ANA MENDIETA

Mirage, 1974
Source, 1975
Birth (Gunpowder Works), 1981

Exhibition:
Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Originally trained as a painter, Mendieta soon turned to filmmaking and photography, and later drawing and sculpture, in her short yet extremely prolific career. Themes central to the artists’s multifaceted practice, such as those of birth and motherhood, play a key role in the films on view at the gallery. These works illustrate a transition from Mendieta’s early use of the human body in her actions to the body’s replacement with earth and nature itself in her later work.

Mendieta’s films have attracted the attention of a large public, yet even among academics these productions have often been considered only as documentation of the artist’s performative actions, rather than creation. They were, however, intended to be experienced as artworks unto themselves. Laura Wertheim Joseph, who collaborated with the artist’s niece Raquel Cecilia Mendieta on the first filmography of Ana Mendieta, observes: “[…] she intended the viewer to experience her work in future time, neither the slides nor the films had an evidential or supplemental relationship to the performative action. Mendieta understood her work to reside in different material, temporal, and spatial registers.”

Having created 104 films and videos between 1971 and 1981, Mendieta’s filmworks are tightly entangled in her wider practice, especially with the artist’s exploration of performative actions which often revolved around the relationship between landscape and the female body. Employing nature as the principal complement to the feminine sculptures and forms she constructed, the films’ imagery is recognizable in much of her widelyknown photographic work as well as the later drawings from her time at the American Academy in Rome (1983-1985).

Mirage, 1974

Mirage, 1974, exists alongside another similarly titled work and was shot during an excursion to the University of Iowa’s Lake Macbride Field Campus. The camera focuses on Mendieta’s reflection in a framed mirror resting against a tree. The artist, seated in the tall grass and appearing pregnant, embraces a large belly, the source of an uncanny, magical substance, white and feather-like, until fiercely revealing the performative nature of this birth with a direct stare into the camera. As an exile of her home country of Cuba, Mendieta felt as if she had been cast out of the womb: “My art is the way I reestablish the bonds that unite me to the Universe. It is a return to the maternal source […]” (Ana Mendieta, 1983).

Super-8mm film transferred to high-definition digital media, color, silent
durata: 3′ 12″
supporto: Blu-Ray
Ed. 8 + 3 APs

GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC; Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. and Galleria Raffaella Cortese;
Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Source, 1975

Source, 1975, touches once again, with the least metaphorical intentions among the selection of works exhibited, on the subjects of generation, birth, and motherhood. Shot in the Intermedia studio at the University of Iowa, Mendieta filmed close-up sequences of a female breast, which is manipulated continuously as it becomes source of milk, of primary nourishment. Finally, the altered chromatic tone of blue was added in the post production of this silent film by Mendieta, as yet another layer of the artist’s experimentation with film and video, which is vivid, continuous and ground to an eclectic language.

16mm film transferred to high-definition digital media, color, silent
durata: 2’05”
Ed. 8 + 3 AP

GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC; Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. and Galleria Raffaella Cortese;
Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Birth (Gunpowder Works), 1981

In Birth (Gunpowder Works), 1981, a womanly silhouette of dried and cracked mud in an Iowan riverside landscape gives birth to smoke, which erupts from the womb-like cut and dissipates – leaving behind burnt soil – as if it were energy emitted by an earthly body. This work closely relates to Mendieta’s Silueta (Silhouette) series, in which the artist created female body shapes at the intersection of performance and land art, by carving into rock, making shapes from sand, or employing materials such as flowers, tree branches, gunpowder, and fire. These ephemeral sculptures, surviving only in Mendieta’s photographs and filmworks, are a testament to the artist’s attempt to engage with the “[…] one universal energy which runs through everything: from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy” (Ana Mendieta, 1983).

Super-8mm film transferred to high-definition digital media, black and white, silent
durata: 2’59”
supporto: Blu-ray
Ed. 6 + 3 APs

GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC; Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. and Galleria Raffaella Cortese;
Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Ana Mendieta was born in 1948, Havana, Cuba and died in 1985 in New York.
Cuban exile, Mendieta studies at Iowa State University, where she comes in contact with feminist movements and embraces the ideals of feminism. She realizes a personal synthesis of Body Art and Land Art, by undermining Land-artists majestic actions through the introduction of the human body in the landscape. In those years, she realizes ritual performances, photographs and sculptures, steeping her own body into nature, thus emphasizing her physical and spiritual link with the Earth. The untitled works that comprise the Silueta series, which she preformed as she traveled between Iowa and Mexico, reveal her interest in the earth as a site to address issues of displacement by recording the presence of her body—or the imprint it left behind—within different natural environments. Mendieta often filled in the silhouette of her body on the earth with various materials such as rocks, twigs, and flowers, as well as blood and gunpowder.

Among the major solo shows dedicated to the Cuban-American artist, we can mention: the travelling exhibition Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972-1985, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines and Miami Art Museum, Miami (2004); in 2002 Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) – Body Tracks, Neues Museum Luzern, Lucerne and Fries Museum, Leeuwarden; Ana Mendieta Selected Works, Kunst-Werke Berlin KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin; in 1996 Ana Mendieta (1948–1985), Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki; Uppsala Konstmuseum, Uppsala; The Living Art Museum, Reykjavik and Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde; Ana Mendieta, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela; Kusthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf; Fundació Antoni Tápies, Barcellona; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey, Monterrey and Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; in 1994 Ana Mendieta: The Late Works, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland and Artothèque de Caen, Caen; She got Love, Castello di Rivoli (2013); Traces, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London (2013); Ana Mendieta: Alma, Silueta en Fuego, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri (2014); Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2015), NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL (2016), Bildmuseet, Umeå (2017), Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin, and Institute for Contemporary Art, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (2018); Earthbound, Middleheim Museum, Antwerp (2019); and Ana Mendieta: Connecting to the Hearth, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2019).

cpyright © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC; Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. and Galleria Raffaella Cortese; Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York