Firelei Báez

5 March - 2 July 2020
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  • In her new series of paintings, Firelei Báez casts diasporic histories into an imaginative realm, re-working visual references drawn from the past to explore new possibilities for the future. With a goal to reclaim power, Báez overlays figuration, symbolic imagery, and abstract gesture onto large-scale reproductions of found maps and documents. She populates these historically-loaded representations of space with change-making creatures—whose hybrid forms incorporate folkloric and literary references, textile pattern, plantlife, and wide-ranging emblems of healing and resistance—to present fictional alternative universes. 

  • For more than a decade, Báez has painted directly onto found maps and book pages to disrupt the boundaries they...

    For more than a decade, Báez has painted directly onto found maps and book pages to disrupt the boundaries they serve to delineate. Questioning notions of past and present, mark-making and painterly gesture become means of situating personal memory and experience in dialogue with macro-narratives of the Western tradition. The works in her exhibition carry forward this long-standing interest while upscaling source materials onto large-format canvas to allow for intervention in human-proportion.

  • 'I grew up hearing stories of Lilith-like wild women from the forest, Ciguapas, told to me as a warning: you...

    "I grew up hearing stories of Lilith-like wild women from the forest, Ciguapas, told to me as a warning: you can’t be too wild, too much of nature, don't be too independent. Everything that’s inscribed onto that figure becomes the antithesis of ideal femininity. And then as a kid I’d think, "There's so much freedom in that, why would I not want to be that? Why would I not want to be untraceable and fearless?" 

     

    —Firelei Báez

  • “Mythologies reveal the potential for human expansion and ingenuity in the space of disaster. In the 90’s, two DJs from...

    “Mythologies reveal the potential for human expansion and ingenuity in the space of disaster. In the 90’s, two DJs from Detroit reimagined the horrors of the Middle Passage in the techno music of Drexciya, their name for a mythic black Atlantis populated by the unborn children of pregnant women thrown off of slave ships. The story supposes: what if they survived, and created this super advanced underwater civilization?”

     

    —Firelei Báez

  • “Painting is an incredibly generous medium that allows both the viewer and the maker to navigate between imagined and real...

    “Painting is an incredibly generous medium that allows both the viewer and the maker to navigate between imagined and real worlds. In my paintings, there are massive movements of water, of me having to extend my body to create big, abstract gesture—and also very meticulously-rendered figuration. They are two ways of tracing me, as a painter, into this depiction of body: a melding of both the depicted illusory body and the materiality of my own presence.”

     

    —Firelei Báez

  • Firelei Báez (b. 1981, Dominican Republic) received an M.F.A. from Hunter College, a B.F.A. from the Cooper Union’s School of Art, and studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. In 2020, Báez is shortlisted for Artes Mundi 9, and will be the subject of a solo presentation at the ICA Watershed, Boston, MA this summer. In 2019, the artist had solo exhibitions at the Mennello Museum of Art, Orlando, FL, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the Modern Window at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Her outdoor sculpture, 19.604692°N 72.218596°W, was included in En Plein Air, the 2019 High Line Art exhibition. Báez was featured in the 2018 Berlin Biennale, Prospect.3: Notes for Now (2014), Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial (2013), and El Museo’s Bienal: The (S) Files (2011). Her major 2015 solo exhibition Bloodlines was organized by the Pérez Art Museum Miami and travelled to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

    Other recent solo exhibitions of Báez’s work have been presented by The Studio Museum, Harlem, NY; Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, OH; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL; Taller Puertorriqueno, Philadelphia, PA; and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City, UT. Báez is the recipient of many awards, including the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2019), Soros Arts Fellowship (2019), the United States Artists Fellowship (2019), the College Art Association Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work (2018), the Future Generation Art Prize (2017), the Chiaro Award (2016), and Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant (2011). Her work belongs to the permanent collections of institutions including The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Art Museum, Rollins College, Orlando, FL; BNY Mellon Art Collection, Pittsburgh, PA; The Cleveland Clinic Fine Art Collection, Cleveland, OH; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; The Isabela and Agustín Coppel Collection, Mexico City, Mexico; Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; New Orleans Museum of Art, LA; Orlando Museum of Art, FL; Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL; Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, OH; Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Sindika Dokolo Foundation Collection, Luanda, Angola; Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY.

     

    1. Detail: Firelei Báez, Man Without a Country (aka anthropophagist wading in the Artibonite River), 2014-15

    2. Detail: Firelei Báez, I write love poems, too (The right to non-imperative clarities), 2018. Installation view: Pine's Eye, Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh, 2020. Photo: Sally Jubb

    1. Detail: Drexciya, “Aquatic Invasion” (Underground Resistance: 1994, Vinyl)

    2. Firelei Báez in her studio. Photo: Derek Fordjour



    Maps courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries.