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Ana Mendieta: Traces

October 2, 2013

ArtsPhotographySculpture | by Maxine Kirsty Sapsford


This extensive retrospective of the late artist Ana Mendieta at the Hayward gallery marks and rightly acknowledges the importance of her body of work, previously unacknowledged, as highly influential within the art world of the 20th century.

 

Untitled (Body Tracks), 1974 Colour photograph, lifetime print 25.4 x 20.3 cm Collection Igor DaCosta
Untitled (Body Tracks), 1974, Colour photograph, lifetime print, 25.4 x 20.3 cm, Collection Igor DaCosta

Mendieta’s work is both beautiful and haunting as it draws on the life long pain the artist experienced after being ripped from her Cuban homeland as a young orphan. Mendieta’s insatiable desire to reconnect with her motherland runs though her work and seems to almost give each piece a heart and a soul of its own. This connection with the earth is reflected in her choice of materials which included flowers, grass, soil, rock, gunpowder and fire. Unconcerned with the monetary value or collectibility of her work Mendieta would often create pieces which lasted mere minutes, or even seconds as was the case with her ‘sculptures in the sky’ made from smoke. As a result many pieces exist only as photographic records and a fair portion of the exhibition is devoted to displaying the extensive body of photographs and records that she kept of her works and performance pieces.

Tree of Life, 1976 Colour photograph, lifetime print 50.8 x 33.7 cm Collection Raquelin Mendieta Family Trust © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC  Photo: Linda Nylind
Tree of Life, 1976, Colour photograph, lifetime print, 50.8 x 33.7 cm, Collection Raquelin Mendieta Family Trust © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC, Photo: Linda Nylind

 

There is a lighter more playful side to Mendieta’s work apparent in pieces like Untitied (Facial Hair Transplant) 1972 in which she explores human nature with the ernest and inquisitive nature of a child. These sit alongside darker works like her poignant rape related photographs in which she poses as a rape victim, the photos taken as if through the eyes of her attacker. Which are again juxtaposed with her still and haunting Silueta series images of empty human silhouettes carved or burnt or marked in some way into the earth.

 

Walking round the exhibition I felt touched by the spiritual atmosphere, not dissimilar to that of a church or other Holy place. The connection Mendieta had with the earth and the elements feels primal and yet familiar, as if her work beckons to a part of our nature that usually lays dormant.

 

The ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ exhibition is taking place at The Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre from 24 September – 15 December 2013. For more information and tickets go to –  www.southbankcentre.co.uk

 

Words Kirsty Sapsford, Junior Arts Editor

 

Installation view of Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant), 1972 and Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints), 1972 at ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ exhibition, Hayward Gallery 2013
Installation view of Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant), 1972 and Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints), 1972 at ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ exhibition, Hayward Gallery 2013