Ana Mendieta: Experimental and Interactive Films is the first full-scale gallery exhibition dedicated to Mendieta’s filmworks in New York. Revealing aspects of Mendieta’s practice that are not as widely known as her ritualistic investigations of body and landscape, the exhibition demonstrates Mendieta’s technical innovations and her singular approach to the medium. The fifteen filmworks comprising the exhibition—nine of which have never been seen before—are newly transferred from their original media to digital formats. These transfers reveal detail and a vibrancy of color and contrast, while preserving these critical works for future generations.
Though Mendieta was a prolific filmmaker, creating more than 100 films in her short lifetime, this aspect of her oeuvre has not been studied independently from her broader interdisciplinary practice. A number of unknown films were recently discovered when the Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, in conjunction with Galerie Lelong, catalogued and preserved the artist’s films. Among the newly uncovered works is Mendieta’s first film, Untitled, circa 1971, made when she was a 22-year-old student at the University of Iowa. Even in her earliest work, Mendieta explored the possibilities intrinsic to the medium of film, incorporating scratches made directly onto the emulsion of celluloid film.
Other innovations in filmmaking include the use of a Cinefluorography unit, typically used for diagnostic and research purposes, to create an X-ray film that depicts the interior motion of her skull. X-ray, circa 1975, is the only film on view that includes sound. In Butterfly, 1975, Mendieta incorporated a 16-channel video processor to add a high-contrast, polarized graphic-effect to images of herself with what appear to be feathered wings.
Mendieta’s interactive filmworks turn the camera onto urban settings, capturing passersby and vendors in Mexico City and a commonplace street in Iowa. In Moffitt Building Piece, 1973, made soon after a fellow student was raped and murdered on the University of Iowa campus, the artist poured blood and viscera onto a nondescript sidewalk and filmed pedestrians’ reactions to it.
In the early 1970s, Mendieta turned her camera onto her art students at Henry Sabin Elementary School in Iowa City, filming their actions in response to her instructions. Mendieta contextualized her movement investigations at the school writing, “Time passing and change are undeniable aspects of the world around us. For the artists of our day, time has an increasingly higher dignity. Often artistic creation results in the production of art objects. However, when a concern for time is primary, an experience not an object may result.”
In addition to large-scale projections, the exhibition also includes videos, archival material, and one of Mendieta’s rare sound-based works, Untitled (Soul), circa 1973. This sound piece, also created with students at Henry Sabin Elementary School, includes recordings of their thoughtful and amusing perceptions on the soul.
The exhibition at Galerie Lelong is concurrent with the artist’s largest exhibition of films in the U.S., Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, organized by the Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota. Covered in Time and History is accompanied by a detailed publication and will travel to the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale from February 28 - July 3, 2016.
Ana Mendieta: Experimental and Interactive Films is the artist’s tenth solo exhibition at Galerie Lelong, which has represented the Estate of Ana Mendieta since 1991. Mendieta has had over 30 solo exhibitions worldwide, at museums including the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Kunstmuseum Luzern; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Museo Tamayo, Mexico City. In the last two years Mendieta had her first U.K. retrospective, Ana Mendieta: Traces, at the Hayward Gallery, London, and a large-scale retrospective at the Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Ana Mendieta: She Got Love.