Marta Palau, Mexican Sculptor Who Discovered Empowerment in Textiles, Has Died at 88

Marta Palau, a sculptor whose work took up feminist themes at a time when few others in Mexico have been doing so, has died at 88. Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBAL) introduced her passing in a press release on Friday.

INBAL mentioned that Palau “made a useful contribution to the tradition of Mexico and Latin America.”

Whereas nonetheless comparatively under-recognized past Mexico, Palau’s work is extremely revered inside the nation the place she was primarily based for nearly the whole thing of her life. She started as a painter and, in the course of the ’70s, she started producing the works for which she is greatest recognized, sculptures that contain pure supplies.

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As a rule, these sculptures make distinguished use of weaving and textiles, shifting a medium that had lengthy been thought-about girls’s work towards a extra conceptual finish.

Born in Albesa, Spain, in 1934, Palau and her household moved in 1940 to Tijuana after the autumn of the Second Spanish Republic. She went on to attend artwork faculty within the nation, nevertheless it was not till she studied textile-making with artist Josep Grau-Garriga in Barcelona within the ’60s that she settled on what would develop into her medium of selection.

In 1968, Palau grew to become one in every of 45 artists to discovered the Salón Independiente, an initiative that sought to indicate conceptual artwork that stood in stark opposition to the figuration and abstraction Mexican politicians most well-liked. In a single present organized by the Salón Independiente, Palau and Gilberto Aceves Navarro confirmed Ambientación alquímica (Alchemical Surroundings), 1970, a construction fashioned from wooden panels lined with newsprint. Viewers might stroll in between the panels and examine, at their middle, a big yellow triangle that was painted with components of the phrase “Tetragrammaton,” a transliterated model of God’s identify in Hebrew texts.

The work was destroyed, however a duplicate has been created. In an interview with La Jornada, Palau described the piece as “a talisman of safety and power,” alluding to a shamanic high quality that appeared in a lot of her works within the years afterward.

Different items by Palau from that period evince an overtly sexual high quality. Ilerda V (1973), a jute and cotton sculpture named after the province the place Palau was born, options a big slash at its middle that causes it to look vaginal. Cascada (Waterfall), 1978, is much more explicitly erotic. It’s a giant set up fashioned during which a sequence of slender arrays of nylon grasp down a wall and are allowed to run onto the ground. Palau referred to as it a “river of sperm.”

Later works by Palau would make distinguished use of supplies sourced domestically. Henequen (a plant used to make agave) and corn husks seem regularly in her works of the ’80s; she remodeled them into installations that thought-about the connection between one’s physique and its surrounding panorama. Towards the top of the last decade, she merged her religious pursuits with these supplies for a sequence referred to as “Naualli,” which is called for the Nahuatl phrase for “sorceress” or “witch.”

Palau’s work obtained acclaim in Mexico, and it appeared in biennials such because the 1986 Havana Biennial, the place she gained the highest prize, and the 1987 Bienal de São Paulo. In 2017, it appeared within the present “Radical Girls: Latin American Artwork, 1960–1985,” which appeared that yr on the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles earlier than heading to the Brooklyn Museum.

Members of the Mexican artwork scene took to social media to mourn Palau. Curator Cuauhtémoc Medina wrote on Twitter that she was the “best textile sculptor in Mexico.”

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