NEW YORK — The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents an exhibition devoted to Chilean artist, poet, activist and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuna (b. 1948-), who has been based in New York for the last 40 years. Titled Cecilia Vicuna: Spin Spin Triangulene, it opens May 27 and continues through September 5.
Showcasing Vicuna’s artistic production from the late 1960s to today, this focused exhibition will feature the breadth of her multidisciplinary practice, including paintings, works on paper, textiles, films, a site-specific Quipu (Knot) installation and a one-time performance of a “living” Quipu, commissioned by the museum’s Latin American Circle. The exhibition will also include new paintings and works on paper created specifically for this presentation.
The title, Spin Spin Triangulene, is a poetic creation based on new scientific discoveries the artist relates to the Guggenheim’s spiral rotunda and the quipu, to stress the connection between science and Indigenous knowledge Vicuna has observed since her early encounter with cybernetics as a young student in Chile. Long anticipated, this is the first solo exhibition of Vicuna’s work in a New York museum and will bring renewed and overdue national and international attention to a pioneering contemporary Latin American artist.
Vicuna explores themes of memory, language, science, and Indigenous spirituality and knowledge across her practice. Her early figurative paintings in this exhibition were conceived as a decolonizing act to subvert the oil tradition imposed on Indigenous culture by the European conquest. These works interweave her biography with the story of the rise of socialism. Following the 1973 Chilean military coup that ushered in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Vicuna self-exiled in London and the political activism of her art intensified, revolutionary icons and influences — ranging from Karl Marx, Chilean folk singer and social activist Violeta Parra, and Andean popular art, animism and Indigeneity, which had long been her subjects — became poignant symbols of what was under attack. Also, on view in textiles, film, and works on paper will be Vicuna’s language-based Palabrarmas, or “word weapons,” which are politically engaged metaphorical riddles and poems displaying her conception of language as a living entity.
In the mid-1960s Vicuna began her Quipu series, soft sculptures made of suspended strands of knotted and unspun wool sometimes combined with found objects. The khipu (knot) was knotting made of colored threads to convey complex narrative and numerical information, a system created in the Andes in South America and later abolished by European colonizers. Vicuna reimagines her Quipus as a poetic response against cultural, ecological and economic disparities. As part of this exhibition, the artist will premiere a three-part Quipu, Quipu del exterminio / Extermination Quipu (2022), an installation representing life, death and resurrection as a call to action to stop the extinction of earth’s species and the loss of biocultural diversity. The artist’s “living” Quipu performance is a participatory collective healing ceremony connecting ancient memory and contemporary culture, inviting visitors to become active in the poetic and political change of our world.
This exhibition is organized by Pablo Leon de la Barra, curator at large, Latin America, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, and Geaninne Gutierrez-Guimaraes, associate curator, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.