The interdisciplinary practice of Donna Huanca (b. 1980, Chicago, IL) evolves across painting, sculpture, performance, choreography, video and sound, crafting a unique visual language based in collaboration and innovation. At the very heart of her oeuvre is an exploration of the human body and its relationship to space and identity. Her live sculptural pieces, or in the artist’s words, ‘original paintings’, work primarily with the nude female body, drawing particular attention to the skin as a complex surface via which we experience the world around us. Largely collaborative, the partnership between artist and model is imperative to Huanca’s practice. By exposing the naked body, while at the same time concealing it beneath layers of paint, cosmetics and latex, Huanca and her performers urge the viewer to confront their own instinctive response to the human form, which, in the artist’s hands, is both familiar and distorted, decorative and abstract.
Huanca’s two-dimensional painting practice is fundamentally linked to the performative elements of her oeuvre. Photographs of her performers’ decorated bodies are blown up and transposed to canvas, where they are re-worked with paint. Gesture is enlarged and amplified; the soundlessness of her performances reverberates across her abstract compositions. During this process, Huanca engages with the colours and forms painted on her models, resulting in a genuine interaction between the ephemeral choreography of performance art and the permanence of painting. The glacial movements of her wordless performers result in a tactile painting practice rooted both in natural process and mediated dialogue, which freezes movement in a static medium that nonetheless hints at its inspiration and origins.
Donna Huanca: OBSIDIAN LADDER
In June 2019 the Marciano Art Foundation will present OBSIDIAN LADDER, the first large-scale solo exhibition in the United States by 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.
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.
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Image: Donna Huanca, MUŠḪUŠŠU, 2018
Photo credit: Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery and Peres Projects, Berlin
Donna Huanca: LENGUA LLORONA
LENGUA LLORONA is Donna Huanca’s first solo exhibition in Scandinavia. Presented as a site-specific multimedia installation, Huanca brings together painting, sculpture, scent, sound, and performance. The exhibition is organised as coherent organic landscape of islands made of bone-white sand and populated by sixteen monumental oil paintings, which are presented with a series of totem-like steel sculptures.
During the exhibition period, a series of eight performances will activate the exhibition. The models, as Huanca calls her performers, are decorated with paint, pigment, and textiles. Like living paintings, they populate the installation leaving physical body marks on the floor and walls, thus producing a lasting transformation of the space.
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Installation View: Donna Huanca, LENGUA LLORONA, Copenhagen Contemporary, 2019