Wednesday 20 October 2021

Hulda Guzmán joins Stephen Friedman Gallery

Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to announce representation of Dominican artist Hulda Guzmán.

Drawing on surrealism, Mexican muralism and Caribbean folk traditions, Guzmán’s junglescapes and studio scenes conjure portals to a mythic realm. Charged with postcolonial and ecological discourses, her paintings revitalise tropes of the natural world as a repository for our wilder instincts.

Hulda Guzmán was born in 1984, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She lives and works between Santo Domingo and the rainforest-covered mountains of Samaná, on the country’s northeast coast.

Guzmán’s paintings are populated by a technicolour cast of humans, animals,  anthropomorphic plants and imaginary creatures. Employing distinct architectural locations and spatial tricks such as mise en abîme, her narratives occupy contradictory, dreamlike realities. Characters lounge on ambrosial shores beside derelict flats, join dancefloors that spill into the rainforest and chase demons through chic interiors. Though rooted in Guzmán’s liberal childhood, these wittily painted gatherings also reflect her experiences of the artistic community in Samaná.

Echoing the paradisial fantasies of Henri Rousseau and Paul Gauguin, Guzmán frequently interrogates imagery connected with her Caribbean heritage. The modernist style of her sparse interiors represents “a metaphor for human order,” Cathryn Drake explains in Artforum. It is “a reflection of the commercial exchange of goods around the globe, the most insidious form of colonisation.” These allusions to imperialist history emerge in contrast to the natural landscape, opposing mercenary tendencies with hints of a transcendent perspective.

The artist’s recent works explore humanity’s role within a vast ecosystem. Towering trees and lush foliage dwarf her subjects, evoking nature’s immeasurable complexity. Often employing wood as a surface for her paintings, Guzmán allows the textured grain to blend with leaves and skin. She explains that these works “are a celebration of nature […]. On the other hand, they question our own nature as creators of our ‘reality’ and examine the manifested world in relation to and reflection of the inner world. […] We must transition from our industrial materialistic society to a more contemplative culture, one that is based on consciousness and ecological symbiosis.”

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