Marela Zacarias: A Street of Many Corners
Curated by Omar Lopez-Chahoud
Sapar Contemporary is proud to present a solo show by Marela Zacarias that includes the artist’s signature sculptural wall pieces, a site-specific mural, a free standing sculptural and video piece as well as a wealth of research material related to early abstract painting in New York and other influences in her work. This exhibition continues a line of investigation that began in Zacarias’s 2013 Brooklyn Museum exhibition. Here again, Zacarias looks back at the 1930s generation of abstract painters and the socio-political context of the time. The sculptural and video work refers to Cradle Will Rock, the 1999 Tim Robins film about actors working on a play while a Mexican muralist is commissioned to paint in a magnate’s lobby at the height of the Great Depression amidst rising pressure that the WPA faced from the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Zacarias, who started her career as a muralist before she turned to abstraction, continues to be interested the early beginnings of abstraction in New York and through this exhibition brings into the conversation the work of Alice Trumbull Mason, one of the founders of the American Abstract Artists.
Zacarias immersed herself in the world of early abstraction while organizing Alice Trumbull Mason’s archives at the studio of Emily Mason, Alice’s daughter (also an abstract painter). “She [Alice Trumbull Mason] corresponded with Josef Albers, Piet Mondrian, Ilya Bolotowsky and Ibram Lassaw about the state of abstract art at a time when it was highly unpopular. All of them really respected her opinions and contributions. She was very passionate about her writing and about her paintings. Unfortunately, her life and work went mostly unnoticed because she was a woman at a time when male artists were favored by galleries and museums.” The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a small canvas by Alice Trumbull Mason that Zacarias has chosen as a source of inspiration for the site-specific mural in the gallery. “By paying a tribute to Alice I hope to make a small contribution to telling a more complete story about the beginning of abstract painting in New York.” The exhibition in turn follows Zacarias’ own evolution from a socially engaged muralist of the great Mexican tradition to an artist who constantly innovates through abstraction by bringing in her research in the history of abstraction, anthropology, historic textiles and pottery, cultural history of Central America and Middle East.
Marela Zacarias works with a labor-intensive process that merges sculpture with painting. She fabricates forms out of wire screening attached to wooden supports or found objects to which she applies layers of plaster to create undulating forms. Through sanding, polishing, and painting, she creates sculptures with the quality of fabric, filled with movement and expressive quality. She then paints the sculptures with original patterns and geometric abstract shapes that are inspired by her research. Her work is characterized by an interest in site specificity, socially committed history and current events.
Zacarias’ exhibitions include solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum; Praxis Gallery, the National Arts Club and Art at Viacom all in NY; and at the Brattleboro Museum, Vermont and has participated in group shows at BRIC, Museo de Barrio, No Longer Empty and Y Gallery among others. Zacarias is well known for her signature large-scale installations, including commissions from The Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle, the American Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico and the William Vale in Brooklyn, NY. Her murals can be found in Washington DC, Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio, Mexico and Guatemala. She was profiled in the Art 21 New York Close Up Series. Zacarias received her BA from Kenyon College and her M.F.A. from Hunter College, New York. She lives between Brooklyn, NY and Mexico City.
Omar Lopez-Chahoud has been the Artistic Director and Curator of UNTITLED. since its founding in 2012. As an independent curator, López-Chahoud has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions in the United States and internationally. Most recently, he curated the Nicaraguan Biennial in March 2014. López-Chahoud has participated in curatorial panel discussions at Artists' Space, Art in General, MoMA PS1, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. López-Chahoud earned MFAs from Yale University School of Art, and the Royal Academy of Art in London.
SAPAR Contemporary Gallery + Incubator is the brainchild of Raushan Sapar and Nina Levent. SAPAR Contemporary’s artists span three generations and five continents. They engage in global conversations and develop vocabularies that resonate as strongly in Baku, Almaty and Istanbul as they do in New York, Berlin, Paris and Mexico City. Their artistic practices vary from meditative traditional ink painting to writing programming code; what connects them are the artists’ capacity for empathy, insight, and imagination; their whimsy and generosity of spirit; and the rigor and depth of their studio practice.