In a polarised time, when everyone is arguing about identity, we have overlooked the inclusive, flexible tradition of mestizo Latin America, which fuses colonial, indigenous and slave cultures to transcend national and historical boundaries.
Folk and tribal art meet Christian iconography and merge spiritual and political realities. Fetish and icon become interchangeable. War is paired with the intimate and supernatural. The rough burlap jacket of Zapata’s sculpture Shaman Protector drips with protective talismans that remember the brutal era of Colombian kidnappings. But death is understood environmentally, as the first ingredient of life: beside a wooden carving of a pale blue corpse, a tree sprouts green leaves, and Saint Rabbit’s human breasts and pregnant belly glisten with silver leaf. Carnivalesque, rough-hewn and deceptively simple, even toy-like, the art of Carlos Zapata is at once celebratory and unflinching.
Recipient of The Threadneedle Art Prize, Zapata’s work is held in collections around the world, including London’s Natural History Museum, The Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, The Arima Museum and Gumma Museum in Japan, and Museo Parque De Las Ciencias in Granada, Spain.
Founded and directed by award-winning writer, Dennison Smith, The Baldwin curates dialogue between cultures, nature and art. Specialising in Native American art and environmental art, The Baldwin curates, procures and consults for museums, cultural institutions, arts organizations and collectors internationally. Collaborations or commissions in London, England include The National Maritime Museum, Canada House and The Horniman Museum. The Baldwin now pairs with Momentum Press to produce the monograph The Mestizo Art of Carlos Zapata, which will launch in conjunction with the exhibition.