“The House at Kawinal”
New York, 235 Bowery
Working in performance, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa (b. 1978, Guatemala City, Guatemala) creates dreamlike scenes that build on references to literature, folklore, magic, and childhood memories.
Engaging fantasy and allegory, Ramírez-Figueroa’s installations combine sculpture and experimental theater to transfigure everyday images and objects into symbolic tableaux. Though the artist’s works often exude a sense of whimsy and playfulness, they also allude to tragic and traumatic events that have shaped the social and political climate of present-day Guatemala.
“The House at Kawinal,” the artist’s first solo exhibition in the US, will present a recent performance for video, Life in His Mouth, Death Cradles Her Arm (2016), together with a new body of sculptures inspired in part by the artist’s research into the effects of the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam in Guatemala in the early 1980s. To build the dam, the Guatemalan government forcibly displaced thousands of Achi Mayan people through brutal military-led massacres that wiped out villages throughout the Chixoy River Valley. The flooding caused by the dam also submerged the Late Mayan (1100–1524 AD) city of Kawinal, the ruins of which are now largely invisible and inaccessible. For his New Museum installation, Ramírez-Figueroa presents a series of figurative works that suggest a lost and fragmented domestic space and evoke this violent displacement to reflect on its lasting impact on families, indigenous heritage, and the natural landscape.
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Life in his Mouth, Death Cradles her Arm, 2016 (still). Single-channel video, sound, color; 8:51 min. Commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part of Your Revolution. Courtesy the artist; Mendes Wood DM; Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City; and Sies + Höke, Dusseldorf