Firelei Báez reconfigures visual references drawn from the past to explore new possibilities for the future. By overlapping representational motifs, Báez carries portraiture into a space where subjectivity is rooted...
Firelei Báez reconfigures visual references drawn from the past to explore new possibilities for the future. By overlapping representational motifs, Báez carries portraiture into a space where subjectivity is rooted in historical narratives as much as it can likewise become untethered by them. Firelei Báez presents a series of new paintings in which figuration, symbolic imagery, and calligraphic gesture are overlaid onto large-scale WPA architectural plans of historically- loaded sites in the American south. Questioning notions of past and present, mark-making becomes an entry point for a personal engagement with Afro-diasporic cultural re-memory—a means of situating subjugated personal memory and experience in dialogue with narratives of the Western tradition. What transpires when memory and history are put in conversation with each other? What generative spaces are created through this anachronistic act?
Artist Background Dominican-American artist Firelei Báez (b. 1980), whose monumental installation at the 10th Berlin Biennial and concurrent solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem continue to receive international acclaim, is interested in how culture and identity are shaped by inher-ited histories. Her work reveals the incom-plete nature of our communal stories, con-structing more egalitarian social narratives, so a more equitable future might emerge.
Portraiture is a key aspect of Báez’s work. She sees the human body as the most direct link between artist, viewer, and subject. Across the mediums of painting, sculpture, drawing and installation, she layers strong, confident, imaginative portraits of Afrodiasporic figures over physical and conceptual echoes of the past. In her portraits, aspects of her personal identity are evident, revealing the intense personal connection Báez feels to the stories she is telling.
How to slip out of your body quietly, 2018, Kavi Gupta | Washington Blvd., Chicago, USA