Casey Kaplan now representing Johanna Unzueta

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Casey Kaplan now representing Johanna Unzueta
Johanna Unzueta, March, April 2021 Berlin, 2022, Watercolor, pastel pencil, oil sticks, needle holes, and cut paper on tinted watercolor paper (Indigo/añil, wild berry/Schneebeere), plexiglass, wood, bronze screws, Drawing: 43 x 43” / 109.22 x 109.22cm, Install dimensions: 60 x 47 x 9.8" / 152.4 x 119.4 x 25cm. Photo: Jason Wyche.

NEW YORK, NY.- Johanna Unzueta’s (b. 1974, Santiago, CL) interdisciplinary practice pays homage to her Chilean upbringing through an engagement in the surrounding communities, landscape, and histories of Latin America. Spanning installation, sculpture, mural-making, film, and drawing, Unzueta uses common materials such as felt, cotton, recycled wood, paper, thread, and natural pigments to describe a belabored economy impacted by the hierarchy of people and resources. The history of how things are grown and circulated is central to Unzueta’s evolving narrative.

A traditional sewing practice is rooted in Unzueta's family’s history — she refers to textiles as a “second skin.” Hand-sewn felt objects of modest to monumental scale render plumbing pipes, work uniforms, and factory machines, carefully crafted to unite domestic and industrial planes. These utilitarian objects dwell under the guise of malleability — their function stalled in the name of material and production. They are mundane instruments within a modern society, often overlooked, and yet through intricate craft, rendered as noble.

While her tactile sculptures untangle global systems of labor and trade, Unzueta’s drawing practice is an intimate one that channels her intuitive expression. Each drawing is situated and titled within its place and time of creation, ultimately serving as a kind of cartography of place. The drawings’ patterns, created from paper templates and embroidery hoops, mimic the textile language of Unzueta’s weaving practice and suggests a close relationship between her drawings and sculpture. In their immediacy, they maintain an honest connection to the self and to the practice of automatic making, like the surrealists. The geometric composition invokes a formal sense of play echoed by the various colors made with indigo dye, watercolor, and pastel. Unzueta’s use of vegetable dyes is a learned practice from her apprenticeship with indigenous Mapuche women in rural Chile; the rich-hued blue dye from the Guatemalan indigo plant is a staple for her works on paper. Upon completion, the paper is punctured with needle holes that allow for light to penetrate the drawing, essentially creating a conduit for space.

Unzueta gives her drawings three-dimensional form through their installation between sheets of Plexiglas on a wood base, a method of display reminiscent of Italian-Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi. In this way, the work relates to the human body and allows the viewer to encounter the drawing more intimately and from both sides. As Unzueta explains, "One day, I drew a circle that was me and a bigger circle that was society, like a mathematical subset. I saw that where they overlap is what we create.”

Unzueta’s work will be debuted in Casey Kaplan’s presentation at Art Basel 2022. Her first solo exhibition at the gallery is scheduled for January 2024.

Johanna Unzueta (b. 1974, Santiago, Chile) lives and works in New York and Berlin. Unzueta has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, North America, and South America, with her most recent exhibitions including: Drawing in the Continuous Present, The Drawing Center, New York, 2022 (group); Tools for Life, Modern Art Oxford, UK, 2020 (solo); Field Station: Johanna Unzueta, From My Head to My Toes, to My Teeth to My Nose, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, Michigan, 2019 (solo), and Searching the Sky for Rain, Sculpture Center, New York, 2019 (group). Additional presentations include: the 10th Berlin Biennale (curated by Gabi Ngcobo), 2018; Nictinastia, Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City, 2017 (solo); Nodes, encounter… out of the fields, Jewett Art Gallery, Wellesley College, 2017 (group), The Daily Grind, London Museum, London Ontario, 2016 (group); Everyday Angels, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2012 (group); The S-Files, Museo del Barrio, New York, 2011 (group); Epílogos, Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Guadalajara, 2010 (group); and Iron Folklore, Queens Museum of Art, New York, 2009 (group). The artist has co-edited and published artists’ books with Felipe Mujica since 2008. Unzueta’s work is in the permanent collections of Tate, UK; The Queens Museum, New York, NY; MSU Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI; and Museo de Artes Visuales, Santiago, Chile.

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