In his second solo exhibition at Sies + Höke, and tying in with DC Open, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa (*1978, Guatemala City) presents new wood panels and a sculptural mobile.
Having shown at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions in recent years, Ramírez-Figueroa is clearly amongst the leading Latin American artists today. Working in performance, sculpture, drawing and printmaking, he creates fantastical allegories and symbolic tableaux based on the legacies of experimental theatre and political activism in Guatemala as well as personal memories. His narratives are often whimsy and playful, but also bear the weight of tragic events that have shaped the social and political climate of present day Guatemala.
The exhibition’s title, Deus Ex Machina, refers to the device from Greek theatre, where a seemingly unsolvable problem in a plot is abruptly resolved and brought to a happy ending by an unexpected and unlikely appearance: a “god out of the machine” (Deus ex machina). A mobile carrying the same title is at the centre of the exhibition. Similar to the mechanism used in ancient Greek theatre to bring the unexpected “god” into appearance, a set of ropes and pulleys here carry a bronze cast tree branch as well as a group of mask-like resin sculptures. Resembling folk saints or deities that are typically invoked for the protection of nature in Guatemala and beyond, these masks point towards the desperate state in which we find not only today’s tropical rainforests, but nature as a whole. It seems only a Deus Ex Machina can rescue us from the consequences of environmental crisis.
A series of paintings on carved wood panels, recalling tropical leaves, complete the exhibition. Ramírez-Figueroa has carefully structured plant shapes into patterns and abstractions that reflect not only nature itself, but also its appropriation through mankind across cultures and centuries, citing for example the shapes of Art Deco Tiffany lamps as an inspiration. The new series if based on the shape of Anthurium plants that have since the 19th century been the subject of much praise by collectors in Europe and North America, a situation which has sometimes led to over collection in the wild and the extinction of species in their natural habitat in South and Central America. The series of paintings act as a meditation on the geometry of the leaves, and how in loving and collecting them humans have made many disappear in nature.