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MUSEU NACIONAL DA REPÚBLICA
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL
March 21 - June 3, 2024

 

MÁTERIA PRIMA 

Solo Exhibition
 

PLASMÁTICO: EL CUARTO ESTADO DE MATÉRIA

Large-Scale Site-Specific Sculptural Installation activating the Monumental Axis of Brasília

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MUSEU NACIONAL DA REPÚBLICA
BRASILIA, BRAZIL
March 21 - June 3, 202

MÁTERIA PRIMA 

Solo Exhibition
 

PLASMATIC: THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER

Large-Scale Site-Specific Sculptural Installation on Museum Exterior Plaza
 

Museu Nacional da República presents

 

Gisela Colón: MATÉRIA PRIMA

Museu Nacional da República, Brasília

March 21 – June 3, 2024

Curated by Simon Watson and Sara Seilert, director, National Museum of the Republic

Museu Nacional da República in Brasília is proud to present Gisela Colón: MATÉRIA PRIMA, a multi-part exhibition of recent works by the Puerto Rican- American sculptor, whose ecofeminist artworks address ecological, cosmic, and universal concerns.

Gisela Colón (b. 1966) is a Puerto Rican-American contemporary artist whose organic, totemic, light-activated sculptures and monumental environmental installations explore human perception and challenge viewers to experience transformation in real time and space. Through an artistic process that employs high-tech materials like optical acrylics and carbon fiber, as well as matter harvested from sites of the artist’s own life, Colón is known for pioneering a language of “organic minimalism” that recalls the energy of the earth, ancestral biological memories, and concepts of time, gravity, and universal forces of nature.

 

Gisela Colón: MATÉRIA PRIMA marks the artist's first presentation in Brazil.

Organized by independent curator Simon Watson and National Museum director Sara Seilert, the three-part presentation begins outside the museum, where Colón showcases one of her monumental, carbon fiber “parabolic monoliths,” a form she has embedded in the Land Art interventions she’s created at sites around the world. Created specifically for Brasília, the 25-foot-tall monolith Plasmatic: The Fourth State of Matter (Parabolic Monolith Oxygen) references collective Latin American colonial histories, while simultaneously responding to Oscar Niemeyer’s archetypally modernist architecture of the site. Colón employs the word “plasmatic”-- referring to the fourth state of matter created under superheated, intense pressure-- as a metaphor to describe the Latinx experience. “Like plasma,” she says, “we are born of deep oppression, becoming mountains bursting from geological forces beneath the earth, or 

supernovae exploding into space. The mutable, iridescent surface of the sculpture poetically embodies the evolutionary nature of our colonial struggle, while engaging in a synergistic dialogue with the cultural, ethnographic, and historic conditions of this remarkable Brazilian site.”

At the same time, the monolith’s form evokes the aerodynamic geometries of projectiles used in surveillance and war, and recalls the fraught history of militarized colonialism in the Caribbean, as well as the artist’s own complicated personal experiences with gun violence. Yet for Colón the monolith also echoes, in its soaring verticality, the arresting mountainous peaks of Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest and the Cordillera Central, an enduring source of materia prima for her. In Colón’s hands, the violence of a projectile is subsumed into the primal, enigmatic form of the mountain, in a decolonial act of transformative healing. Through the monolith, Colón reconfigures entangled histories into a universal language, transmuting forms of violence, displacement, and death into vessels of healing, light, and life.

Inside, under the museum’s iconic dome, Colón channels the force of mountainous geological structures with an immersive installation of works in several mediums: six large photo murals, seven 8-foot-high translucent totems, and three luminous sculptures of organic form from Colón’s Pod series. The photo murals present visual documentation of Colón’s international environmental activations around the world, allowing the viewer to travel metaphorically through time and space, through varied geological terrains and historic geographies including the 4500-year-old Egyptian site of the Pyramids of Giza; a remote desert in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, located on the 10,000-year-old spice route; a 17th-century baroque forest in the Netherlands; the Wadi Hanifa River, the only existing waterway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the medieval-era fortification known as the Citadel Salah al-Din in Old Cairo, Egypt, a UNESCO world heritage site; and the resplendent gardens of Regent’s Park in London, England.

In the same space, three cell-like Pod sculptures reflect Colón’s investigations into color theory, which she conducts through the production of a prismatic experience of light without the use of paint—a method the artist terms “structural color.” Created as vessels of structural color, the sculptures present a fluid color spectrum when seen from different points of view, a function of light refraction that is manifested across the natural world. Thus Colón’s asymmetrical, “humanized” forms embody characteristics of organic life, changing and transforming their physical qualities depending on environmental factors and facilitating a perceptual experience of color as light in real time, while allowing viewers to imagine “impossible” perceptual phenomena like imaginary colors.

Surrounding the Pods, Colón’s array of luminous, cosmic totems rise from the floor to create a topography of translucent, mountainous trees growing in an other-worldly forest. Beyond their large scale and apparent weight, each work articulates a distinctive sense of gravity, accomplished through their palpable response and interaction with surrounding light. Viewers themselves, in both their presence and perception, play an essential role in animating these radiant forms.

Colón’s manipulation of innovative 21st-century materials like optical acrylics and high-technology aerospace carbon fiber paradoxically hijacks the typical functions of these materials in service of militarism and surveillance, and diverts them into the service of transcendence. Colón explains, “I employ as source material the raw energy found in nature, ancestral biological memories, and universal cosmic forces.”

Gisela Colón’s first monumental Monolith sculpture, realized in 2016, was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and was recently featured in the definitive survey exhibition organized by the museum, Light, Space, Surface: Art from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Carol Eliel, Senior Curator of Modern Art, wrote about Colón’s work: “[She] understands her work in terms more universal than most artists, referring to her sculptures as objects that interact not only with the light, viewers, and their immediate environment, but also with the energy of ‘the earth, of the planet’...her Monoliths– tall, freestanding, cast carbon-fiber forms-- in particular draw on the futuristic in tandem with the mysteries of ancient cultural artifacts and structures....”

About the artist

Born in 1966, in Vancouver, Canada to a Puerto Rican father studying abroad, Colón was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and spent her formative years there. The experiences of her youth exploring the biodiversity of the Caribbean island and creating art with her mother, who was a painter, planted the seeds for her later art practice. Colón graduated from Universidad de Puerto Rico–Recinto de Río Piedras (1987) and Southwestern Law School (1990), and continued to maintain a painting practice until 2012, when she shifted her focus to sculpture.

Colón has exhibited internationally throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. Notable public exhibitions include The Future is Now for Saudi Arabia’s Land Art Biennial, Desert X AlUla (2020); Forever is Now, a site-specific presentation at the Pyramids of Giza, a UNESCO world heritage site dating back 4,500 years (2021); Godheads - Idols in Times of Crises in the Oude Warande Forest in the Netherlands (2022); One Thousand Galaxies of Light (Starfield), an immersive light installation at the Wadi Hanifa River, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2022); and If The Walls Could Talk / Reclaimed Stones: Foundations of Civilization, Past, Present, Future, at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Citadel of Salah al-Din, in Cairo, Egypt (2023).

Colón’s work was recently featured in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) historic survey exhibition Light, Space, Surface: Art from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts (2021-2022); and the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee (2022). Most recently, Colón presented a solo exhibition, The Feminist Divine, at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia (2022). Her work is currently on view in an exhibition of works from the permanent collection of New York’s El Museo del Barrio, Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección. Forthcoming international projects also include Materia Prima del Caribe: Viajando Através del Tiempo con Luz, Carbón, Balas, Tierra, Agua, y Sal, a collaborative exchange project for La Bienal de la Habana, Cuba (2024).

Gisela Colón’s work resides in institutional collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, FL; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CA; Perez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL; Mint Museum, North Carolina; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Grand Rapids Museum of Art, Grand Rapids, MI; and Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO.

Publication

An illustrated monograph will accompany this exhibition, containing a scholarly essay by Joachim Pissarro, Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries, Hunter College, New York, and former Curator in MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture, as well as an interview by Susanna Temkin, curator at El Museo del Barrio, New York.

About curator Simon Watson

Born in Canada and raised in England and the United States, Simon Watson is an independent curator and art advisor based in New York and São Paulo. A veteran of the cultural scene on three continents, over the past four decades he has curated and organized more than 350 art exhibitions for galleries and museums. His area of curatorial expertise is in spotting visual artists with outstanding potential, many of whom are now seen internationally in the blue chip category and are represented by some of the most established galleries in the world.

Gisela Colón: MATÉRIA PRIMA at Museu Nacional da República marks the second major exhibition Watson has curated the work of Gisela Colón. Their first project was in the legendary site-specific sculpture exhibition Forever Is Now (2022), on the Giza plateau outside Cairo, Egypt, for which Colón created a monumental “rising sun” sculpture positioned in front of the ancient Sphinx.

About curator Sara Seilert

Sara Seilert is a curator of contemporary art and director of the National Museum of the Republic, being the first woman to hold this position at the institution. She has a Master in Information Science (2023) from the University of Brasília (UnB), with research on the formation of contemporary art museum collections, specifically the collection of the National Museum of the Republic. She holds a bachelor's degree and degree in Fine Arts from the University of Brasília (2012), and works as a Cultural Activities Analyst with a specialization in Fine and Visual Arts at the Secretariat of Culture and Creative Economy of the Federal District. She has experience in the area of art education and museum management.

About Museu Nacional da República

The National Museum of the Republic (Museu Nacional da República) is a public cultural exhibition site managed by the Department of Culture and Creative Economy of the Federal District. The Museu acquires, preserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the heritage of Brazilian society, and is host to traveling exhibitions of renowned Brazilian and international artists. Part of the Republic's Cultural Group, the Museu was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and featured in the Brasilia Pilot Plan Report, prepared in 1957 by Lúcio Costa to be part of the Southern Cultural Sector of the New Capital. One of the great, modern architectural monuments of Brasilia’s Esplanade of Ministries, the all-concrete Museu is famous for its white dome and sculptural entrance ramp. Construction of the building began in 1999; it features 14,500 square meters (156,000 square feet) of exhibition area and was inaugurated on December 15, 2006-- the same day that Oscar Niemeyer turned 99 years old.

Museum exhibition hours

March 21 – June 3, 2024

Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 6:30pm

For more information, please contact: Xavier Auza

International Liaison xavierauza@gmail.com

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