The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and ISLAA announce the opening of the spring Duke House Exhibition, Magali Lara: Interior Landscapes, on view in The James B. Duke House from February 16 to May 16, 2024. Encompassing work from the 1970s to the 1990s, the exhibition presents four major paintings by Magali Lara, one of Mexico's most important living artists, highlighting her interior landscapes as acts of reclamation and healing. Her early domestic spaces grapple with memories of her childhood and the misogyny that surrounded her, while her later abstract works confront her personal experiences with grief and, simultaneously, consider the relationship between humans and the natural environment. Through her work, Lara contests the traditional expectations of women in Mexican society and proposes new avenues for expressing desire and recuperation. The exhibition is curated by Angelina Medina, Giovanni Falcone, Katie Svensson, and Vivian Wu.
Created between 1983 to 1995, the paintings on display in The James B. Duke House reflect the changing ways Lara articulated her own corporeal experiences and subjectivity. In the Lecture Hall, two paintings from her series Historias de casa depict intimate interior spaces, inspired by her childhood memories of observing her grandmother’s daily chores. She also incorporates terse phrases that identify everyday objects and articulate the relationship between household responsibilities and questions of self-determination. More broadly, Lara situates the development of the feminist struggle within the home: these interior spaces are integral for the evolution of feminist and revolutionary thought, particularly in the context of the fraught political climate of Mexico in the 1980s.
Lara’s abstract works, exhibited in the Loeb Room, demonstrate how the artist shifts her focus to the natural world, to the landscapes and gardens that kept the artist company as she dealt with the loss of her husband, the Cuban artist Juan Francisco Elso. These scenes may depict an abstracted exterior world, but for Lara there is no separating the individual from nature. Just as the interior spaces of her childhood act as reflections on her growth, Lara’s paintings of the natural world are maps of her personal trajectory. These works remind us of our unbreakable bond with the earth and its power to heal us; in this way they act as calls to protect and restore the environment in return.
In the Marble Room, vitrines will display artists' books made by Lara and her collaborators. These works underscore her commitment to challenging the traditional role expected of women in Mexican life and her investigation of the body; Lara subverts the objectification of women’s bodies by figuring the main character as a chair, an object associated with the domestic world women were expected to inhabit. The books also embody the collaboration between Lara and other artists, an important part of her creative practice that seeks to advance the cause of women’s liberation in Mexico during the 1980s.
About the Artist
Magali Lara, born in 1956 in Mexico City, is an artist, curator, writer, and teacher. Since attending the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in the 1970s, Lara has worked across mediums, creating paintings, artists’ books, and installations. A leading figure of Mexican contemporary art, her work centers themes such as femininity, sexuality, emotion, and identity. Lara has collaborated with important figures in the world of Mexican art and literature, including Mónica Mayer (born 1954), Rowena Morales (born 1948), Carmen Boullosa (born 1954), Yani Pecanins (1954-2019) and others. Artworks by Lara are in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach; and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca, among others. Exhibitions dedicated to Lara’s work have also been held around the world, including Magali Lara: Del cielo, Instituto Cultural de México, Paris; Magali Lara: Los ojos no, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires; Magali Lara: Glaciares, Visual Arts Center, Austin; and Magali Lara: Intemperie, Museo Nacional de la Estampa, Mexico City.
On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, Magali Lara and Dr. Madeline Murphy Turner, a recent IFA graduate and the current Emily Rauh Pulitzer Curatorial Fellow in Contemporary Drawings at the Harvard Art Museums (and noted authority on Mexican women artists of Lara’s generation), will share their valuable insights on Lara's artistic approaches, starting with the paintings on view in the exhibition and expanding into her multifaceted work with artists’ books and other media.
About the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU
Since 1932 the Institute of Fine Arts has been dedicated to graduate teaching and advanced research in the history of art, archaeology, and conservation. The Duke House Exhibition Series brings contemporary art to the walls of the Institute’s landmarked James B. Duke House. The work is displayed in the beaux-arts interior of the former residence of the Duke family, juxtaposing the historic with the contemporary and inviting viewers to engage with both the past and the future of the Institute. Since 2019, the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) is proud to support the Duke House Exhibition Series to showcase the work of Latin American artists.
The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) provided funding and extensive archival and research support. The works on view are on generous loan from the ISLAA collection.
Special thanks to Professor Edward J. Sullivan, Dr. Madeline Murphy Turner, and Magali Lara for their support of this exhibition.