Casita Maria is proud to present IN YOUR ABSENCE YOU EXIST by Bronx artist BLANKA AMEZKUA opening March 1 through May 17, 2017 and curated by Christine Licata. Throughout her practice, Amezkua transforms the ways in which society and cultural histories interact. She utilizes traditional and domestic Mexican techniques and customs in her work to address community-based social issues such as equity, race, gender and identity. For her solo show at Casita Maria Gallery, Amezkua has “woven” a large-scale, site-specific work throughout the space of geometric shapes incorporating painted silhouettes of bodies, string, yarn, pipe cleaners and every-day found materials as a testament to the physicality of loss as well as a visual definition of the physical and psychological void that is left behind when a loved one is absent or disappears from a person’s life.
As an integral part of Amezkua’s practice, and utilizing the same materials and methodologies, Amezkua collaborated with Casita Maria Middle School students to create their own site-specific interpretations of “In your absence you exist” in Casita’s Youth & Community Gallery. Also participating in the exhibition are students from the Bronx Studio School for Writers & Artists (BSSWA) as part of Casita’s first “Teen Curation Program” that teaches youth curatorial skills such as art writing and public programming.
Throughout Amezkua’s work she combines traditional and contemporary art practices and techniques as well as sociocultural-based mythologies and philosophies to create alternative, yet accessible, and inclusive dialogues around the challenges and controversies we experience in society. With “In your absence you exist” she incorporates intricate designs inspired by the centuries-old geometric patterns within Islamic art. Also evident is the yarn wrapping art and symbolic shapes of the Huichol, an indigenous people in Mexico.
There are various ancient myths and beliefs that incorporate string as a connecting force between people’s minds and bodies, as well as their relationship to each other and the world. For the Huichol, the strands and geometric forms are “lines of communication” with the universal life-energy forces. Geometries are also used throughout Western art history and science as templates for understanding our bodies and the environment. Such as natural geometries (fractals, hexagons and spirals) that are the basis for many mathematical studies or in quantum science, “string theory” that essentially holds a similar premise, connecting all energy particles into two-dimensional strings that vibrationally interconnect all matter.
“In your absence you exist” reverberates and echoes those bodies that were once present in our lives and now no longer exist among us due to unknown reasons. Amezkua explores the question, “What do the vibrations provoked by these absences “look like” and how do they resonate back and forth between the bodies that await their safe return and the missing?” For these inquiries, Amezkua looks into ancient Mayan cosmology and physics in which nothing was considered “empty.” Whether in or between people and places, all spaces are “filled” with a palpable energy directly connected to our collective experiences through interactions and thought. Her research also incorporates psychological studies showing the measurable effects that absence and abandonment have on child development. It is this tangible presence within loss or disappearance that her work seeks to discuss.
An extension of Amezkua’s on-going body of work around disappearance and loss that began with “43 for them/43 Para ellos”, a visual tribute for the 43 young, male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa, “In your absence you exist” is both a memorial to honor lost individuals and a call-to-action to continue to search for, and the return of, all the young women and men that go missing each year in the Bronx and throughout the world. Each year thousands of youth and adults are registered as missing with local police, many are found, but a vast number of disappearances still remain unsolved cases. For the artist, it is important that those left behind have the ability to actively engage in alternative methods of recovery through increased community and family collaborations, as well as working with local authorities and support organizations to deal with the loss.
In addition to disappearances, many Casita youth have “absent” parents or families. Over 4,000 Bronx children are in the foster care system, many of which have never met their biological parents or extended families. These voids often leave an “embodied” emptiness within their lives. Using the same techniques and materials found in her work, Amezkua collaborated with students to “weave” their experiences into site-specific artworks directly onto Casita Youth & Community Gallery’s walls. Her process of interactive art making offered opportunities for students to visually and verbally articulate their emotions and thoughts. Learning to express themselves, finding ways of community-building and interpersonal support as well as the ability to seek alternative solutions in dealing with loss and life challenges are all part of Amezkua’s collaborative practice.
As part of the public programming, Amezkua’s Artist Talk will be in conversation with writer Virginia Grise on Wednesday, May 17, from 6 – 9 PM. Together with the youth from Casita’s Afterschool and Teen Curation programs, they will discuss their respective work, experiences, the theories behind their ideas and community-based, social justice artistic processes. All programs are free and open to the public.
BLANKA AMEZKUA is a Mexican-born, Bronx based contemporary artist. She studied in Florence, Italy and received her B.A. from California State University Fresno. She is a recipient of the BRIO award from the Bronx Council on the Arts. Her work has been included in exhibitions nationally including: MoMA-PS1, Exit Art, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Taller Boricua and the Queens Museum (New York); Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (San Francisco) and Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (San Jose) among others. She is the Founder of the Bronx Blue Bedroom Project (BBBP), an alternative, artist-run gallery in The Bronx as well as Fo Kia Nou 24/7, in Athens, Greece. Her most recent artistic collaborative venture, AAA3A, Alexander Avenue Apartment 3A, is housed in the former home of BBBP. Mentions of her work and projects are included in The New York Times, TimeOut, ARTnews as well as other national and international publications.