Cecilia Vicuña, Autobiografía (Autobiography), 1971. Oil on canvas, 23 1/2 × 25 1/4 in. (59.7 × 64.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Museum purchase, Elizabeth W. Russell Foundation Fund, 2019.
Pioneering Chilean artist, poet, activist, and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña explores themes of memory, language, science, and Indigenous spirituality and knowledge.
Exhibition: Cecilia Vicuña: Spin Spin Triangulene
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Location: High Gallery and Rotunda Levels 1, 2, and 6.
Dates: May 27–September 5, 2022
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents an exhibition devoted to Chilean artist, poet, activist, and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago), who has been based in New York for the last forty years. Showcasing Vicuña’s artistic production from the late 1960s to today, this focused exhibition will feature the breadth of her multidisciplinary practice, including paintings, works on paper, textiles, films, a site-specific Quipu (Knot) installation, and a one-time performance of a “living” Quipu, commissioned by the museum’s Latin American Circle. The exhibition will also include new paintings and works on paper created specifically for this presentation. The title, Spin Spin Triangulene, is a poetic creation based on new scientific discoveries the artist relates to the Guggenheim’s spiral rotunda and the quipu, to stress the connection between science and Indigenous knowledge Vicuña has observed since her early encounter with cybernetics as a young student in Chile. Long anticipated, this is the first solo exhibition of Vicuña’s work in a New York museum and will bring renewed and overdue national and international attention to a pioneering contemporary Latin American artist.
Vicuña explores themes of memory, language, science, and Indigenous spirituality and knowledge across her practice. Her early figurative paintings in this exhibition were conceived as a decolonizing act to subvert the oil tradition imposed on Indigenous culture by the European conquest. These works interweave her biography with the story of the rise of socialism. Following the 1973 Chilean military coup that ushered in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Vicuña self-exiled in London and the political activism of her art intensified, revolutionary icons and influences—ranging from Karl Marx, Chilean folk singer and social activist Violeta Parra, and Andean popular art, animism, and Indigeneity, which had long been her subjects—became poignant symbols of what was under attack. Also, on view in textiles, film, and works on paper will be Vicuña’s language-based Palabrarmas, or “word weapons,” which are politically engaged, metaphorical riddles and poems displaying her conception of language as a living entity.
In the mid-1960s Vicuña began her Quipu series, soft sculptures made of suspended strands of knotted and unspun wool sometimes combined with found objects. The khipu (knot) was knotting made of colored threads to convey complex narrative and numerical information, a system created in the Andes in South America and later abolished by European colonizers. Vicuña reimagines her Quipus as a poetic response against cultural, ecological, and economic disparities. As part of this exhibition, the artist will premiere a three-part Quipu, Quipu del exterminio / Extermination Quipu (2022), installation representing life, death, and resurrection as a call to action to stop the extinction of earth’s species and the loss of biocultural diversity. The artist’s “living” Quipu performance is a participatory collective healing ceremony connecting ancient memory and contemporary culture, inviting visitors to become active in the poetic and political change of our world.
This exhibition is organized by Pablo León de la Barra, Curator at Large, Latin America, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, and Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães, Associate Curator, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.
Major support for Cecilia Vicuña: Spin Spin Triangulene is provided by The Macallan Scotch Whisky, Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Catherine Petitgas, and Lehmann Maupin. Additional support is provided by the Coby Foundation, Ltd.; the Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation; the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation; DIRAC- Division of Cultures, Arts, Heritage and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile; the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation; Galería Patricia Ready and Fundación Arte+; and Antenna Fundación.
Additional funding is provided by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s International Director’s Council and Latin American Circle.
About the Artist
Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago) received her MFA from the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Universidad de Chile, in 1971 and continued with postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, from 1972 to 1973. Vicuña currently lives and work in New York and Santiago. Recent solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, (forthcoming); Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, Bogotá (2022); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Madrid (2021); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2020); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Florida (2019); Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2019); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2019); Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus (2019); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2018); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2018); the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2018); Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, University of Chicago (2018); Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (2017). Vicuña has been featured in numerous exhibitions and biennials; the artist will be included in the upcoming 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams, and has been awarded the Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (2022). Her work is in numerous international private and public collections, including the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin; Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Lorraine, Metz, France; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate, London. Vicuña is the author of 27 volumes of art and poetry published in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Her filmography includes documentaries, animation, and visual poems.
About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was established in 1937 and is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The international constellation of museums includes the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; and the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. An architectural icon and “temple of spirit” where radical art and architecture meet, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is now among a group of eight Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the United States recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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