Teresita Fernández has long explored the intertwined relationships of humanity, natural phenomena, and the resulting expanses of landscape that emerge from the continued engagement of humanity with the world around us. Her pieces mix creative inquiry with studied engagements with the environment. “Landscape is about the history of people in places and how we position ourselves within those spaces,” she writes, emphasizing the human aspect of viewing and seeking to understand the spaces outside modern civilization in its relation to mankind. This ongoing conceptual project takes on new wrinkles and points of entry in Fire (America), a show of new works currently on view at Lehmann Maupin’s downtown location this month.
Teresita Fernandez, Fire (America) (Installation View), via Lehmann Maupin
Fernández’s work in this show draws on the landscape as both material and subject, using coal, fired clay and burnt paper to explore the phenomena of fire against the backdrop of a natural landscape. The gallery’s main exhibition space is dominated by a sixteen-foot wide ceramic panel, bearing whorls of red clay and deep black tones that recreate the image of a fire swirling up from the ground. This theme is echoed by a horizon line traced around the room in charcoal, as if traces of smoke were spiraling out from the flames depicted in the center of the room to create a new landscape inside the gallery itself. These parallel conceptions of space trace both the architecture of the room and more abstracted concepts of environment and landscape, imaginations of a burning forest or industrial site spreading its smoky residue out from a central point.
The piece presents fire as tied between the natural world and human civilization, allowing its imagined presence to tie these spaces together in a sense of imagined fragility, a feeling that emphasizes both the fragility of the world around us, and the gallery itself, its wooden beams and walls stained with smoky traces of an imagined catastrophe.
The artist is also presenting a series of landscapes rendered on burnt paper, allowing the process of combustion to trace its movements along the paper’s surface. Charred sections of paper pool in sections of continued exposure, tracing the artist’s hand in a strangely compelling abstraction towards the gesture of painting or drawing. Much in the same way that the stroke or line takes prominence, here Fernández uses the flame itself as a medium, changing the paper’s position as her sole contribution to the translation, and transformation, of her materials to their final form. Much in the same way that her larger pieces delve into the raw power and transformative capacity of the natural world, her small-scale works offer an analogous engagement with the flame itself.
Offering variations and nuances into her chosen themes, Fire (America) is on view through May 20th.
— D. Creahan
Teresita Fernandez: Fire (America) [Lehmann Maupin]