Barry Friedman Ltd. is pleased to present contemporary Peruvian artist Kukuli Velarde in her first solo show since joining the gallery. Recently awarded the prestigious USA Knight Fellowship by the Knight Foundation and the United States Artists organization, Velarde will exhibit an installation of ceramic sculptures from her Plunder Me Baby series, figurative paintings on aluminum from her Cadavers series, and a video/drawing performance, Apple of his Eye, that will take place during the first two weeks of the exhibition.
Inspired by pre-Columbian terracotta figures, Velarde’s Plunder Me Baby sculptures reveal folk tradition, evoke histories of ornament and craft, and disrupt normal aesthetic hierarchies. Removed from their natural environment and installed as if in an anthropological museum, these figurative characters appear as though awakened for the first time. Each figure exhibits strong reactions to their new surroundings including fear, disdain, and aggressive anger. With pejorative slurs as titles, such as Chola Puteadora, Grabby!! Needs to Be Put in Her Place, or Méndiga Perra Autoctona, Bites. Will Not Trust. Likes Tough Love, Velarde imbues these “plundered” artifacts with references to the struggles of indigenous populations as a result of European colonization. Velarde re-casts these appropriated figures as self-portraits as a means of defiantly reclaiming their ownership while giving them new meaning and context.
Velarde’s Cadavers paintings examine popular culture from the context of a Latin American origin. Taking images from colonial Peruvian painting and contemporary culture, she infuses them with references to gender roles, flaunted sexuality, religious and political colonization, and Latin America’s expectations of women in society. Often based on self-portraiture as well, the results are intimate and personal. Velarde takes clear cues from art history and the influences of the renowned Cusquenian Baroque School. Parallels can also be drawn to the aesthetics of such culturally aware painters as Diego Velázquez and Frida Khalo. By alluding to indigenous myths through mass media, popular art, and modern religious references, she notes the many guises and archetypes that humans must endure in modern society.
Apple of his Eye, the third component of Velarde’s exhibition, is comprised of both a video and a performance piece. The video, depicting her late father speaking about his hopes and dreams for his daughter, examines the strong paternal relationship that led Velarde to become an artist. In the performance piece, Velarde will draw directly onto a gallery wall daily for two weeks, summoning the 3-year old doodler who first caught her father’s eye. She states, “overt communication makes us vulnerable yet it may strengthen interaction and deepen bonds. I do not mind becoming ‘vulnerable’ if in the process common grounds are established and a relationship is created with the viewer.” At the close of the exhibition, the drawings on the wall will be painted over and, as Velarde describes it, “returned to memory.”
In a 2008 review for Art in America, Senior Editor Janet Koplos describes Kukuli Velarde’s work as “wickedly funny” scoring “feminist and cross-cultural points.” She concludes,” This work should have been in one of the feminist shows. Velarde is a marvel!”
Kukuli Velarde’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin, and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI. She has received numerous awards, including a PEW Fellowship for the Visual Arts, Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and Sculpture Award, Bronx Council of the Arts Fellowship, and recognition for Freedom of Expression by The Andy Warhol Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Merce Cunningham Foundation.
Kukuli Velarde was born in Cusco, Peru in 1962. She has a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Hunter College and currently lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.