Vessel and Veil
David Castillo presents Vessel and Veil, a group exhibition featuring works—including photography, assemblage, textile, collage, and video—by Claudia Martínez Garay, Pepe Mar, Edison Peñafiel, Yelaine Rodriguez, and Xaviera Simmons.
Across their varied practices, the artists in Vessel and Veil invite the viewer to grapple with the nuances through which the body—and the self it embodies—becomes politicized, regulated, and subverted as a symbol that reverberates with historical echoes, societal strictures, spiritual dimensions, and personal autonomy. As individuals navigate societal systems and are subjected to their realms of influence and authority, the body becomes a stage for ongoing negotiation and assertion. Indeed, the body bears the indelible marks of the circumstances, histories, and experiences it inherits, lives through, and will eventually pass on, carrying the weight of the past and present, and of the future it will usher in and help to write. Across diverse conceptualizations, the bodies represented throughout Vessel and Veil—at times present, at times notably absent—serve as reflections that mirror the intricate interplays of power contained within the body and to which it becomes beholden.
The physical and metaphysical, the seen and unseen, emerge as motifs that repeat throughout the exhibition, meditating on the body’s ability to contain, conceal, and reveal the visible and invisible lattices of power that shape life during our time. Garments, fashion, and textile—objects and materials that can swathe, outfit, and shroud the body—are central to the media or subject matter of the works on view, serving as potent metaphors for the nature of power and its capacity to be masked and unmasked, put on and taken off, or stripped away entirely. Power operates both overtly and covertly, and the use of textile, clothing, and adornment across these works underscores the interwoven fabric of social, cultural, political, and personal influence across which power unfolds.
Claudia Martínez Garay’s Chunka Tawayuq Pacha weaves a rich tapestry of regional imagery and symbolism—drawn from references to Andean culture, its flora and fauna, and its colonial legacies—that testify to the depth of inherited knowledge and history carried forward with a people. These references branch intricately across the work, stemming from and braced on the back of a llama, who carries this heavy load of time and meaning. The work functions metaphorically, speaking of the peoples of the Andean region themselves as the bearers, creators, and inheritors of this vital heritage.
Edison Peñafiel’s works unfold histories of migration through archetypal figures—the mother, the father, the child, the family—that speak to both universal migratory experiences as well as those experienced by the artist’s own family. The figures in his work bear masks that deindividuate them, allowing anyone—coming from anywhere—to project their own familial myths, stories, and lineages onto these characters. The body in this work becomes a site of telling and retelling, a locus of stories drawn from the vast breadth of human experience.
In her practice, Yelaine Rodriguez creates garments, performances, films, and photographs that embody the deities, rituals, and beliefs of syncretic traditions that have risen across the Caribbean as an effect of its long—and still enduring—histories of colonialism. These works look to Dominican and Haitian belief systems, to trace the power of the body as a vessel that contains the sovereignty, ceremony, and strength of these inherited lineages.
Pepe Mar’s works center canonical beings from a mythology of his own invention. These creatures, what the artist calls Paprikas, are devourers who swallow up worlds of reference and citation. Paprikas take form within Mar’s assemblages, their bodies built from the fonts of influence—found objects, ephemera, clippings from fashion magazines and art history books—that surround Mar in his studio. These figures become a proxy of sorts for Mar himself, their base anatomies pointing towards the histories of resilience the artist injects into his practice through objects infused with references to queer communities and immigrant experience.
The works of Xaviera Simmons’s Index series reveal the body itself as an archive of personal and collective experience. In these works, unseen protagonists wear richly patterned skirts raised over their heads, obscuring their identities. Beneath the garment, worn close to the body, are a breath of artifacts and ephemera—masks, photographs, figurines, and other objects—held together by clothes pins. This montage of material reveals the inherited weight of histories, memories, and experiences individuals carry with them; a birthright that is both wealth and burden.
Vessel and Veil evokes the body as a conduit of power, operating across distinctly interwoven and diverse dimensions that are textured by our inherited pasts.
Claudia Martínez Garay