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

 

MOUNTAINS ARE INSIDE ME 

Solo Exhibition
 

PLASMATIC: THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER

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

ESTADOS DE MATERIA TERRESTRE

Environmental Activation on Climate Change

IMG_0788.jpeg
Museu Nacional Brasil 1
MUSEU NACIONAL DA REPÚBLICA
BRASILIA, BRAZIL
Forthcoming March 21 - June 3, 2024

 

Exhibition – In Three (3) Parts:

MOUNTAINS ARE INSIDE ME 

Solo Exhibition
 

PLASMATIC: THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER

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

ESTADOS DE MATERIA TERRESTRE

Environmental Activation on Climate Change
 

Museu Nacional da República in Brasília is proud to present Gisela Colón: Mountains Are Inside Me, a multi-part exhibition of recent works by the Puerto Rican-American sculptor, whose ecofeminist art works address ecological, cosmic, and universal concerns. Curated by independent curator Simon Watson and National Museum director Sarah Seilert, the three-part presentation begins outside the museum, where Colón will showcase one of her monumental carbon fiber Parabolic Monoliths, a form she has embedded in Land Art interventions around the world including sites in Alula in Saudi Arabia, Regent’s Park in London, and the Lustwarande Forest in the Netherlands. Gisela Colón: Mountains Are Inside Me marks the artist's first presentation in Brasil.

 

Created specifically for Brasília, the 25-foot-tall work, titled Plasmatic: The Fourth State of Matter (Parabolic Monolith Oxygen), 2024, references shared collective Latin American colonial histories, while simultaneously responding to the iconic Oscar Niemeyer architecture of the site. Colón has coined the use of the word “plasmatic”—a fourth state of matter created under superheated, intense pressure—as a metaphor to describe the Latinx experience: “Like ‘plasma’ 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.

 

Colón’s use of abstraction and universal geometries belie an alternate reality of complex diasporic conditions. Colón’s Monoliths – tall, freestanding, totemic forms—in their evocations of earthly geologic formations, cosmological phenomena, and the aerodynamic geometries of the tools of surveillance and war, represent a formal mediation of the disparate elements of her diasporic existence. The monolith form invokes projectiles, consequently recalling the fraught history of militarized colonialism in the Caribbean generally, and more particularly the artist’s complicated personal experiences with gun violence. Yet for Colón the monolith in its soaring verticality also echoes the arresting mountainous peaks of Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest and the Cordillera Central, an enduring source of materia prima for the artist. In her hands, the violence of the projectile is subsumed into the primal, enigmatic form of the mountain, in a decolonial act of transformative healing. Through the monolith, Colón transmutes forms of violence, displacement, and death into vessels of healing, light, and life, reconfiguring entangled histories into a universal language.

 

Punctuating the state of planetary transformation, on the Museum’s exterior plaza Colón will also create a majestic ephemeral triptych artwork out of solid ice, activating the three “Espelhos” or mirror-like reflecting pools of water. Titled Estados de Materia Terrestre, the three translucent frozen columns will gradually melt in place, mutating from solid to liquid to gas evolving through the three geological states of matter, bearing silent witness to the ever-changing nature of our dire planetary conditions.

 

Moving inside the museum’s spectacular Niemeyer-designed futuristic dome structure, Colón’s presentation Mountains Are Inside Me, channels the force of mountainous geological structures, embracing the circular rotunda to create an immersive experience through a combination of different mediums: six (6) large photo murals, five (5) 8-foot translucent totems, and three (3) organic luminous sculptures. The photo murals present visual documentation of Colón’s international environmental activations around the world, allowing the viewer to time-travel 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 Citadel Salam Al-Din in Old Cairo, Egypt, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the resplendent gardens of Regent’s Park in London, England.  

 

Centered under the National Museum’s Niemeyer cupola are three cell-like sculptures from Colón’s Pod series of organic light-activated works. Colón’s work investigates and expands upon the history of color theory through the development of a method of producing a prismatic experience of light without the use of paint, realizing what she terms “structural color.” As vessels of structural color, Colón’s sculptures present a “fluid color spectrum,” a function of light refraction upon structural surfaces as manifested across the natural world. Colón’s use of asymmetrical, “humanized” geometrical forms, embody characteristics of organic life, changing and transforming their physical qualities depending on environmental factors and the position of the viewer, facilitating a unique perceptual experience of color as light in real time. The three Pod sculptures in the exhibition are vessels of structural color, capturing surrounding light and refracting its spectrum into real-time color, allowing viewers to experience ‘impossible” or “imaginary” colors as perceptual phenomena.

 

Further activating the museum’s iconic architectural space, an array of Colón’s luminous 8-foot cosmic totems rise from the floor, creating a varying topography of translucent mountainous trees growing in an other-worldly forest. Beyond their intrinsic scale and weight, each work articulates a different sense of gravity accomplished by their palpable awareness and interaction with surrounding light. The viewer, both in presence and perception, plays an essential role in animating these radiant forms. 

 

Colón’s masterful manipulation of innovative 21st century materials such as optical acrylics and high-technology aerospace carbon fiber, paradoxically hijacks and diverts these utilitarian substances from their typical function as tools of militarism and surveillance (customarily marshalled in the service of dystopian aims), channeling them into vessels 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 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….”   

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), continuing to observe a painting practice until 2012, when she shifted her focus to sculpture.

 

Colón has exhibited internationally throughout the United States, Europe, Egypt, the Middle East, and Latin America. Notable public exhibitions include The Future is Now for the Land Art Biennial, Desert X AlUla (Saudi Arabia, 2020), Forever is Now (Egypt, 2021) presenting a site-specific monument at the Pyramids of Giza (a UNESCO world heritage site that dates back 4,500 years), Godheads - Idols in Times of Crises in the Oude Warande Forest (Netherlands 2022), One Thousand Galaxies of Light (Starfield), an immersive light installation at the Wadi Hanifa River, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (November 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, Cairo, Egypt (October 2023). 

 

Colón’s work was recently featured in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA’s) historic survey exhibition Light, Space, Surface: Art from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts (2021-2022), and the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN (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 at El Museo del Barrio’s permanent collection exhibition: Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección, in New York. 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.

 

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.

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