NEW YORK — American artist Teresita Fernández has boldly shared her prophecy for the U.S. in her exhibition Fire (America) at Lehmann Maupin (March 17 – May 20, 2017). The exhibition features a 16-foot glazed ceramic wall panel depicting a nocturnal landscape engulfed in flames, as well as a new series of abstract landscapes made from burned paper. With the avarice of American politicians and the tyranny of truth, Fernández pieces together a grim picture of American consumption, damnation and fire rendering a prophetic bleakness, Hyperallergic writes.
This exhibition is a work of prophecy. It is also a work of artistic ambition: to use drawing as a tool to extract the metaphorical potential of a landscape by giving the one Fernández has formed here the added dimensionality of shadows, along with the rough topography formed by some charred forms fixed to the walls. The installation evokes a clearer understanding of what I recognize as a landscape — that is, a site that is distant until I get close enough to recognize the objects in it. At that point, they become my surroundings and it’s too late to escape.
Beyond the hand-cut and hand-glazed ceramic pieces fabricated by Mosaika, the walls are overrun by charred remnants and ashy debris void of color and life; a panoramic on-site drawing titled Charred Landscape (America). The work is composed of built-up, dimensional layers of solid charcoal applied directly to the gallery walls.
The cinders are a fitting metaphor for the nation’s ravenous political appetites and insatiable angers that want to consume truthful rhetoric, intellectual discourse, philosophical consistency, ethical fidelity, and whoever the opposition may be. What’s left behind when these are swallowed up by righteous indignation is not mere gas and steam, but ashy debris pocking a landscape as bleak as it is barren.
These remnants are a poignant coda and a sign attempting to stave off such destruction. Following along this tone, I can’t seem to shake this incredibly efficient quote by American environmentalist Ed Abbey:
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
Even so, I find hope in Fernández’s warning. If heeded, the psychological trauma of humanity’s metaphorical demise may open our eyes just enough to realize the impact of the consumptive American Dream.
What fires often leave behind, and what is left behind here, is a shoulder-level horizon line of charred wood encircling the gallery. These remnants are a poignant coda to the story above and the portent that attempts to wave us off from it.
Similar to the new growth generated after a forest fire, perhaps humanity can rise from the ashes with a clarity as to how to sustainably create a new world.
Fernández, born in 1968, is an American sculptor and installation artist who lives and works in New York.
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