11 Women Artists from the Americas in Critical Dialogue: Grupo <11>

Selva Aparicio,  Layers , 2016, cadaver molds on Portland cement

Selva Aparicio, Layers, 2016, cadaver molds on Portland cement

By Carly Dennis

The exhibition Grupo <11>  brings together works by eleven women artists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. Presented in the gallery space at Instituto Cervantes in New York City, the exhibition will be on view through March 19.

Mariana Garibay Raeke,  Transient Samples from Somewhere  (16 x 16 x 26),  Transient Samples from Nowhere  (14 x 14 x 22),  Transient Samples from Anywhere  (12 x 12 x 18), 2017, plaster, cement, paper, pigment, wood

Mariana Garibay Raeke, Transient Samples from Somewhere (16 x 16 x 26), Transient Samples from Nowhere (14 x 14 x 22), Transient Samples from Anywhere (12 x 12 x 18), 2017, plaster, cement, paper, pigment, wood

Grupo <> is an artist collective based in New York City. Founded by five women artists from the Americas, Grupo <> emphasizes the role of artists as cultural actors, centers collaboration and community, and creates spaces for critical thought and for work outside of dominant discourse. They state on their website:

“Our focus is to generate critical dialogue regarding the complexities of art-making while challenging preconceptions based on gender and geography.

Grupo < > projects are grounded by, but not limited to, the concerns and needs of artists whose practices are interwoven with the history of Latin America and the Caribbean. We seek to generate opportunities for discourse and collaboration amidst a range of perspectives.”

For Grupo <11>, each member invited an additional artist to the project, and the collective worked with Chilean curator Carolina Castro Jorquera. This specific exhibition centers the collective’s goals through the concept of “[bringing] together artists from different disciplines to establish a dialogue concerning the complexity of their creative process as they question dominant normative discourses in contemporary art.” Another part of their attention to dialogues and community, and pushing back against an insular and colonial art world, is the inclusion of off-site works, screenings, and conversations as a part of the exhibition. Grupo <11> extends beyond the gallery at Instituto Cervantes through six satellite projects situated throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn at The New School, Pioneer Books, Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, and Front Art Space.

Marcela Flórido,  Landscape , 2016, oil on canvas

Marcela Flórido, Landscape, 2016, oil on canvas

Grupo <11> includes work by Selva Aparicio, María Edwards, Mariana Garibay Raeke, Aurora De Armendi, Claudia Kaatziza Cortínez, Gaby Collins-Fernandez, Aurora De Armendi, Alva Mooses, Constanza Alarcón Tennen, Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta, Florencia Escudero, Marcela Flórido, Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta.

Claudia Kaatziza Cortínez,  Casi papel , 2017, graphite on Japanese paper

Claudia Kaatziza Cortínez, Casi papel, 2017, graphite on Japanese paper

Claudia Kaatziza Cortínez,  Casi papel , 2017, graphite on Japanese paper

Claudia Kaatziza Cortínez, Casi papel, 2017, graphite on Japanese paper

Ground, soil, earth, and stone are central in Alva Mooses’s “Moving earth / Moviendo tierra” and Constanza Alarcon Tennen’s “Geological Civilian Resistance.” Alongside Mooses’s and Tennen’s work, Garibay Raeke’s “Transient Samples” series, Selva Aparicio’s “Layers,” and Aurora De Armendi’s “Untitled (Hojas de barro),” the three of which could be read as primarily formal sculptural explorations, also take on connection to soil and environmental processes. Marcela Florido’s large abstract painting “Landscape” likewise takes on a resonance with the theme. Soil here also weaves into location -- to sense of place. 

Story, place, objecthood, and agency seem to emerge as connective concepts among the fourteen works in the room, though the pieces are not exactly thematically selected - their breadth in appearance, subject, and process is palpable.

Constanza Alarcón Tennen,  Geological Civilian Resistance , 2017, mixed media

Constanza Alarcón Tennen, Geological Civilian Resistance, 2017, mixed media

Constanza Alarcón Tennen,  Geological Civilian Resistance , 2017, mixed media

Constanza Alarcón Tennen, Geological Civilian Resistance, 2017, mixed media

Alva Mooses,  Moving earth / Moviendo tierra , 2017, Removed adobe brick (origin Saltillo, Mexico). Rammed Topsoil platform (from Home Depot, NYC). Permit and authorization documents to receive foreign soil in the U.S.

Alva Mooses, Moving earth / Moviendo tierra, 2017, Removed adobe brick (origin Saltillo, Mexico). Rammed Topsoil platform (from Home Depot, NYC). Permit and authorization documents to receive foreign soil in the U.S.

Aurora De Armendi,  Untitled (Hojas de barro) , 2016, clay

Aurora De Armendi, Untitled (Hojas de barro), 2016, clay

In Mooses’s “Moving earth / Moviendo tierra” a hefty file of permits required to “receive foreign soil in the U.S.” are displayed alongside the room’s deep window sills, which are full of compacted earth, from Saltillo, Mexico and Home Depot in New York, evoking questions of borders, classification, displacement, and state processes.

Tennen’s piece is a multimedia work comprised of video, paper documents, and a printed poem, exploring a series of eleven letters exchanged by unknown writers, hinting at a leftist resistance movement through seismic activity, as well as a collage of intelligence documents on the subject, and an apparent mission statement of the secret organization.

In contrast (perhaps), across the room, Florencia Escudero’s “Waterfalls and Lace,” consists of an audio interview with an adult entertainer, and footage of her performing poledancing. The audio, available through cat ear headphones, explores her experiences of her profession and touches on the implications of automation and technology for sex workers and their industry.

Florencia Escudero,  Luna and Waterfalls and Lace , 2016 and 2017, photography Inkjet print; video

Florencia Escudero, Luna and Waterfalls and Lace, 2016 and 2017, photography Inkjet print; video

Gaby Collins-Fernandez,  Bliss Punctum Towel Painting , 2016, oil and acrylic and digital drawing on beach towel

Gaby Collins-Fernandez, Bliss Punctum Towel Painting, 2016, oil and acrylic and digital drawing on beach towel

The exhibition is minimal in textual explanation. The names, titles, and media are on a leaflet rather than the walls, and the only statement on the show present in the gallery is the leaflet describing the satellite projects. It seems to be an invitation to interpret and connect the works in a more individualized way; the impression is certainly variety, which the statement on their website affirms as a guiding principle.

María Edwards,  Untitled , 2016, ping-pong balls and blackboard

María Edwards, Untitled, 2016, ping-pong balls and blackboard

All in all, the exhibition is rich and varied, and invites consideration of connective concepts across the works, rather than announcing them. Grupo < > is definitely an artistic-intellectual force to keep an eye on.