[ON VIEW: CURATORIAL STUDIES]
VALERIE BRATHWAITE. WORKS ON PAPER.
Curated by Macarena Deij Prado
September 21 - November 18, 2023
VALERIE BRATHWAITE. WORKS ON PAPER.
The work of Valerie Brathwaite (Trinidad and Tobago, 1938) embodies a radical commitment to the energy and infinite possibilities of free form and unrestrained volume. Primarily known as a sculptor, she has created a visual repertoire characterized by the artist's exploration of organic abstraction through fluid, sinuous lines, and forms. Brathwaite infuses her drawings with a connection to the environment through her close observation and contemplative interaction with the natural world. Her native Caribbean is a persistent inspiration throughout her career, seen in the color-evoking bright flora and fauna in many of her pieces. Brathwaite's work emphasizes form; her signature language in sculpture involved undulating, voluptuous, biomorphic shapes. This sensual volumetric approach also translated into her drawings, exploring the interplay of forms and the sensual aspects of abstraction. Her work's suggestive and powerful nature lies in the essential pleasure derived from its abstract sensuality.
Most of the drawings included in this exhibition were created in the 1970s. This was a prolific decade that marked a pivotal moment in Brathwaite’s career and in the history of art in Venezuela, where she moved in 1969 and has developed her career since. In this period, she started exploring the natural world in various media and materials in her characteristic organic abstraction style, consolidating her career. In Venezuela, she was inspired by fellow immigrant artist Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt), a central figure of modernist abstraction in the country. On the occasion of Valerie Brathwaite's third solo show in Venezuela and first at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas in 1975, her sculptures were displayed directly on the floor, emphasizing the horizontal rather than the typical vertical axis of sculpture. This evoked the landscape and geological formations that inspired her. On the exhibition catalog of that show, art critic Juan Calzadilla asserted that Valerie Brathwaite had transformed sculpture in Venezuela by employing a new horizontal dynamic, giving sculpture what he calls a new "aesthetic of the crawling," eschewing tradition and placing "the terrestrial" at the core of South American culture.
Drawing from her background as a sculptor, her drawings incorporate a sense of tactile materiality to create texture and depth, adding a sculptural quality to her two-dimensional works. Unlike her sculptural works, however, her drawings offer a different visual experience, allowing her to experiment uniquely with composition, coexisting planes, lines, texture, and color. To this date, the artist's keen eye for detail and her fascination with the intricate growth patterns of plants and the textures of the landscape has driven her to experiment on a smaller scale with new materials such as fabric and porcelain. On View: Valerie Brathwaite. Works on Paper is an opportunity to connect with drawings where lines and forms coexist in a continuous state of metamorphosis and infinite exploration of the picture plane.
Macarena Deij Prado
This exhibition is part of the ISLAA Artist Seminar Initiative sponsored by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) in collaboration with the University Galleries and the School of Art and Art History. The parallel exhibition Vital and Veil: Valerie Brathwaite and José Gabriel Fernández will be on view at the Gary R. Libby University Gallery from Octo- ber 27, 2023, to January 26, 2024.