Born in Flames
“If I could show you my veins,” asks one of Chitra Ganesh’s characters, both female and feline, in the comic-book-like Will there ever (2021), “would you tell me stories about the continents they led into (centuries ago—?).” Indeed, in Firelei Báez’s Untitled (New Chart of the Windward Passages) (2020), a woman with swirling blue and indigo skin kneels atop a map of Haiti, her long outstretched leg cutting a new line across the veins of the map, as if raising new topographies from her mottled skin. In this group show of fourteen contemporary non-binary and femme-identified artists, the first in a series of programs to celebrate the Bronx Museum’s fifty-year commitment to social justice, femininity is the lifeblood of the past, the land, and above all, the future.
“We can be anything we want to be,” insists one of the protagonists in Salacia (2019), a short film by the artist Tourmaline, which reimagines the intersecting lives of the inhabitants of Seneca Village, a free Black community razed to construct Central Park. Fittingly for an exhibition which centers artists seeking to redraw borders and imagine new sightlines, the lines of the exhibition themselves are skewed, leading a visitor between angled plinths, through recursive walkways, and to artworks which deal with space in unusual ways. See, for instance, María Berrío’s large-scale tableau, which inverts the typical orientation of bronze sculpture by placing its central figure on the floor, nearly sunken into its base, or Clarissa Tossin’s When the River Meets the Sea (2020), which considers the ways multinational corporations and colonialism have reshaped natural features such as the Amazon River through a twenty-foot weaving which hangs from the ceiling and cuts diagonally across the gallery floor. In Shoshanna Weinberger’s site-specific installation Traversing the Invisible Lines (2021), mirrored cutouts of many-limbed, high-heeled women scramble not only the black and white grid they stand upon, but also Báez’s grid-based works behind them, as well as Caitlin Cherry’s already swirling and psychedelic Her Widescreen Tetra (2021) beside them—not so much traversing unseen lines but obliterating them entirely. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Firelei Báes) Untitled (New Chart of the Windward Passages), 2020. Oil and acrylic on archival printed canvas, 66 x 86.25 inches. Collection of Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins.