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North Dakota Museum of Art, 2002-2003

Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, 1998


María Magdalena Campos-Pons

"Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons work of the last 20 years covers an extended range of visual language investigations. Campos-Pons' work emerges from the early 1980s focus on painting and the discussion of sexuality in the crossroads of Cuban mixed cultural heritage to incisive questioning, critique and insertion of the black body in the contemporary narratives of the present. Installation art, performative photography and cultural activism define the core of Campos-Pons' practice of the last two decades. A cross collaboration with musician composer and husband, Neil Leonard, that started in 1988, has complemented and enriched the scope of Campos-Pons' work. Together they founded GASP, a lab and studio for the 21st century. She has lectured from the Tate Modern to the Brooklyn Museum and the School of Art in Dakar.

Campos-Pons has been exhibited internationally since 1984 when she won the Honorable Mention at the XVIII Cagnes-sur-Mer Painting Competition in France, and the Bunting Fellowship in Visual Arts at Harvard 1993; solo shows followed at MoMA, the Venice Biennale 2001, Johannesburg Biennial, the First Liverpool Biennial, the Dak'ART Biennial in Senegal; most recently the Guangzhou Triennial in China hosted her work. A 20-year retrospective of Campos-Pons' work, Everything is Separated by Water: Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, opened in Indianapolis in 2006 and traveled to the Bass Museum in Miami. A new museum show will open in Nashville in 2010.

Campos-Pons was celebrated as one of upcoming young leaders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Women's Chapter, among the 100 Most Influential Latinos, and honored in 2008 as Harvard launched its Campaign to build the new Harvard Art Museum, as well at the Indianapolis Museum of Arts' 125th Anniversary Gala in 2008. Campos-Pons was selected to receive the Rappaport Prize in 2007. "

Maria is well thought of among her fellow artists in Havana, especially those who have taken an interest in AfroCuban themes:

"...el discurso más visceral y definido en tanto poética global de esos años es el de la artista María Magdalena Campos. Una zona considerable de la obra de esta artista lo constituye el abordaje de la problemática racial -rara avis en esos tiempos- sumándole además la impronta de asumirlo desde una perspectiva femenina. Una de sus obras más notables fue, en mi criterio, la instalación Tra..., expuesta en el Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes durante la IV Bienal de la Habana (1991). La misma aludía desde su evocador título a términos como trata, tráfico, trampa, transculturación, tránsito, etc, y contenía un texto que se refería a todos los padecimientos de la raza negra a partir de su llegada al Nuevo Mundo. Esta instalación establecía mediante imágenes de negros hacinados (grandes paneles de madera a manera de barcos negreros con fotografías en las que el blanco y negro acentuaba el tono dramático) las coordenadas conceptuales en las que se movía Magdalena Campos. Ahora bien, es realmente en la presente década donde la asunción de esta temática cobra verdadera fuerza y donde además los discursos que en este sentido se dirigen se complejizan discurriendo por una serie de canales diversos y al mismo tiempo unívocos que permiten su análisis en tanto hecho factual y, algo muy a tener en cuenta, distanciados del panfleto, sin asumir del tema con una actitud militante o agresiva y sí reflexiva y cuestionadora o distanciados igualmente de la simulación para recurrir a él como estrategia en este fin de siglo que prepondera los discursos de los tradicionalmente "relegados" (gays, negros, mujeres, etc)."  -- Ariel Ribeaux Diago, Ni musicos, no deportistas

1998 Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Artup.gif (925 bytes)


Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons: Spoken Softly with Mama

March 5-May 26, 1998
Garden Hall Video Gallery, third floor

Multimedia artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (b. 1959) debuts a site-specific installation entitled Spoken Softly with Mama, on March 5, 1998 at The Museum of Modern Art. The Cuban-born, Boston-based artist combines elements of sculpture, painting, photography, performance, and video work to explore her African/Cuban roots and to address themes of gender, race, family and history. Spoken Softly with Mama will remain on view through May 26, 1998.

"Unfolding layers of history and experience, Campos-Pons brings to light the ephemeral qualities of everyday lives and untold stories. The artist's life and work involve a continuous engagement with her mother, sisters, family, and neighbors in Cuba. By extension, her work refers to the generations of Africans transported there in centuries past to work on sugarcane and tobacco plantations who transcended their oppression through the strength of their religious and cultural practices," says Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film and Video, who organized the exhibition.

Spoken Softly with Mama is the second part of a series entitled History of People Who Were Not Heroes, begun in 1994 as a chronicle of the former slave barracks in the province of Matanzas, Cuba where Campos-Pons was born. This new installation comprises projected video images, cast-glass irons, wooden objects, fabric, and sound, evoking and transforming the memories and experiences of the town's inhabitants. It is also a portrait of the artist's family, revealed through their imprint on household objects and told through the women's voices and songs.

"A space can bear the imprint of its inhabitants even in their absence. An object can personify an individual even more than his or her portrait. This is the concept behind the selection of objects-furniture for the installation; a portrait of a family narrated through the voices of objects that constitute their environment," says Campos-Pons of Spoken Softly with Mama.

The first part of History of People, A Town Portrait (1994) will be on view at the Lehman College Art Gallery, New York, N.Y., through May 16, concurrent with the MoMA exhibition. Ms. Campos-Pons created this work during her residence as a Bunting Fellow of Visual Arts at Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College at Harvard.

This exhibition is supported by The Junior Associates and The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

Public Program
The Museum presents a screening and discussion in conjunction with this exhibition:

Monday, March 9, 1998, 6:30 p.m.
Video Viewpoints
Multimedia artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons discusses Spoken Softly with Mama, as well as her installation work that combines elements of sculpture, painting, photography, and performance. Video Viewpoints is organized by Sally Berger.

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Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons 2007 Video interview in English, University of Colorado
An interview with Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, a Cuban artist whose works explore the intersection of art and autobiography. Campos-Pons investigates themes of memory, matriarchy, domestic labor, race, femininity and heritage to make her personal stories resonate. - ResearchChannel is a nonprofit media and technology organization that connects a global audience with the research and academic institutions whose developments, insights and discoveries affect our lives and futures.

a the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Johannesburg Biennial, 97

MIT List Visual Arts Center, 99

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