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Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972 - 1985

February 24 - May 22, 2005


The work of critically-acclaimed artist Ana Mendieta (1948 - 1985) will come full circle this February as the Des Moines Art Center presents the most comprehensive survey to date of over 100 works by Mendieta -- an American artist born in Cuba whose most formative years were spent studying at the University of Iowa in the 1970s. (right: Untitled (Body Tracks), 1974, Lifetime color photograph, 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm);.Copyright of The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, NY)

Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972 - 1985, organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Smithsonian Institution and curated by Hirshhorn Deputy Director Olga Viso, opens at the Art Center on February 24 and runs through May 22, 2005.

Born in 1948 in Havana, Cuba, Mendieta fled Castro's revolution as a 12-year-old and came to the United States in 1961 without her parents. Along with her sister, Raquelín, Mendieta was placed in an orphanage in Dubuque and subsequently lived in foster homes. She later attended the University of Iowa (1969 - 1977) where she participated in an experimental intermedia program that encouraged a cross discipline exchange between the visual and performing arts, as well as literature and the sciences. The artwork she produced in Iowa led to her critical recognition in the 1980s. This work included sculpture, drawings, performance, and film, focusing on the body and/or the body in the natural landscape. At her untimely death in 1985 at the age of 36, Mendieta played a critical yet under-recognized role in the land, body, and feminist art of the 1970s and 80s, which is only now coming into focus.

This exhibition will include her lesser-known performance-based works of the early 1970s made at the University of Iowa and continue with the better-known "Silueta" series, or actions in the landscape, made in Iowa and Mexico between 1973 and 1980. The show will also include the "Rupestrian" series, landscape interventions made in Cuba in 1981 that are documented in large prints and photographic etchings, as well as documentation of earthworks executed in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Long Island, Cape Cod, and Canada in the early 1980s. In addition, the exhibition will include film, video, and sequenced slide projections that document her early performance works and time-based actions in nature. Two works from the Des Moines Art Center's Permanent Collections are featured in the exhibition.

Prior to traveling to Des Moines, this exhibition was hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. It will conclude its tour at the Miami Art Museum, October 2, 2005 to January 15, 2006.

The exhibition is made possible by The Henry Luce Foundation, the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation, and The Judith Rothschild Foundation. Initial research was supported by Craig Robins and a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Getty Grant Program. Additional support for the exhibition catalogue was made possible through the generosity of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz and Isabel and Ricardo Ernst. The Des Moines Art Center's presentation of Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972 - 1985 is made possible with support from the Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc.


Selected related programs

Gallery Talk: Thursday, March 10, 7:00 pm. Free Admission Presented by: Jeff Fleming, deputy director/senior curator and Hans Breder, Emeritus F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Art, School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa. Hans Breder established the influential Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa, through which Breder developed a professional and personal relationship with Mendieta throughout the 1970s. Breder will add personal insight to Fleming's curatorial commentary.

Conversations on Art: The Life and Legacy of Ana Mendieta, Sunday, April 10, 1:00 pm. Levitt Auditorium. Intermission with refreshments. Free admission. This important event brings together four people whose lives have been affected by Ana Mendieta on a variety of levels. Each will deliver a 20-minute talk focused on a particular issue related to the artist. Olga M. Viso is the deputy director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and curator of Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972 - 1985. Viso also organized and contributed essays to the exhibition catalogue. Julia P. Herzberg is a specialist in art of Latin America and independent curator and her 1998 dissertation, "Ana Mendieta: The Iowa Years: A Critical Study, 1969 through 1977," brought to light critical information about Mendieta's formative influences and the impact of the Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa. Raquelín Mendieta is the artist's sister, the administrator of her estate, and an artist. Raquelín accompanied Ana as they moved from Cuba to Iowa in 1961 through Operation Peter Pan. Carolee Schneemann is an artist whom Ana Mendieta knew and admired as an early force in the women's art movement. Schneemann helped to transform the definition of art, especially discourse on the body, sexuality, and gender.

Film: Ana Mendieta: Fuego de Tierra, 1987, February 24 - May 22. Ongoing in the Art Center Resource Area. Nereyda García-Ferraz, director. 52 minutes, not-rated. This video is a portrait of the life and work of Ana Mendieta. Interview footage with the artist and her own filmed records of her earthworks and performances are incorporated to render a vivid testament to her energy and extraordinary talent.

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Ana Mendieta: Fuego de Tierra, 1987, Nereyda García-Ferraz, director. This video is a portrait of the life and work of Ana Mendieta. Interview footage with the artist and her own filmed records of her earthworks and performances are incorporated to render a vivid testament to her energy and extraordinary talent. Available through the Des Moines Art Center. 52 minutes, not-rated.

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