre-revolutionary, anti-Batista movement.

As a result of regular exhibitions in Havana, she received grants enabling her to travel to Europe, before moving to New York in 1964. Living in the city for eight years, she began working with elaborated stretcher frames producing shaped canvases, emphasizing the sculptural abstraction of bodily form. Her paintings have regularly taken on a modular character, comprised of two or more abutting parts. This seriality has become a cornerstone of Sánchez’s work: she continues to rework and add to paintings begun as early as the 1970s, considering each work to be a part of a larger whole. Alongside the sensual and haptic “queering” of a hard-edged minimalism, her multi-part works bear relation to the temporal and semiotic sequencing of musical notation, as well as to the architecture of tropical modernism.

In 1972 Sánchez moved to Puerto Rico, where she lives today. Between 1972 and 1975 she designed the literary journal Zona de Carga y Descarga (Zone of Charging and Discharging), a short-lived but highly influential publication principally edited by writer Rosario Ferré, marking a moment of experimentation in Puerto Rican writing commissioning marginalized Latin American, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Nuyorican writers. Sánchez’s use of photomontage, innovative typesetting and layered layouts of image and text inscribed into the publication a fractured topology. This was paralleled by Cuban author, and fellow Zona contributor and close friend Severo Sarduy’s own reflections on writing that emerged around his involvement with the Parisian literature journal Tel Quel, collectively published in his compendium of essays, Written On a Body (1969). Zona was configured as both a place and as a way of working, intrinsically connected to Sánchez’s paintings as “actualizing in space (and in the skin of the canvas)… the ludic meaningfulness of language, as both a tense, a wracked, and a martyred system of differential signs, and as a related erotic display of desire.”[1]

Since the 1980s such textural and scriptural qualities have become more defined, through line drawings on the surface of the canvas, including the occasional literal appearance of figurative transfers of semaphore and sign language.

Over the last three decades, Sánchez has taught at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico, becoming an inspirational figure for many artists. Her work however has seldom been exhibited outside Puerto Rico – the exhibition at Artists Space marks a long overdue survey of her practice.

[1] Benigno Trigo, “Zona. Carga y Descarga. Minor Literature in a Penal Colony,” MLN, (John Hopkins University) Volume 124, Number 2, March 2009

Curated by Stefan Kalmár and Richard Birkett 

Artists Space likes to thank Marimar Benitez Rivera for her research and curatorial assistance in Puerto Rico. 

Artists Space likes to thank the lenders: José Andréu & Millie Pietri, Sylvia Berrios, Rosario Ferré, Alberto Hernández, César & Mima Reyes, and Benigno Trigo

Artists Space likes to especially thank César & Mima Reyes and Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla for love, friendship and support and for introducing us to Zilia, Thank You !

Tuesday 16 April 2013


Lina Bo Bardi's own Casa de Vidro, designed and built in 1951 by Bo Bardi, 5 years after arriving to Brazil.

hammocks for Lina, an offering by Pablo Leon de la Barra as part of the Novo Museo Tropical at Lina Bo Bardi's house

Pablo Leon de la Barra's Novo Museu Tropical's sign hanging underneath the house

Pablo Leon de la Barra's Novo Museu Tropical, a museum without walls, underneath Lina Bo Bardi's Glass House

Novo Museo Tropical, vitrine with drawings by Pablo Leon de la Barra inspired by Lina Bo Bardi's ideas for museums. Lina Bo Bardi's giraffe chairs, together with vitrine's designed by Algusto Malzoni, a friend of Lina, and inspired by the vitrines created by Lina at Casa do Benin in Salvador de Bahia

Casas o Museus? Houses or Museums?

ideas for Novo Museo Tropical underneath the house

Lucio Costa's Riposatevi meets Lina Bo Bardi, hammocks hanging from the Casa de Vidro pilotis

hammocks hanging from the house

Lina Bo Bardi's Casa de Vidro turned upside down

ideas for Novo Museo Tropical, a new marquis open air museum

idea for Novo Museo Tropical at Lina Bo Bardi's Bar Coati in Salvador de Bahia

idea for Novo Museo Tropical underneath MASP. How to re-awaken dead Museum's?!

Novo Museo Tropical, Tropical Diagram table

Pablo Leon de la Barra's Diagrama Tropical (2013 version). The Diagrama Tropical is an attempt and a first approximation to construct a new tropical history and historiography. The diagram was freely inspired (and a response and reaction to) Alfred Barr's 'Cubism and Abstract Art' MOMA diagram from 1936 and to Miguel Covarrubias' 'Tree of Modern Art' from 1933 and Ad Reinhardt’s response to it, 'How to Look at Modern Art in America', 1946 which continuously ignored the art produced in other non-European, non-North American latitudes. The Diagram shares the spirit of Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi's didactic panels.

you can download and print the Diagrama Tropical here!

Novo Museo Tropical's Lina Bo Bardi's reference book for museum and exhibition making, a project by Pablo León de la Barra with Luiza Proença and Adelaide D’Esposito. Hopefully to be published soon by SESC

interior pages of Lina Bo Bardi's reference book for museum and exhibition making

Runo, Federico and Rafael visit Lina Bo Bardi's house

Rafael RG and Leandro Nerefuh sing in homage to Lina and her Casa de Vidro inside her house

and Federico Herrero seeing Lina Bo Bardi's house from above

with thanks to Hans Ulrich Obrist and Isabela Mora for their invitation to participate in the exhibition, see the full exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist at Lina Bo Bardi's house here

and below find a free translation of Lina Bo Bardi's text on houses or museums:

Lina Bo Bardi, 1958

What should come first, houses or museums? Everything at once: the houses, the schools, the museums, the libraries. Urban Planning cannot ignore cultural issues. If in the construction of new neighbourhoods, new housing forms the basis of the city plan (and by housing we also mean the market, the schools and the public services like the hospital and the post offices), the planning of a city cannot overlook two key public buildings that still today are considered an intellectual luxury: the Museum and the Library.

Museum? What is a museum? In everyday life, when we want to describe a person, thing or idea that is outdated, not practical or useful, we often say ‘they belong in a museum’. The expression is a clear indicator of the place museums occupy in contemporary culture, the perception of them as dusty, useless spaces. Sometimes museums are merely the stage for the exhibitionist antics of architects who, rather than designing them to showcase the ‘pieces’, create complex confections with a decorative character that gets in the way of the ‘museology’. On other occasions, the museum is the setting for dilettantes, for ladies who lunch looking for something to fill in the time, who dabble in sculpture, painting or ceramics and exhibit their handicraft in ‘museums’ that generally lack the one thing that ought to be there: namely, a real collection of painting and sculpture, The modern museum has to be a didactic museum, able to marry conservation with the message that it is the art that must be highlited, while everything else has a far more modest role. This has to be clearly understood by the architect, who should never use the commission as an opportunity for self-aggrandising pyrotechnics such as you find, for example, at the Castello Sforzesco, where Michelangelo’s celebrated Pietà has been encased in a kind of monument that almost immediately acquired some less than respectful nicknames, or like it happened at the exhibition of the Bestegui Collection at the Louvre in Paris, which was displayed against a series of walls draped in red velvet and gold better suited for a jockey club than to a museum.

The problem of the museum has to be tackled today on ‘didactic’ and ‘technical’ grounds. These foundations are essential if the museum is not to become petrified, that is, entirely useless.

The experience gained in this field with the São Paulo Museum of Art can be of great use here. After all, what is the point of an isolated work of art, even if it’s exhibited with the most perfect museological technique, if it remains ‘an end in itself’, with no connection at all to our times, with no historical continuity? The visitors, especially the younger ones, will look at the objects in a superficial way, without understanding their meaning, their historical lessons, the light they can shed on the present. Baroque sculptures, saints, silverware, tiles, paintings, altarpieces - all will be mere artistic curiosities to the visitor. In real terms, what didactic methods should we use? Evidently written texts, brief and succinct, and not in the language of the PhD, accompanied by photographs – in a sort of cinematographic commentary. It is only by satisfying these didactic needs that the museum will be able to occupy a vital place and be worthy in the gradation of human needs demanding prompt solution, and of being built at the same time than the houses

These considerations are of the utmost importance as Bahia stands on the brink of creating what could well one day become - given the importance of its collection and the beauty and poetic fascination of the building that will be its home - the country’s most important museum: the Santa Teresa Museum of Sacred Art. A museum that ought to have its own didactic voice in order to become a ‘true’ museum, which is ‘alive’, and not a ‘museum’ in the most obsolete use of the term.

First published in Diário de Notícias (Salvador, Bahia), 5 October 1958


Lina Bo Bardi, 1958

Primeiro as Casas ou Museus? Tudo de uma só vez: as casas, as escolas, os museus, as bibliotecas. Uma planificação urbanística não pode prescindir dos problemas culturais se a construção de novos bairros, de novas casas, é a base do projeto de uma cidade (nas casas queremos incluir mercados, escolas, serviços coletivos, como saúde, correios, etc.) – o programa, ou melhor, a planificação de uma cidade não pode esquecer dois edifícios públicos, que ainda hoje são considerados um luxo intelectual: o museu e a biblioteca.

Museu? O que é o Museu? Correntemente, quando se quer designar uma pessoa, uma coisa, uma idéia antiquada, inútil, fora de uso, costuma-se dizer: “É uma peça de museu”. Querendo indicar com estas palavras o lugar que, no quadro da cultura contemporânea, o museu ocupa, lugar poeirento e inútil. Às vezes, o museu é um mero palco para exercícios exibicionistas dos arquitetos que projetam para a exposição das “peças”, vitrinas, aparelhamentos tão complicados que interferem com o seu decorativismo no caráter geral do que se chama “museografia”. Outras vezes, o museu é o palco para os diletantes, senhoras à procura de uma ocupação, dedicando-se, nas horas vagas, à escultura, à pintura, ou à cerâmica e que expõem suas obras no “museu” em que geralmente está ausente o que lá deveria estar: o acervo verdadeiro de pintura e escultura. O museu moderno tem que ser um museu didático, tem que juntar à conservação a capacidade de transmitir a mensagem de que as obras devem ser postas em evidência, com uma função didática, que diríamos quase modesta, por parte do arquiteto, que não deve aproveitar a ocasião para dar espetáculo em torno de si, projetando, por exemplo, em volta de uma célebre escultura, como foi feito no caso de a “Pietá”, de Michelangelo, no Castello Sforzesco, uma espécie de monumento, batizado, imediatamente, pelo povo, de uma maneira pouco respeitosa, ou como aconteceu na exposição da coleção Bestegui, em Paris, no Louvre, uma série de paredes de veludo vermelho e ouro, mais própria para um jóquei-clube do que para um museu.

O complicado problema de um museu tem que ser hoje enfrentado na base “didática” e “técnica”. Não se pode prescindir dessas bases, para não cair em um museu petrificado, isto é, inteiramente inútil.

Podem ser de grande utilidade as experiências feitas nesse campo, por exemplo, o Museu de Arte de São Paulo. De fato, qual a significação de uma peça isolada, uma obra de arte, mesmo se exposta com a mais perfeita técnica museográfica, se esta obra é “fim em si mesma”, isolada no tempo e no espaço, sem nenhuma ligação com o nosso tempo, sem continuidade histórica? Os visitantes, especialmente os jovens, olharão, superficialmente, os objetos, sem conseguir compreender a sua significação, a sua lição histórica, fornecedora dos meios para compreender o presente. As esculturas barrocas, os santos, as pratas, os azulejos, as pinturas, os altares serão para os visitantes meras curiosidades artísticas. Em termos, quais serão esses meios didáticos? Evidentemente, comentários escritos, breves e sumarentos, acompanhados de fotografias com referências não “doutorais”, uma espécie de comentário cinematográfico. Somente satisfazendo tais necessidades didáticas o museu poderá ocupar um lugar vital e ser digno na gradação dos interesses humanos a serem satisfeitos logo, de aparecer juntamente com as casas.

Tais considerações são da maior importância, estando a Bahia no ponto de criar, na iminência de realizar, o que poderá ser um dia, ela beleza e fascinação poética do edifício que o abrigará, pela importância das obras a serem nele expostas, o museu mais importante do país: o Museu de Arte Sacra de Santa Teresa. Museu que deverá ter a sua impostação didática para ser um museu “verdadeiro”, vivo, e não um “museu” no sentido mais superado da palavra.