Jorge Pineda: Shadows and Other Fairytales
Exhibit on display in Hunter’s East Harlem Art Gallery
Known outside of the U.S. for his signature combination of drawing and installation, Pineda has employed this strategy in the two works that comprise the exhibition. The massive scrawl drawing is part of The Forest: Lies (Version III) (2006). The work extends from inside of the gallery space, originating in a carved and painted wood sculpture of a girl facing the wall. From her head emanate the scrawls of lines that eventually find their way out of the gallery space and into the lobby, culminating in the black mass that confronts students as they enter the school. Pineda’s other work in the exhibition, Oh Taschen, Taschen, Taschen! Wild Girls Without A Mask (2012), conceived specifically for this exhibition, consists of 93 pencil drawings of prominent female artists paired with 93 acrylic paintings of Lucha Libre masks. Pineda’s starting point for the project was the photographic index of artists from publisher Taschen’s 2005 book Women Artists of the 20th and 21st Century. He created light, precise renderings of every photograph representing each woman artist, altering it by drawing clown-like shapes atop the women’s faces. The painted Lucha Libre masks are paired with the drawings, each mask conforming to the contour of its corresponding face.
Pineda’s self-described interest in Jungian archetypes—the Shadow and the Persona—illuminates the intention of his work. He is concerned with the way that identity is socially constructed, especially with regard to children and to female artists. The Forest: Lies, while addressing the issue, comes off as being too literal and heavy-handed. The drawing in the School of Social Work lobby is powerful and enticing, but the revelation of its origin as the girl’s head is too obvious. Oh Taschen, Taschen, Taschen! Wild Girls Without A Mask, while perhaps better understood by viewers familiar with the artists Pineda has represented, is a more subtle and smart work because of its ability to address multiple aspects of identity creation. By culling his material from the Taschen publication, Pineda is bringing to light the problematic nature of grouping artists based only on gender, and how the photographs of these female artists in the book function as stand-ins for the artists’ identities. The paintings of Lucha Libre masks, created by peeling acrylic from plastic sheeting, serve to underscore this point by asking how the artists in the Women Artists of the 20th and 21st Century are masked by the photographs that represent them and their inclusion in this all-female survey.
Perhaps the strength of Oh Taschen, Taschen, Taschen! is derived largely from its careful rendering and the beauty of the layers of acrylic in the depicted masks, in contrast with the brute chalk scrawls and the rugged carved wood sculpture in The Forest: Lies. While the latter work’s installation is ambitious, and successfully activates the space of the School of Social Work lobby, its clichéd culmination in the sculpture ends up spoiling its intended effect. However, overall, “Jorge Pineda: Shadows and Other Fairytales” is a compelling introduction to an artist who has exhibited widely in South America and Europe but is not well known in the United States. It is also a good choice of exhibition for the School of Social Work, as Pineda’s work directly seeks to confront and interrogate the processes at work in the interaction of the society and the individual.