In the upcoming exhibition “Trade Windings: De-Lineating the American Tropics” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, two remarkable artists, Ana Mendieta and Juana Valdés, take center stage in illuminating the complex legacies of colonialism and its impact on the American tropics.

Ana Mendieta, a pioneering Cuban-American artist, is celebrated for her profound exploration of identity, spirituality, and the human connection to nature. Through her poignant performances, sculptures, and installations, Mendieta sought to reclaim and celebrate her indigenous roots while challenging prevailing narratives of power and domination. In “Trade Windings,” Mendieta’s work serves as a powerful testament to the resilience and cultural richness of the American tropics in the face of colonial oppression.

One of Mendieta’s most iconic series featured in the exhibition is her “Silueta” works, which depict the artist’s silhouette carved into various landscapes, ranging from sand dunes to forests. These hauntingly beautiful images evoke a sense of presence and absence, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound connection between the human body and the natural world. Through her art, Mendieta sought to transcend boundaries of time and space, forging a spiritual connection to the land that speaks to the enduring resilience of indigenous cultures in the face of colonization.

Alongside Mendieta’s evocative works, Juana Valdés adds her unique voice to the conversation, offering a contemporary perspective on the enduring legacy of colonialism in the American tropics. Valdés, a Cuban-American multidisciplinary artist, explores themes of migration, displacement, and cultural memory through her vibrant mixed-media sculptures and installations. In “Trade Windings,” Valdés confronts viewers with the material remnants of colonial exploitation, from cotton and sugar cane to tobacco and coffee.

One of Valdés’s standout pieces featured in the exhibition is her series of “Sugar Cane” sculptures, which juxtapose the beauty of organic forms with the brutal realities of forced labor and exploitation. By casting sugar cane stalks in bronze and adorning them with delicate porcelain flowers, Valdés highlights the paradoxical nature of colonial economies, where natural abundance coexists with human suffering. Through her art, Valdés invites viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about the origins of everyday commodities and the enduring legacy of slavery in the Americas.

As visitors navigate the McCormick Tribune Gallery, they are invited to engage with the powerful works of Ana Mendieta and Juana Valdés, each offering a unique perspective on the intertwined histories of colonialism and resistance in the American tropics. Through their art, Mendieta and Valdés challenge us to reckon with the complexities of our shared past and to envision a more just and equitable future for all. Don’t miss your chance to experience their transformative artworks in “Trade Windings” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, running from May 18 to August 25.

Powerful Duo: Ana Mendieta & Juana Valdes at MCA's 'Trade Windings'
Powerful Duo: Ana Mendieta & Juana Valdes at MCA’s ‘Trade Windings’
Powerful Duo: Ana Mendieta & Juana Valdes at MCA's 'Trade Windings'
Powerful Duo: Ana Mendieta & Juana Valdes at MCA’s ‘Trade Windings’

Museum Contemporary Art Chicago

May 18th – August 25th, 2024

220 E Chicago Ave
Chicago IL 60611

About CANY:

Cuba Art NY (CANY) is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization that promotes the work of contemporary Cuban born artists living outside of Cuba.

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