Anna Bella Geiger (Brazilian, b. 1933) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work excavates the systems governing knowledge and experience. From her early experiments in video to her exploration of bookmaking as an art form, she has produced a groundbreaking body of conceptual work that confronts hegemonic structures, geopolitical dynamics, and the hierarchies of the art world. Geiger began her career in the 1950s as a painter, producing abstract informalist paintings until 1964, when she embarked on a series that referenced the human body, as part of what art critic Mário Pedrosa termed her “visceral phase.” In the late 1960s, her work began to respond to the sociopolitical context of Brazil, which had entered a decades-long dictatorship in 1964. She started to engage with cartography, topography, linguistics, and education, which would become long-term interests, and to explore non-traditional media, including performance, collage, and printmaking, around this time. In the 1970s, she became one of the first artists to experiment with video in Brazil, producing durational and poetic works in public space. Subsequently, in the 1980s and ’90s, she returned to the mediums of painting and sculpture, continuing to experiment with the themes of cartography. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including Anna Bella Geiger: Native Brazil/Alien Brazil (2020) at the Museo de Arte de São Paulo; Anna Bella Geiger: Geografía física y humana (2018) at La Casa Encendida, Madrid; Anna Bella Geiger: Maps Under the Sky of Rio de Janeiro (2018) at Zachçeta, National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; and On a Certain Piece of Land (2005) at Red Gate Gallery, Beijing.
The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) is thrilled to present Political/Subjective Maps: Anna Bella Geiger, Magali Lara, Lea Lublin, and Margarita Paksa. Curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, the exhibition will bring together key works by Anna Bella Geiger (Brazilian, b. 1933), Magali Lara (Mexican, b. 1956), Lea Lublin (French Argentine, 1929–1999), and Margarita Paksa (Argentine, 1933–2020). It will explore how these four visionary Conceptual artists have appropriated the visual language of maps to highlight entrenched power structures; mine social, political, emotional, and personal subjects; and imagine new ways of apprehending the world.
Maps have an extensive legacy in the history of Latin American art—from Joaquín Torres-García’s América Invertida (1943) to Juan Downey’s Map of America (1975)—and have offered productive terrain for confronting the colonialist systems underpinning international dynamics. Whereas maps are often accepted as neutral, depoliticized, and scientific, artists have emphasized their origins as constructed and symbolic representations, informed by the biased viewpoints and covert objectives of their creators. From the ancient period through the European conquests to the present day, cartography has been used to cement hierarchies, demarcate territory, and visualize power relationships through elements such as scale, positioning, and orientation.
Engaging a variety of mediums and conceptual approaches, Geiger, Lara, Lublin, and Paksa have challenged the colonialist and patriarchal perspectives embedded within map making in their work. Geiger defies neocolonial categories in her reconceived maps, while Paksa examines histories of state violence in Uruguay and Argentina in series such as Diagramas de batallas (1970–76). In opposition to the scientific rationality of ordering systems such as charts and atlases, Lara addresses intimacy, emotion, and desire in her drawings and watercolors. By contrast, Lublin constructed interactive environments such as Fluvio Subtunal (1969) that sought to generate new, liberatory ways of experiencing art.
Thematically and spatially, the exhibition is divided into two broad topics—subjectivity and politics—and moves from the interior realms of the mind and the body to the exterior domains of the public and the political. The first section explores mapping as a means for producing a collective experience in Lublin’s work and concludes with Lara’s application of cartography to depict personal subjectivity and feminine identity. The second section considers representations of geopolitical dynamics in Geiger’s work, and the politics of resistance and denunciation in Paksa’s practice.
By presenting these diverse projects side by side, Political/Subjective Maps illuminates the multifaceted uses of the map as a tool for challenging, distilling, and understanding sociopolitical and personal experience. Through their distinct conceptual practices, Geiger, Lara, Lublin, and Paksa have pushed the visual language of cartography in new directions. By reframing their work in relation to this subject, this exhibition provides unique opportunities for further study of the role and importance of mapping in their individual practices, building a foundation for additional research and scholarship.
Political/Subjective Maps is accompanied by a booklet featuring an essay by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and designed by Ramón Tejada. Physical copies will be distributed free of charge at ISLAA, and a digital version will be made available to download on this page in October.
The exhibition will open with a reception on Thursday, October 13 from 5 to 8 PM. Guests are asked to sign up in advance using this online form.
ISLAA is open from 2 to 5 PM on Tuesday and from 2 to 7 PM from Wednesday to Friday. Visitors must wear masks while on site. Although walk-ins are allowed, guests are encouraged to book appointments through ISLAA’s online scheduler.
For press inquiries, please email Olivia Casa, exhibition and curatorial manager, at [email protected]
ISLAA EXHIBITION TALKS
In conjunction with the exhibition, ISLAA will present a series of live and prerecorded talks on the work of Anna Bella Geiger, Magali Lara, Lea Lublin, and Margarita Paksa. Geiger and Lara will discuss the role of cartography in their work in two separate online conversations. Scholars Stephanie Weber and Ionit Behar will present prerecorded lectures, published online, that situate map-making strategies within Lublin’s and Paksa’s careers. Additional details about these events and videos will be added to this page in November.