Lehmann Maupin’s presentation at TEFAF New York extends to the gallery’s 24th Street location in Chelsea, with a special installation of Teresita Fernández’s celebrated Viñales series, presented alongside one of her iconic charcoal installations.
Inspired by the surreal rural landscape of the Viñales Valley in Cuba, the Viñales series embodies Fernández’s interest in combining earthly materials with a conceptual approach to place and image-making. In Viñales (Reclining Nude) (2015), a series of descending malachite and bronze forms sit atop a configuration of trapezoidal cast concrete structures that evoke the sprawling verdant landscape, suggesting the feminine forms of the valley’s mogotes, or rolling hills, as a reclining feminine body. Here, Fernández’s choice of materials evokes the artist’s concept of the “stacked landscape”: the malachite used here comes from the actual landscape of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is used to create another imagined landscape inspired by Cuba’s Viñales Valley, revealing the historic, cultural, and violent colonial connections between Africa and Cuba. The layered meanings (physical, conceptual, historical) associated with the raw materials and multiple place references emphasize the notion that we are always in more than one place simultaneously.
The presentation also includes Viñales (Chasm) (2021-2022), a new, large-scale glazed ceramic panel revealing mineral-like, subterranean views that appear both immense and intimate. Used since prehistoric times, the cave system in the Viñales Valley, Cuba was once occupied by Taino indigenous people before colonization. Later, in colonial times, the caves served as natural refuges for enslaved individuals escaping from surrounding plantations, fleeing for freedom and forming small communes by hiding in the caves by day. Viñales (Chasm) is assembled with hundreds of thousands of tiny, individual pieces of glazed ceramic that are lustrous and vitreous, catching the natural light as well as the viewer’s own reflection superimposed on the scene; the work functions like a dark mirror that insinuates the viewer as a figure in this landscape.
In Twins (Mirror Image) (2019), Fernández depicts a reimagined map suggesting the interconnected geological, cultural and historical relationships between the nesting continental shapes of South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Made of sculptural, raw charcoal, the work reveals the often invisible, buried layers and connections of historical violence embedded in the land. With the two land masses appearing to fit together, Fernández challenges the deceptive and invented term “Global South,” which is used to intentionally construct an unfounded hierarchy between “North” and “South.” The term was first used as an alternative to “third world” as a way of controlling perceptions around advancement, wealth, dominance, and poverty.
Fernández’s work is also on view in the recently unveiled permanent installation, Paradise Parados, at the Harvey Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Brooklyn, NY; a solo presentation, Teresita Fernández: Fire (United States of the Americas), at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; and the group exhibition Contemporary Optics: Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernández, and Anish Kapoor at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco, CA.