Until 11 September, Galerie Fleur & Wouter in Amsterdam is presenting a duo exhibition by Dodi Espinosa and Carmen Schabracq. Both artists share a special bond with Mexico: Espinosa because he grew up there and Schabracq because she did research there for a few months in 2019 as part of a residency. As the starting point for the exhibition, they chose El dia del burro, a significant holiday in Espinosa's native village, in which the donkey takes center stage.
In some of the works on display, you'll see the animal in a literal sense, as well as in a symbolic and mythological sense. But perhaps, the references to Mexico are more broad. Both artists are interested in the craft and traditions of the country, in the materials that are revered — or not. For example, papier maché enjoys much more prestige in Mexico than in the western art world. This notion of the value of materials was the starting point for the artists to experiment with new materials. For example, Espinosa plays with the connotations associated with bamboo and plaster casts, and Shabracq used willow branches in her works, in addition to papier mâché.
Dodi Espinosa, Giselle, 2022, Galerie Fleur & Wouter
Espinosa was born in Mexico City and after a liberal arts education at the Escola Massana in Barcelona he ended up in Antwerp, where he lives to this day. The layered works of the conceptual artist often radiate a certain strength or even resistance. They are rooted in (art) history and his personal life experiences, but are equally inspired by popular culture, archaeology, racism, displacement, conventions within the art world, sacred art and local healing practices. The pink works with arrows, for example, refer to Degas' ballerinas, to the ways in which they were exploited in an unequal power relationship. But the arrows and dynamism also refer to their strength and flexibility. By naming the works of art after the individual dancers, he gives them a face, while the works themselves are anything but figurative.
In his bright blue works (a reference to that famous French artist?) Espinosa depicts a multitude of religious, shamanistic and healing practices: from the Maya civilisation and Hinduism to stories about Christian saints. He likes to mix elements in a reference to syncretism, the amalgamation of different religions. In some of his imaginations, Espinosa depicts the distinctive noses and skull shapes of the native people of the South American continent, which reminded this author of the moving Decolonize your Beauty Standards videos on Tiktok, which revere the beauty and traditions of indigenous peoples on a global scale.
Dodi Espinosa, Saint Odille, 2021, Galerie Fleur & Wouter
Amsterdam-based artist Carmen Schabracq studied painting at the Academia de Belle Arti in Rome, followed by a BA in Visual Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and an MA in Theater Costume Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. In addition to her time in Mexico, she also completed residencies in the studio of the Vincent van Gogh house in Zundert and in Bulgaria. Her colourful paintings, masks, sculptural installations and performances are marked by a certain theatricality, which is also reflected in her collaborations with opera and theater companies. For her work, the artist draws on her personal experiences and her role as both a woman and an artist, mixed with elements from myths, traditions and art history. Schabracq is particularly fascinated by masks and what they represent: the complex relationship that people have with their identity, often linked to certain rituals. Our dealings with death are also a recurring subject in Schabracq's work.
Carmen Schabracq, The Birth, 2022, Galerie Fleur & Wouter