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13 December 2014 – 21 February 2015
A solo exhibition by Daniel Guzmán
Chromosome Damage is an exhibition of 30 drawings by Daniel Guzmán, his first solo exhibition in a public gallery in the UK. Guzmán is among the generation of artists in Mexico City whose radical and conceptual approach to art first attracted the attention of the international art scene in the 1990s. Guzmán is mainly recognised for his stylised cartoon-like imagery and texts made in ink on paper and walls. These works contain multi layered references to lyrics and song titles from rock bands like Kiss, AC/DC, the writings of William Burroughs and Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, to satirical illustrations of Mexican politicians of the 1970s. The title for his exhibition is taken from ‘Chromosome Damage’, a song by Chrome, an experimental rock band founded in San Francisco.
Guzmán’s sculptures and drawings are steeped in the context of Mexican and pre-Hispanic imagery. Since 2000 he has researched and visited archaeological sites as a means of confronting his personal and historical background as a Mexican from Oaxaca. This new series of works on paper, their first showing in the UK, is the result of his intensive research about the cultural history of Mexico, exploring the mythical and cultural expression of national identity and representation. These works directly reference the paramount imagery and iconography of Aztec sculpture and archaeological findings, mainly the great deities of Coatlicue, Tlaltecuhtli and the Cihuatéotl, powerful female goddesses and earth mothers that often embody dual symbols for fertility, life, death and sacrifice. For Guzmán, the fusing of cultural, mythical and historical sources through the reference to Aztec symbols of the female body, teeth, serpents and skulls, refers to man’s destiny and place in the world.
In Chromosome Damage each of the thirty drawings represents a single, mainly female, figure baring teeth and pop out eyes, which goes through mystic and troubling metamorphosis – feet become tree trunks and serpents coil round them, limbs are extended and breasts and other features multiply. These works are made in pastel, charcoal, ink and acrylic on a thin, brown paper that is generally used to serve street food. Guzman’s palette is dictated by the distinct attributes and colour significance of each deity that he characterises as both human and spirit like. Earthy colours - browns, pinks and reds predominate – but brighter yellows and reds make appearances.
As the artist states, “In these drawings I look for ways to represent the matter that gives form to the universe, something that is in constant ebullition and transformation, forms that transfer, merge, twist and turn”.
In Chromosome Damage Guzmán takes a tantalisingly rich subject matter that is distinctively Mexican and creates something personal and political, provocative and humorous that resonates within a wider cultural context.
Daniel Guzmán (b.1964) was born in Mexico City where he lives and works. He has exhibited internationally, with recent solo exhibitions at Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Mexico, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Mexico and New Museum, New York.