Through Totemic Sculptures and Sound Art, Guadalupe Maravilla Explores the Therapeutic Power of Indigenous Ritual
In 1984, eight-year-old Guadalupe Maravilla left his family and joined a group of other children fleeing their homes in El Salvador. The Central American country was in the midst of a brutal civil war, a profoundly traumatic experience that’s left an indelible impact on the artist and one that guides his broad, multi-disciplinary practice to this day.
Now based in Brooklyn, Maravilla works across painting, sculpture, and sound-based performances all veiled with autobiography, whether informed by the Mayan architecture and stone totems that surrounded him as a child or his cancer diagnosis as a young adult. His pieces are predominately therapeutic and rooted in Indigenous ritual and mythology, recurring themes the team at Art21 explores in a new documentary.
“Guadalupe Maravilla & the Sound of Healing” follows the artist as he prepares for his solo exhibition on view through September 6 at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. Titled Planeta Abuelx, or Grandparent Planet—Maravilla expands on the often-used idea of Mother Nature to broaden its scope—the outdoor show is comprised of the artist’s trademark Disease Throwers, towering headdresses and shrines made of recycled aluminum. Allusions to Central American culture bolster the monumental works, with imprints of corn cobs, wooden toys, and other found objects planted throughout.
Covering the surrounding grass are chalky white markings, a signature component of the artist’s practice that delineate every space where he installs a piece. The abstract patterns evoke Tripa Chuca, one of Maravilla’s favorite childhood games that involves players drawing lines between corresponding numbers to create new intertwined motifs.
In Planeta Abuelx, Maravilla pairs his visual works with meditative performances that are based on the sound baths he used for pain management while undergoing chemotherapy. These healing therapies are designed to reduce anxiety and tension that often trigger stress-induced diseases. Using gongs and glass vessels, the palliative remedy has been the foundation of workshops the artist hosts for undocumented immigrants and others dealing with cancer that more deeply connect his totemic artworks to the viewers.
“Having a community that has gone through similar experiences can be really empowering,” he says. “Making these elaborate Disease Throwers is not just about telling a story from my past, but it’s also about how this healing ritual can continue in the future, long after I’m gone.”
If you’re in New York, Maravilla is hosting a sound bath to mark the close of Planeta Abuelx on September 4, and you can see more of his multivalent projects on Instagram. For a larger archive of documentaries exploring the lives and work of today’s most impactful artists, like this visit to Wangechi Mutu’s Nairobi studio, check out Art21’s site.
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An Eclectic Group Show Features Sound Sculptures, Collages, and Toy Assemblages for the Annual BBA Artist Prize
A broad, varied collection of work from 20 emerging artists converges in a group exhibition for the sixth-annual BBA Artist Prize. Living in ten countries and working across mediums, this year’s finalists include Steve Parker’s touch-activated horn sculptures, Fiona White’s vivid collaged paintings, and June Lee’s figurative assemblages of toys and everyday objects. The winner of 2021’s award will be announced on June 25, with all works on view at Kühlhaus Berlin through June 30. Get a preview on the BBA site, and check out artist Ming Lu’s blue-and-white porcelain sculptures, which won the 2020 competition.
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Step into Claudia Bueno’s aquarium-style installation at Meow Wolf’s new space in Las Vegas and experience the slow, oscillating movements of natural life. “Pulse” is comprised of countless white line drawings that are meticulously intertwined and superimposed on 60 glass panels. When illuminated, they mimic scores of nautilus spirals, coral, vines, and botanics that sway and throb in glowing masses.
“This is what ‘Pulse’ is, a way of creating animated volumes using layers of drawings that build up. I have been refining this technique for the last six years, understanding how these forms can also have a moving quality when the light system is applied,” the Venezuela-born artist says, noting that the idea for the project grew out of a visit to Yellowstone National Park.
During the course of eight months, a team of women painstakingly painted the glass panels at Bueno’s Idaho studio. “The repetitive/meditative quality of the work lent itself to provide a very special healing space for us as we drew fine lines for hours and openly shared and supported each other,” she says. No matter the scale of the project, Bueno begins with a single dot that she duplicates, expands into lines, and eventually into intricately developed patterns, which she explains:
It seems like it doesn’t matter what size, materials, and tools I am working with, the same kinds of patterns manage to manifest themselves over and over, building on each other, gaining both complexity and simplicity at the same time… It has been an interesting brain challenge to visualize a stack of 2D drawings that then become 3D and move. It’s my own version of a non-digital, hand-drawn time-lapse or animation.
Although much of the installation’s work is complete, Bueno shares that she’s creating smaller sculptures, jewelry, and other works to coincide with the larger project. “Pulse” is set to premiere at Meow Wolf’s satirical sendup of consumerism, Omega Mart, which the Santa Fe-based arts group (previously) will soon open within Area 15 in Las Vegas. Until then, watch the video above by Adolfo Bueno and find more of Bueno’s light-based works on her site and Instagram. Video by Adolfo Bueno.
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Juxtaposing natural elements and mechanics, “Dialogo” harnesses the frenetic, indiscernible components of language into a synesthetic experience. A mix of stop-motion and live-action, the short film features entirely hand-crafted sculptures by the Madrid-based design studio blo que. Each motorized work translates human utterings into movement, whether through an undulating tube of neon or oscillating florals, generating new associations in a conversation between the senses.
To represent the original audio in a visual manner, blo que converts the speech waveforms into animation curves, which subsequently mobilizes the sculpture’s engines. “This is the voice of nature and order or the control of what cannot be controlled,” the studio says. “The passing of time in nature (freezing, rotting, etc.) is connected to the time of sound reproduction. This bond creates relationships between human emotions, language, and nature.”
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Swiss sound artist Zimoun (previously) harnesses the power of quick, chaotic movements in his large-scale installations and kinetic sculptures. Each artwork is composed of simple materials like cardboard boxes, wooden dowels, and cotton balls, among other common objects. Zimoun assembles multiples of the same configuration—think teetering sticks and metal washers suspended on a wire—and motorizes one portion, causing them to rattle back and forth.
Because each component is made by hand, they have slight differences that prevent them from synchronizing, despite all the motors being connected to a single current. The frenzied movements contrast the calming, whirring sounds the artworks emit, which mimic raindrops or a repetitive drum. This juxtaposition is just one example of the many comparisons the artist draws: chaos vs. order, mass vs. individual, simplicity vs. complexity, and manufactured vs. organic.
Considering this theme, Zimoun names each piece by listing the materials used to connect the discrete components and the whole. For example, a recent project that forms a square on the floor (shown below) is titled “1944 prepared dc-motors, mdf panels 72 x 72cm, metal discs Ø 8cm, 2020.” “In my work, I do not try to transport specific associations but rather to create atmospheric spaces and states that invite us to observe, think, and reflect on various levels,” he says.
In the compilation video above, Zimoun showcases a variety of the sculptures and installations from his extensive body of work, many of which you can explore individually on Vimeo and follow on Instagram.
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A Drawing Machine Linked to A Synthesizer Audiates Geometric Illustrations by Musician Lamond Campbell
Beyond the scratch of the pen on paper, drawing as a practice isn’t thought to be particularly rhythmic or melodic. An inventive machine by musician Lamond Campbell, though, adds a musical component to its looped sketches. The Harmonograph Synthesiser is exactly as its name suggests: Campbell connected a modern, modular synthesizer to an 18th-Century harmonograph, an antiquated apparatus that uses pendulums to render geometric shapes. Two of the swinging mechanisms move linearly with the pen, while the third rotates with the board. Each triggers the synthesizer when movement occurs, which creates the corresponding audio track. An additional microphone picks up the noise of the pen.
Watch the video above to see the intricacies of the modified contraption. Campell is selling a complete, 18-track collection on his site, and you can find more about his multi-media creations on Instagram and YouTube. To see a reverse audio-visual process, check out “Visual Sounds of the Amazon II.” (thnx, Craig!)
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.