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Antonio Pichillá

Venue: Gropius Bau

Antonio Pichillá

Born 1982 in San Pedro La Laguna, GT – lives and works in San Pedro La Laguna

The video piece Golpes y Sanación [Blows and Healing, 2018] by Antonio Pichillá shows the artist traversing a lush landscape and striking certain elements—the leaf-covered ground, a tree branch, rock, water from a river—with a knotted rope that makes reference to the shamanistic practice of healing trauma by returning to the scene of its origin. Natural materials like wood, stone, thread, and woven fabrics as well as sacred and ritualistic objects abound in the work of Pichillá, who draws from Mayan epistemology to create intercultural abstractions with his textile pieces and large-scale installations.

“Everything is amorphous, confusing,” the artist explains. “I restlessly look for a bond that integrates with the environment as something inexact, uncodified. I struggle to give form to transitory states.” Titled after the feathered serpent deity worshipped in many different forms across the diverse cultures of Mesoamerica, Kukulkan [Feathered Serpent, 2017] appears to be a minimalist wooden sculpture adorned with colored thread; it is actually a loom used to create the traditional Jaspé textiles of Pichillá’s hometown, San Juan Comalapa. Displayed vertically, in contrast to its horizontal placement during the weaving process, this functional object acquires a conceptual meaning. Likewise, the formlessness of the unwoven, hanging black-and-white fibers of Fuego [Fire, 2018] alludes to a life force at times destructive and impossible to contain. Straddling the ancient culture of his native Tz’utujil roots and the postcolonial imposition of a homogenous national identity, Pichillá resists performing the role of otherness predicated on antagonistic, binary constructions of identity. Rather, his work attests to the heterogeneity of everyday contemporary Tz’utujil life.

Michèle Faguet

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