In Vásquez de la Horra’s cosmology, we encounter fantastical creatures on whatever journey we take, whether it is to a real place or an imagined future.
I first wrote about Sandra Vásquez de la Horra’s post-symbolist drawings on wax-soaked paper in the spring of 2016, when she had a show at David Nolan. As with all artists working in a highly recognizable style or vocabulary, repeating one’s symbols or making slight variations on them are pitfalls that are extremely difficult to circumvent. You might say that falling into a routine can be an occupational hazard when working with symbols, which have a tendency to remain consistent from work to work. This is not the case with Vásquez de la Horra, who keeps expanding, both formally and visually, the territory she has been exploring.
I don’t think it is hard to understand why Sandra Vásquez de la Horra’s pencil drawings depict dejected, often isolated figures from a domain that is simultaneously fairy tale, horror story, and dream. She was born into a conservative Catholic family in Chile in 1967, and grew up during Augusto Pinochet’s murderous, 17-year military rule (1973–1990), studying typography and graphic design. She also began a deep engagement with literature, including such writers as the innovative and insubordinate Chilean poet, Nicanor Parra, who wrote:
United States: the country where
liberty is a statue.
(translated by Anna Deeny)
A Chilean artist who grew up under the oppressive Pinochet regime, Sandra Vásquez de la Horra studied graphic design and typography in her homeland before moving to Germany in 1995. She arrived in Düsseldorf at age 28, where she studied at the prestigious Kunstakademie and developed a psychologically charged style of figurative drawing done on modestly sized pieces of paper dipped in beeswax and pinned to the wall in poetic, non-narrative arrangements. At David Nolan, the artist presents a group of her raw graphite works, which boldly examine sex, death, politics and religion, alongside new three dimensional paper pieces that are cleverly constructed to resemble simple houses.
“Crossroads,” Sandra Vásquez de la Horra’s show at David Nolan Gallery in Chelsea, is as intimate and unsettling as anyone familiar with the work of this Chilean-born, Berlin-based artist might expect.
Playful and diabolic, Vásquez de la Horra’s style merges personal and lyrical narratives, engaging private and social memory and mythology. These narratives, or really antinarratives, which disrupt conventional notions of plot, chronology, and character development, are created from collections of (mostly graphite) drawings on wax–coated, creamy white paper.
Drawing Light From The Dark Arts
By Chris Phillips
We visit Sandra Vásquez de la Horra at her studio apartment in Berlin—along with her macabre creatures. Little did we know we were entering a world of great sensibility, adorned with dark artwork that would leave our minds a bit brighter.
Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, "Entre el cielo y la tierra"
By Paul Laster
A Chilean artist who grew up under the oppressive Pinochet regime, Sandra Vásquez de la Horra studied graphic design and typography in her homeland before moving to Germany in 1995. Arriving in Düsseldorf at age 28, she studied at the prestigious Kunstakademie, developing a psychologically charged style of figurative drawings done on modestly sized pieces of paper that are then dipped in beeswax and pinned to the wall in poetic, nonnarrative arrangements. For her second solo show in New York, the artist presents nearly 100 of these raw graphite works, which boldly examine sex, death, politics and religion.
By Katherine Chan
"Elles@centrepompidou" comprises works, culled from the Pompidou's own collection, created by more than 200 women artists from the early Modernist era to the present day. The exhibition touts itself as the first of its kind at a major national museum, and indeed, it makes one wonder why there have not been more shows devoted to women's contributions to art. Featuring photographs, documents, and films of such celebrated feminist works as the groundbreaking, body-oriented performance piece Meat Joy (1964) by Carolee Schneemann and similar pieces by Orlan and Valie Export, "Elles" presents the woman's movement as one of the most crucial political and cultural developments since World War II. Andrea Fraser comments on museums' power hierarchies with her famous performance piece Museum Highlights (1989), displayed as a video alongside other institutional critiques by 1980s artists like Louise Lawler. Drawings by the contemporary Chilean artist Sandra Vásquez de la Horra offer a humorous and dark vision of her personal world, marked by violence and carnal desire. Charlotte Perriand and Zaha Hadid round out the exhibition, representing exceptional women in the male-dominated fields of design and architecture. Organized by themes such as the Activist Body and A Room of One's Own, "Elles" does not attempt to rewrite the history of women's art or to make any grand statements about gender inequalities in the galleries of prominent arts institutions. What it does do is to reveal the extraordinary talents of women artists and celebrate them with flair.
Sandra Vásquez de la Horra
The Chilean artist's surrealistic, cannily crude wax-coated pencil drawings split differences between Goyaesque phantasmagoria and op-ed illustration. Themes of sexual abjection, political violence, and death are advanced with sardonic, ambiguous zeal—relishing as much as deploring the depicted horrors. The use of wax gives the drawings, which often incorporate titles or captions, arresting physical density, but Vásquez de la Horra's imaginative project gains little in being displayed that it couldn't achieve in reproduction or, for that matter, in poetic paraphrase. How she thinks intrigues more strongly than what she makes.
Sandra Vásquez de la Horra
By Sprovieri Progetti
Alighiero e Boetti used to say that writing with the left hand is drawing. William Black depicted Urizen, the Zoa (or emanation of the fallen primal man) representing repressive reason and authority, as an old man writing with both hands. In Sandra Vàsquez de la Horra's video "Hemispherios: Eine politische Biografie im Kontext der Chilenischen Diktaturzeit (Hemispherios: A Political Biography in the Context of the Chilean Dictatorship)," 2002, the camera looks down from the Chilean artist, who, like an allegory of Justice, is blindfolded and writes page after page with both hands in a large volume, each hand mirroring the other so that the letters on each left-hand page are reversed. As she leans forward to write, her body blocks our view, making it impossible to read her words; but as each spread is filled, she sits back, revealing its content for a moment before she flips the page and goes on. Her life story is inscribed in a litany of phrases, names, sometimes just detached words--not a narrative or even a chronicle, yet eloquent enough for the viewer to discern the artist's sense of incapacity in the face of murder, disappearances, torture, exile, and mourning, but also of solidarity and hope.