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Traces: The UK's first retrospective of Ana Mendieta's work opens at the Hayward Gallery
Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Grass on Woman), 1972. Lifetime colour photograph, 20.3 x 25.4 cm.
LONDON.- This autumn the Hayward Gallery presents Ana Mendieta: Traces, the UK’s first retrospective of one of the most significant yet unacknowledged artists of the late 20th century. In addition to films, sculptures, photographs, drawings, personal writings and notebooks, an extensive research room with hundreds of photographic slides will give unique access to works Ana Mendieta could never show during her short life.

Cuban-born American artist Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) was sent from her native homeland to an orphanage in Iowa at the age of 12 and dedicated her entire life to the search for her origins and identity. In her work, she left haunting traces of her body fashioned from flowers, tree branches, mud, rocks, sand, gunpowder, and fire. Her fragile yet powerful works speak of the desire to connect with the earth and to explore a mythical relationship with nature. Mendieta’s works are rooted in cathartic exercises, relieving the pain of the trauma of an early exile.

The exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, the first in a UK public institution solely devoted to the artist, will show the full breadth of Ana Mendieta's work. Mendieta was part of a generation of innovative artists whose work no longer fitted the conventions of exhibition making and collecting of art. Covering her entire career, and revealing different facets of her unique practice, this timely exhibition will position Mendieta as an influential figure from art history, reveal the creative mind of the artist, and convey the legacy of her work as well as its relevance for artists today.

One of the focal points of the exhibition will be the re-construction of solo exhibitions from the artist’s lifetime, including her main body of works, Siluetas. The extensive and fascinating archive material will shed a new light on the way the artist worked and documented her own artistic practice. Featuring super-8 films, photographs, slides, drawings, prints, objects and sculptures, Ana Mendieta: Traces will not only follow a chronology, but will look at the artist’s entire oeuvre through the lens of her own time, bringing it afresh to the beginning of the 21st century. The exhibition focuses both on the incredible power of the artist’s imagery as well as her critical potential and importance for feminism, land art, and her support for ethnic minorities.

Mendieta’s short career was prolific and began with an accomplished and influential body of work created as a graduate student at the University of Iowa. As a student Mendieta became interested in the inter-action between performative rituals and sculpture and important motifs for her life-long practice emerged during these years, including the use of blood, feathers, fire, earth, and the body. Mendieta also began to draw upon and recreate rituals particularly resonant with Afro-Cuban and Catholic traditions, and goddess archetypes.

Since her death in 1985 Mendieta has been shown in major institutions including the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C.; Whitney Museum, New York; and Tapiés Foundation in Barcelona; among others, but never extensively in the UK.

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