Quisqueya Henríquez at VOLTA 2017
Let’s just say that more than half of the World’s population lives a narrative perceived by the remaining as other. And those of the remaining have always been the author of a dominant narrative that the vast many of our perspectives are informed by. If there’s anything that today tells us, it is that even in our most open and inclusive forums, voices are marginalized not so much for being a woman, of the black diaspora, or of the Caribbean like Quisqueya Henríquez (La Habana, 1966), but for the narratives that come along with them.
Often times these narratives destabilize the norm, even a progressive norm. They make decision-making meetings at our institutions slightly uncomfortable. Narratives cross boundaries that often times act as borders with walls to those of us on the other side. Missing cinder blocks of truth make these walls fragile. Said another way, a narrative with omitted information is an incomplete story; a conversation unfinished. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except that we’re trying to get to this point where we can herald being “post-_____”. But the voice is undetachable from the person and their narrative, their history, where they come from and so, in fact, it is an exclusionary practice regardless of the unintentional motives, that keeps the art world so incredibly lop-sided.
The axis, from which the artist must pivot, rests on the following questions? Is this an attempt to gain access or dismantle the wall? Of the various methods of doing so, what is most effective? To gain access leaves us in this perceived conundrum (although it is not), and supports a false hierarchical structure: you can come in with approval, but you can’t bring your friends with you. But when the artist dismantles the wall, they land on furtile creative ground, more importantly, on their own terms. As for the methods, there is the obvious shock-the-senses style, much like the artist of Quisqueya’s subject/object focus of Body Reconstruction (2015) magazine cutouts, Lynda Benglis. On the other end of the scale of representation, are approaches like Henriquez’s with a more synchronous method of appropriation. Which is also something of an affront as it challenges discussions that have already arrived at a conclusion. In Body Reconstruction, magazine adverts of sculptural works by feminist artist Benglis, are apprehended by Quisqueya who has always seen a masculinity about the pieces. 24 of the 11″ x 5″ magazine cutouts on book pages are seamlessly collaged with body parts of brawny muscular male body parts from torso, arms, and legs.
Henriquez uses this approach in regards to the various textiles and materials as well. Sometimes creative freedom is perceived and practiced as a burden, exchanging one border for another the artist is unable to have fun with their work. This is time and again shown by Quisqueya, not to be the case for her. In 2016, her booth at VOLTA with the former LYNCH THAM gallery used one of her geometric prints to create laminated flooring for the booth. This year at VOLTA we saw her playfulness with the use of a material called Guata, used in furniture upholstery painted with geometric shapes for contrast.
From the series: Consumption Pattern (Silver Color Field), 2017 InkJet print on flexible foam, metal cones. Dyptich. 27” x 27” each (68,5 x 68,5 cm each)
Her intentional play with low and high culture continues on with a jazzy series she’s entitled Consumption Pattern (Silver Color Field), taking metal studs of the punk rock era gone 5th Avenue sheik and on to high art while “exploring the CMYK color field as a graphic pattern.” The effects are charged and catch the eye with shimmering metal studs reflecting white light, hiding and revealing the color field pattern beneath.
Quisqueya Henríquez continues to surprise the art world with new takes on her theories of practice, demonstrating her freedom of expression. Whether that sounds trite isn’t mine or Quisqueya’s problem. It is an appreciation of the practitioner sometimes hard to obtain, yet it continuously shows in the artist’s work. Fun is a resourceful approach, she is an artist, she makes art. Her artwork and alternative approaches may be informed by, however, not bound by gender or ethnicity nor perception of “narrative” and she gets to take all of the credit for that.