Marciano Art Foundation is pleased to announce OBSIDIAN LADDER, the first large-scale solo exhibition in the United States by Bolivian American artist Donna Huanca. Huanca’s site-specific installation for MAF’s 13,000-square-foot Theater Gallery will reveal a new topography of triggered senses, combining sound, scent, and live performance. These elements will be experienced together against a constellation of carved steel sculptures and skin paintings.
Skin and the body—its presence and absence—lay at the core of Huanca’s works. The artist utilizes materials that have a direct relationship to nature, such as raw pigments, oils, turmeric, sand, and clay. These are key elements in her “skin paintings,” for which she applies fragments of paint, latex, and other skin-like materials to either the human body or canvas. These same materials appear on her sculptures throughout the exhibition, creating a tactile ecosystem that links her pieces to one another. Using skin as both canvas and performative tool, Huanca deconstructs dominant gender and body politics and introduces an alternative, non-objectifying gaze—one focused on memory, biology, and time.
Similar to her exhibition Piedra Quemada at Belvedere Museum in Vienna in 2018, OBSIDIAN LADDER will challenge the space of the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple as a site of projected male power. In a series of regular performances taking place throughout the five-month run of the exhibition, painted femme models will inhabit the Theater Gallery as part of a direct intervention of a space formerly relegated to a secret order of men.
As much about the process as the product, Huanca’s practice becomes a system of spirituality. For the artist, these works function as a type of femme mark-making rooted in scientific and natural phenomena, Andean futurism, and meditative practices. Huanca claims no agency over the individuals she invites into her femme universe. She and the models share in the ritualistic experience of painting; their movement through the space is self-determined, not bound to any script or instruction. Huanca explains, “I perceive space as both cohesive and elusive, something that can be activated at several levels. By virtue of their powerful presence, the models facilitate a transitory process that captures and develops the space. The models become a kind of respiratory system of temporality and deconstruction. They sense and feel the space, leaving it changed.”
As she does for every exhibition, Huanca will work with local models that participate in the exhibition. She will also produce a series of limited-edition artworks and merchandise to be sold at the MAF Bookstore. All proceeds from the sale of these items will be donated to local LGBTQ and women’s charities. Marciano Art Foundation is pleased to donate the entirety of the production costs for these items.
Alongside the exhibition, MAF will present a series of public programs with female artists, activists, and scholars discussing topics related to the performance of gender and sexuality in contemporary life. Further details on these events will be released in the following weeks.
Donna Huanca: OBSIDIAN LADDER is accompanied by a full-color publication published by the Marciano Art Foundation and distributed by D.A.P. | Artbook. Available in October and designed by Lorraine Wild/Green Dragon Office, the book will include an essay by Ceci Moss and an interview with Huanca by Jamillah James. Donna Huanca: OBSIDIAN LADDER is the fourth book in MAF’s Project Series, which also includes Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum, Olafur Eliasson: Reality Projector, and Ai Weiwei: Life Cycle.
Marciano Art Foundation
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