October 4, 2023 843 PM
MARFA — The work of contemporary Indigenous artist Porfirio Gutiérrez, naturally-dyed modern interpretations of traditional Oaxacan weavings, are the subject of Cosmos/Continuous Line, a new exhibition opening at the Chinati Foundation this weekend.
Artist remarks and a champagne toast will take place at the special exhibition space on Chinati’s grounds at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by a talk between Gutiérrez and curator Ingrid Schaffner at 3 p.m. at The Crowley Theatre.
Post-talk, Gutiérrez will have a trunk show of functional weavings, affordably priced pieces for the home, for sale, to allow people to directly support the larger Zapotec textile community of indigo and cochineal farmers, spinners and families — all part of a rich history the artist himself hails from.
While Gutiérrez’s lineage is steeped in the 10,000-year-old practice of loom-based textiles and natural dyes, he experienced the standardization of the techniques and materials as a result of commodification which for many years turned him away from the practice. Tourism drove up demand, and makers opted for faster production and synthetic dyes.
The artist migrated to Southern California, where he maintains a studio, and only began rediscovering and reinterpreting Zapotec weaving later on in life.
“I was looking to connect with my identity and visiting my community,” said Gutiérrez. “I found weaving again. I also paid attention to the inner voice that I often refer to as the DNA information, listening to what the ancestors wished and prayed for how their culture could thrive in the future.”
On view will be brand new works that are a part of his two ongoing series, Cosmos and Continuous Line. Both honor Gutiérrez’s desire to bring back a style of weaving that was lost during the commercialization process, one that leans more on natural methods, and express his voice as an Indigenous artist living in America with modern influences.
“What I’m doing as an artist is trying to regain my right of imagination,” said Gutiérrez. “[I’m] trying to move beyond the encapsulation and the freezing of creativity through standardizing tradition.”
Continuous Line works — limited-toned, concentrated weavings — sprout from layered thinking, he said, about the border, migration, and shared aesthetics of geometric, abstract minimalism seen in architectural sites like Monte Albán and in the work of American modernists like Josef Albers.
Pieces are imbued with “millenia of information,” on science and chemistry as well as the spiritual elements of understanding color and connecting with nature that his ancestors developed, said Gutiérrez.
The Cosmos series, weavings that have been overdyed with indigo, creating cloud-like deep blue stains, were inspired by the Zapotec tradition of studying the stars, agricultural calendars, fertility and more to develop symbols.
The show was inspired by another concurrent exhibition, Woven Histories, now on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Donald Judd’s textile collections which include Navajo weavings, and the past 2003 Chinati exhibition of textiles by Danish artist Trine Ellitsgaard, said Schaffner.
The Chinati show marks the first time Gutiérrez’s work has been shown at such a scale, and he emphasized the need to celebrate the fact that his style of work, and the multifaceted nature of contemporary Indigenous artists, is being acknowledged.
“All these things obviously help to uplift the Indigenous culture, but it’s acknowledging how Indigenous people are engaging today with modernism and minimalism, and that it’s all these layers,” said Gutiérrez. “I’m a dyer, I’m a weaver. I’m a craftsperson. I’m Indigenous. I’m a modernist.”