Friday Dispatch – 30 September 2022
Teresita Fernández: Caribbean Cosmos
Lehmann Maupin, South Kensington
14 September – 5 November 2022
New York-based conceptual artist Teresita Fernández’s poetic installations – often made of raw materials drawn from the earth – act as metaphors for centuries of injustice and colonialisation on the Caribbean archipelago.
The centre piece of the exhibition Caribbean Cosmos at Lehman Maupin is a large-scale, glazed ceramic panel of the same title. It is composed of thousands of tiny ceramic tesserae that are glazed with minerals from the earth and fired at high temperatures, mimicking volcanic processes. The 12-foot wall piece depicts swirling shapes that suggest colliding galaxies, archipelagos, or aerial views of hurricanes. The richly coloured and highly reflective surface of the panel immerses the viewer into the artist’s poetic landscape, prompting us to contemplate how we can orient ourselves within this seemingly unstable geography.
Fernández’s complex intertwining of natural materials and conceptual thought also become visible in Pendent (Lynched Land), 2022. Depicting a damaged palm tree frond hanging ominously from a hemp rope, the dark wall sculpture is composed of textured, hand-carved charcoal. Pendent (Lynched Land) turns our attention to the extraction of the land. Charcoal is produced by burning and by including this act into the making process of the work, Fernández is pointing to the historical and political violence caused by resource extraction and global commerce. The viewer is prompted to reconsider the stereotypical use of tropical vegetation as iconic of “exotic paradise” and to instead reflect on the historic and ongoing violence imposed on the Caribbean islands.
In the second room we encounter Kalunga (Copper Planet), 2022, in which a circular form, resembling a planet made of copper, floats above a seemingly tranquil sea. On the opposite wall a series of 20 nocturnal seascapes titled Kalunga (Maria/Marea), 2022, are installed in a single continuous line. Some of the postcard-sized panels feature ambient moons or constellations of stars etched into the reflective surface, while seemingly distant shores appear on the horizon lines. For both body of works, Fernández gives a patina to the copper panel to dissolve the material and image, creating a fluid movement that introduces an element of chance into her compositions. The title references the ‘Kalunga line’, a watery threshold dividing the spiritual and physical worlds, figuring prominently in religious West African and Afro Caribbean traditions associated with the Atlantic Ocean.
By unravelling narratives around colonialism, power and ecological destruction in her emotive landscapes, Fernández subtly lays open how the extraction of natural resources and colonial violence shaped the geography and our understanding of the Caribbean islands up until today. At the same time, her luminous and poetic installations challenge us to consider a more nuanced understanding of the Caribbean archipelago, perhaps as an example of an expansive, eclectic and decentralised state, that can function as a cultural model for our diverse globalised world.
Lehmann Maupin, 1 Cromwell Place, London SW7 2JE.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00 – 18.00.
Exhibition continues until 5 November 2022.