Fragility as strength

Friday, 28 March 2014 16:31 Written by Carlos Aranda Márquez | Tlalpan, México 1 de marzo de 2008

There are many images in western culture in which female work such as embroidery and weaving play a key role. We would like to select a few of them that denote fundamental archetypical and symbolic features such as the tapestry Penelope patiently weaves and undoes for ten years while waiting for Ulysses or the tragic destiny of Arachne, punished for her pride. Contemporary artists closely resemble these two women. They have the patience to create a work and wait, sometimes for many years, to be recognized or at worst, to be punished for challenging a system that favors men’s creations.

Gabriela Gutiérrez has chosen the middle way. She started out as a painter but life and the workshop always created mechanisms for investigating new processes to decipher fragility. This exhibition is the result of a two-fold aim: The first was working with drawings, imaginary maps made from animal skins and intervened paintings. The second is derived from an intense exploration of the use of hair on different supports. The artist has chosen the latter material as a means of conducting her energy.

Let us begin with the most intimate yet strongest moment: Great Animal is a new world map in uncharted territory. Midway between painting, sculpture, viscera split open, a sacred veil, a sacrificial offering, the work denies any possible identification with what it is. It both attracts and repels us. It takes us back to two difficult moments: how close we are to the caves where we produced drawings thousands of years ago and the not-too-distant guttural future towards which we are galloping at a furious pace. The piece is the black smoke mirror of Tezcatlipoca, in which we can see each other and take shelter.

Gabriela Gutiérrez dares to suggest that it is in the fragility of the material and the artistic discourse that we will find the strength to deal with new questions. Let us look again at this sculpture, a piece of atonement: Draped in hair it is disturbing. Motherly, everyday clothing that becomes an oblation when it brings together this hair. The image of Coatlicue we see in museums is terrifying because it is the archetype that is repeated over and over again in the images of other goddesses. Many works suggest a primitive, scorching eroticism where the only protection are these hanks of hair for resisting the weather.

Fragmented Cow is another priceless moment. Cartography, two-dimensional sculpture, ritual, the transition from the sedentary cave to the quest for more abundant places and memory, wink at us so that we come closer and see that there is no danger. But the strips of the other works suggest that we should keep our distance, that the drawings made from hair, the mixed media oils, suggest nights with diviners who interpret  the world and its destinations. Plato was the last person invited to a night like this. And yet, Gabriela Gutiérrez’s intention is much more subtle and clear: her works are diaries for reaching the light and the epiphany in the midst of darkness. The faint sound of her pieces allows us to emerge from the labyrinth with new questions to start over.

Carlos Aranda Márquez
Tlalpan, Mexico
March 1, 2008
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