Belkis Ayón

January 30 - April 25, 2024

Belkis Ayón

January 30 – April 25, 2024

 

Belkis Ayón was not an overlooked artist, but death interrupted her ascent as a well-known creative. I have never taken the perspective of the “overlooked” or had that vantage point on art and art history. Such viewpoints give credence to hierarchies that only apply insomuch as we allow. Great art finds its way, and Ayón’s work continuously did just that, both during her lifetime and beyond it. Her work has a graphic sophistication that defies the simple materials she had access to. In 1990s Cuba, Ayón was an artist, woman, and person of the African diaspora, with enormous agency through her practice. She not only exercised great creativity but also resourcefulness in her use of materials during Cuba’s Special Period of scarcity.

 

There are many narratives percolating within Ayón’s practice that scholars and curators have yet to uncover. These include biographical accounts, her materials and their relation to Cuban culture and history, the inks used for the work, feminist narratives, and dialogue with other world religions, to name a few. Beyond Abakuá, the artist explored broad cultural ideas such as gender roles, the forbidden, and hierarchies. Although she passed away twenty-five years ago, her work continues to feel new and remains relevant to contemporary art and society. Ayón created a poignant and cohesive body of work within a very short period of time.

 

The artist’s influence on the art world is evidenced by both her inclusion in major international exhibitions during her lifetime (45th Venice Biennale) and the ongoing recent retrospectives of her work, beginning with the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2016 and continuing most recently with the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid; she also had major presentations at the 59th Venice Biennale and the 34th Bienal de São Paulo. Her practice has left an imprint on the work of many artists today, some of whom have devoted their research to Ayón. The first time I saw her work, its visual presence was revitalizing to my expert eye. Its remarkable, intense quality draws in viewers of any background. Ayón was a virtuoso of eagle-eyed simplicity—in palette, materials, and sensory information.

 

I hope this exhibition & publication—which allows us to hear from the artist herself in two historical interviews, alongside some notable works—inspires more insight into Ayón’s captivating practice. The monograph published by [NAME] Publications complements the first gallery solo exhibition of the artist’s work since her death in 1999. The exhibition, which will take place at David Castillo from January to April 2024, is organized in collaboration with the Belkis Ayón Estate in the same year as two major gallery sales of the artist’s rare multi-panel works- one to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (Untitled, Woman in Fetal Position) and the other to The Museum of Modern Art in New York (Resurrection). I am honored to present such a historically significant exhibition at my gallery after nearly 20 years and 160 shows. I dedicate this exhibition & publication to Katia Ayón, late sister of the artist and founder of the Belkis Ayón Estate. Her tireless work has built a consummately professional estate that collaborates with institutions, curators, and scholars around the world and is led today by Ernesto Leyva, Yadira Leyva Ayón, and Yaisa Leyva Ayón. Belkis Ayón’s story is in part one of family devotion to one of the greatest artists of the late twentieth century, whose contributions to society and culture are only beginning to be unraveled.

 

David Castillo
Foreword for Belkis Ayón
Published by [NAME] Publications

in collaboration with the Belkis Ayón Estate

January 2024

Belkis Ayón