James Cohan is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Firelei Báez, on view at 48 Walker Street and online through May 10, 2020. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition with James Cohan.
Firelei Báez casts diasporic histories into an imaginative realm, reworking visual references drawn from the past to explore new possibilities for the future. Often depicting strong, shape-shifting female protagonists, her paintings incorporate motifs sourced from regional mythologies and historical artifacts alongside cues from science fiction and fantasy, to envision identities as unfixed, and inherited stories as perpetually evolving.
Her second exhibition at James Cohan features new paintings in which figuration, symbolic imagery, and calligraphic gesture are overlaid onto large-scale reproductions of historical maps and documents. Driven by the migrant experience of navigating and articulating spaces that are both familiar and physically distant, Báez’s new body of work is grounded in archival research into individual and collective modes of organizing space: the ways in which built infrastructure—and conceptions of place and community—reflect and reinforce social relations conditioned by gender, race, and class. For more than a decade, Báez has painted directly onto found cartographic or printed materials to disrupt the boundaries they serve to delineate. Questioning notions of past and present, mark-making and painterly gesture become means of situating subjugated personal memory and experience in dialogue with narratives of the Western tradition. The works in her exhibition carry forward this longstanding interest while upscaling source materials onto large-format canvas to allow for intervention in human proportion.
With a goal to reclaim power, Báez populates these historically loaded representations of space with change-making creatures—whose hybrid forms incorporate folkloric and literary references, textile pattern, plantlife, and wide-ranging emblems of healing and resistance—to present fictional alternative universes.