Friday, January 13, 2023

Gallery Wendi Norris Presents María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Finding Balance February 23-April 29, 2023!

María Magdalena Campos-Pons Finding Balance, 2015, 96 x140 in (243.8 x 355.6 cm)

 Presents 
María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Finding Balance 
February 23-April 29, 2023

436 Jackson Street, San Francisco 
 

Gallery Wendi Norris’s presentation precedes María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold, a major touring multimedia survey opening at the Brooklyn Museum September 15, 2023. 

San Francisco, January 11, 2023: Afro-Cuban Artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons addresses issues of history, memory, gender and religion through her work; she investigates how each one of these themes informs identity. Campos-Pons employs painting, installation, performance, video and photography to create autobiographical works that invite close examination and consideration.  

Marking the 20th Anniversary of Gallery Wendi Norris and inaugurating their new headquarters at 436 Jackson Street, Finding Balance is the second solo presentation for Campos-Pons with the gallery. The exhibition borrows its name from Campos-Pons's monumental 28-panel multimedia masterwork, which is the centerpiece of the show. The exhibition will focus on Campos-Pons's large-format polaroid works, including a complementary array of multi-paneled works that have never been shown by the gallery.

The past year has witnessed a surge of interest and excitement around Campos-Pons, demonstrated by recent acquisitions of her work by The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Princeton University Art Museum; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Speed Art Museum, Louisville; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and other public and private collectors. 
 
In fall of 2023, Campos-Pons will have a major touring multi-media survey, co-organized by the Brooklyn Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum entitled María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold. The first survey show of her work since 2007,  Behold will travel to four North American locations with a catalog published by the Getty. Campos-Pons also will participate in the Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present, in the United Arab Emirates, February 7-June 11, 2023. 
 
In the catalog accompanying the first full-scale survey of Campos-Pons’ work, Everything Is Separated By Water, co-organized in 2007 by the Bass Museum of Art and the Indianapolis Art Museum, curator and scholar Okwui Enwezor situates the artist within his extensive study of African diasporic communities, stating that “Campos-Pons is heir to the fraught history of the Middle Passage; she has submitted the weight of its historical and theoretical possibilities to some of the most trenchant, poetic, and radically introspective artistic reflection on the displaced agency of Africans in the Americas.” Enwezor further observes that “for Campos-Pons, identification with the Afro-Cuban heritage of Cuba, specifically the cultural logic of Yoruba tradition to which she traces her ancestry, is a crucial aspect of her artistic conception of mixed tradition.” 

The 28-panel work Finding Balance is part of a series entitled FeFa that Campos-Pons began in 2017 and installed in both the Havana and Venice Biennales the following year. The series examines the intersection of Campos-Pons’s African, Caribbean, and Chinese heritage within the context of slavery and the sugar trade.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Classic Creole, 2003, 72 x 100 in (182.9 x 254 cm)

In a 2018 essay about FeFa for Harvard Review, Alexandra Chang, Curator of Special Projects and Director of Global Arts Programs at A/P/A Institute at New York University, says of Campos-Pons, “her work offers a space for Caribbean identities outside of the more dominant narratives of ‘black and white.’ Her large-scale Polaroid installations triangulate the histories of the slave trade and Chinese coolies in the Caribbean working in the sugar industry, as well as early political meetings and merchant crossings in relation to China, Africa and Europe.”

Finding Balance is an extraordinary example of this exploration of multifarious identity and cultural flux. The work is part performance, part painting, and part photography, melding the three media into a mysterious whole. Campos-Pons herself is the central character, dominating the panels in a pose based on Chinese ancestor portraits. She wears a birdcage hat bisected by fabric-wrapped weaponry dripping with prayer beads, redolent of Yoruba headdresses yet referencing slavery, religious devotion and violence. Her dragon-blazoned Chinese Imperial costume further demonstrates the complexity of her identity, along with multi-colored fabric knots from Yoruba ceremony placed within elaborate Chinese cabinetry. 

Additional works in the exhibition reinforce the power of Finding Balance, providing further evidence that Campos-Pons has taken her place amongst the most important artists working today. Finding Balance will be on view at Gallery Wendi Norris, 436 Jackson Street, San Francisco from February 23 - April 29, 2023.
 
About María Magdalena Campos-Pons
Born in 1959 in La Vega, a town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, Campos-Pons is a descendant of Nigerians who had been brought to the island and enslaved in the 19th century. She grew up learning firsthand about the legacy of slavery along with the beliefs of Santería, a Yoruba-derived religion. Directly informed by the traditions, rituals, and practices of her ancestors, her work is deeply autobiographical. Often using herself and her Afro-Cuban relatives as subjects, she creates historical narratives that illuminate the spirit of people and places, past and present, thereby rendering universal relevance from personal history. Recalling dark narratives of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, her imagery and performances honor the labor of black bodies on indigo and sugar plantations, renew Catholic and Santería religious practices, and celebrate revolutionary uprisings in the Americas. As she writes, “I...collect and tell stories of forgotten people in order to foster a dialogue to better understand and propose a poetic, compassionate reading of our time.”

Campos-Pons has from the beginning of her career created multi-media installations, drawings, paintings and performances. In the 1990s she began making large format polaroid photography as a means to elaborate the relationships among photography, painting, performance and sculpture. In spite of the diversity of her practice, the sea as a repository of memory and site of identity formation has remained a major facet of her work, allowing her to address issues that range from the Middle Passage to contemporary migrant crises.
 
Campos-Pons’ performance works tend to unfold as processionals, ritualistic spectacles that physically and spiritually embody the spaces in which they take place while asserting themselves outward and beyond the boundaries of those spaces.

Campos-Pons has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Canada, among other distinguished institutions. She has presented over thirty solo performances commissioned by institutions that include the Guggenheim Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (both in collaboration with sound artist and composer Neil Leonard. She has participated in the Dakar Biennale, the Johannesburg Biennial, the Guangzhou Triennial, the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA and Prospect.4 Triennial, and (in also collaboration Leonard) the Venice Biennale, Documenta 14, and the Havana Biennial. Her works are held in more than thirty museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Perez Art Museum, Miami; and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.

In 1980, Campos-Pons graduated from the National School of Art, La Havana, Cuba. She went on to study painting at La Havana’s Higher Institute of Art and then gained an MFA in Media Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1988. In the late 1980s, Campos-Pons taught at the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and gained an international reputation as an exponent of the New Cuban Art movement that arose in opposition to Communist repression on the island. In 1991, she immigrated to Boston and taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, where she received numerous prizes and honors for both her teaching and her artistic practice. In 2017, she was awarded the Vanderbilt Chair at Vanderbilt University and moved to Nashville, TN, where she currently resides.

Campos-Pons has founded or co-founded several non-profit arts organizations including the Intermittent Rivers, a Biennial Project in Matanzas, Cuba; the Engine for Art Democracy and Justice at Vanderbilt with Vanderbilt and Frist University; and When We Gather, a multi-faceted art project celebrating the elemental role women have played in the United States.

About Gallery Wendi Norris 
Gallery Wendi Norris is a leading international art gallery with headquarters in San Francisco, California. The gallery holds decades-long relationships with 20th century luminaries such as Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Wolfgang Paalen, Remedios Varo, and Alice Rahon, artists whose nomadic and visionary practices interrogated the aesthetic, scientific, and philosophical movements of their times. The gallery also represents María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Chitra Ganesh, Julio César Morales, Ranu Mukherjee, Eva Schlegel, Peter Young, and other contemporaries, artists whose work similarly flows across disciplines, continents, and generations as they speculate on the present moment.
 
Opened in 2002, Gallery Wendi Norris remains committed to its founding principles of rigorous programming, development of artists’ legacies, public accessibility, and cultural significance. To those ends, the gallery hosts visiting academics, sponsors artist talks, and publishes highly-researched books with original contributions from international scholars. The gallery actively supports artists in engaging new audiences through influential commercial, biennial, and institutional collaborations. Pioneering an offsite exhibition model in 2017, the gallery produces public-facing artworks and shows wherever they might reach the widest viewership and provide the deepest impact. Working in concert with major museums, private collectors, and innovative curators, Gallery Wendi Norris builds enduring, well-represented collections for its respected array of international clients.
 
For more information about the gallery and its artists visit gallerywendinorris.com.
 
Media Contact: Erin McFarland, erin@gallerywendinorris.com, 816-830-5016
 
Upcoming Exhibitions at 436 Jackson Street
Remedios Varo | May 11 - July 1, 2023
Eileen Agar | July 13 -  August 19, 2023
 
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Gallery Wendi Norris | 436 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
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