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María Magdalena Campos-Pons Opens at IMA
María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Everything Is Separated by Water, Including My Brain, My Heart, My Sex, My House, 1990. Mixed-media installation, water-based enamel on board, wire, wool threads. Courtesy of the Artist.

INDIANAPOLIS.- The IMA Indianapolis Museum of Art announced today that it is planning the first full-scale survey of the critically acclaimed Afro-Cuban artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons. María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Everything Is Separated by Water will premiere at the IMA February 25, 2007 .

María Magdalena Campos-Pons will feature 34 major works, including paintings, new media installations and large-format Polaroid photographs that the artist produced over a 20-year period. On view through June 3, 2007 , the exhibition will be the first in-depth view of Campos-Pons’s work and will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, the first to explore the artist’s work.

Campos-Pons is often hailed as one of the most important contemporary Cuban artists working today and has exhibited her work internationally including at the Venice Biennale, the Johannesburg Biennial, the Havana Biennial, the Dak’ART Biennial in Senegal and the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial in Japan . Throughout her career, Campos-Pons has remained singularly focused on transforming the ordinary materials, rituals, and traditions of life into powerful visual and sensory experiences.

The art of María Magdalena Campos-Pons offers penetrating insight into how we are shaped by where we live. We are honored to play a role in introducing her outstanding body of work to a broader public audience,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, Director and CEO, Indianapolis Museum of Art. “Her personal odyssey is a riveting subject, revealed in a powerful succession of images.”

Mixing media in unexpected ways, Campos-Pons often incorporates handmade elements into slick new media projects or photographs that document private performances of her adorned, costumed body. Each of the ideas that she investigates dictates the formal approach and specific media used. Her conceptually based works transcend pure biography or identity politics. When she uses her personal experiences as the basis for her projects, she does so with the intent of speaking about larger cultural and historical phenomena.

“María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Everything is Separated by Water will explore the aesthetic routes this artist has taken to trace literal and imagined diasporic roots—from Africa to Cuba to the United States ,” said Lisa D. Freiman, the IMA’s curator of contemporary art. “Campos-Pons’s diverse works condense the fragmented characteristics of memory into provocative and poignant formal statements about cultural survival and transformation.”

The title of the exhibition was inspired by a mixed-media work that Campos-Pons created in 1990, “Everything Is Separated by Water, Including My Brain, My Heart, My Sex, My House.” In the work, a column of water divides the image of a female body and barbed wire encases each half of the figure. The feet stand on renderings of small Aztec temples, suggesting a tie to the history of ritual sacrifice in the Americas . The metaphoric work is representative of numerous issues that have preoccupied Campos-Pons during the past 20 years—exile, personal and national identity, cultural hybridity and socio-economic politics—and provides a strong framework for understanding her aesthetic production.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons - Born in Mantanzas , Cuba , in 1959, María Magdalena Campos-Pons grew up in La Vega, a small sugar plantation town. She was raised among the first generation of Cuban children educated after the Cuban Revolution and benefited from Cuba ’s newly formed art education system. At age 13, Campos-Pons began her art education at the National School of Art, where she studied from 1976 to 1979. Between 1980 and 1985, she attended the Graduate Institute of Art (ISA) in Havana , where she joined Cuba ’s most talented emerging artists who were creating contemporary work in dialogue with the global art world.

Campos-Pons gained international recognition in the late 1980s with a series of painted abstract reliefs dealing with female sexuality. During this period, described by one scholar as the “Cuban Renaissance,” artists were increasingly using art as a form of social criticism and showing their work in important international exhibitions. Campos-Pons participated in many of these shows in Germany , Australia , Great Britain and the United States . In 1990, she left Cuba to participate in a fellowship in Banff , Canada , and in 1991 moved to Boston where she currently resides.

Since then, her work—which increasingly has taken the form of mixed media installation and large-scale photography—has investigated her ancestral displacement from Africa, her self-imposed exile from Cuba and her experience as an Afro-Cuban woman living in North America. Campos-Pons has had to grapple with the repercussions of the economic embargo against Cuba , which has restricted her movement to and from her country of origin. Underlying Campos-Pons’ work is a dynamic model of inventive diasporic identity that hinges on re-assembling lost fragments, symbols and memories of personal and collective history, religion and mythology. Many of her paintings, installations and photographs deploy the artist’s body in its entirety or fragmented into parts, creating a formal language that addresses the challenges inherent in building a coherent identity in the modern world.

Campos-Pons has said “I am interested in rituals and traditions, how to place them into the contemporary setting. African tradition is my everyday life experience. I don’t have to search for my roots. . . I believe it’s possible to live in America and at the same time, in Cuba spiritually and mentally.” The artist’s work testifies to the fact that identity is contradictory, flexible and mobile.

Exhibition Organization and Support - María Magdalena Campos-Pons is organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The exhibition is being curated by Lisa D. Freiman, curator of contemporary art at the IMA, who is also the author of the only full-length scholarly study of Campos-Pons work. After its presentation in Indianapolis , the exhibition will travel to the Bass Museum in Miami , Florida , where it will be on view from Sept. 21 to Nov. 12, 2007 .

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated exhibition catalogue published by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press. With essays by Freiman and Okwui Enwezor, Dean of Academic Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute and past Artistic Director of Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany, 2002, the catalogue will trace the formal and conceptual transformation of Campos-Pons’ work in relation to contemporary aesthetic practices and will serve as a resource for specialists in the field of contemporary, African Diasporic, Caribbean, and African American art and culture.

Everything Is Separated by Water: María Magdalena Campos-Pons is supported in part by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The exhibition catalogue is made possible in part through a grant from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

IMA fosters interconnections between itself and the Indianapolis community, between art and nature, and among its three complementary parts: the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, and Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens. IMA invites all visitors to explore and understand the connections between art and themselves.

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