Disclaimer: This blogpost is a review of an art show in images and words. It does not represent nor aims at representing the ideas or the intentions of the artist. It is a philosophical and artistic way to vibe on another philosophical and artistic work.
Daniela Cueva’s show “Obsidian Edge” is on display at the One Trick Pony gallery at 1051 S Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90019 until July the 17th.
Most good art deals with Time and Death. This has been the case since the Ancients invented Art. “What about Love?” you might wonder. When art is good, love is a function of time and death. Think of Shakespeare: all of his (their?) dramas about love are ultimately tales about death and time and how the two are joined in a ribbon. Time, timelessness, but also timeliness. Death, mortality, or (the unlikely) lack thereof.
Daniela Cueva’s powerful art show takes these two themes and rides them hard.
There’s an image about Daniela’s art that I cannot shake off, so I might as well share it. Think of Death as a Hot-Wheel car, Time as its track, and the artist as the hand what grabs the small car and pushes it back and forth along the track.
Time and Death are the recipients of Daniela Cueva’s interrogation, but the direction flickers as it emerges from this questioning. Questions about composition, decomposition and recomposition are laid out by the artist, and they are given multiple answers, as many as the traits of pencil that Daniela uses to carve her visions out of rough paper.
Where is time going? Daniela Cueva’s drawings don’t look still at all. They go somewhere and they come from somewhere. Possibly the same place, in a never ending circle, but they are not static. There is a depiction of silent pain (for instance in the three the birds, not alive, with their beaks open), a surgical labor of what is not alive, but which might be dead or about to live (again?). This is how Daniela Cueva plays with Time and Death, preventing the viewer from fully realizing where they stand with respect to the frame.
Daniela’s background includes a degree in Fiber Science and Apparel Design at Cornell University. This makes her an artist, but also a designer, and most of all an artisan. The scaffolding, the structures that bind the seemingly organic material together in her works do remind, on the one hand, of the pikes and hooked ropes in Hieronymus Bosch’s theological frenzies; on the other hand, it is also a tacking thread. It is something that keeps together mysterious materials as soft and shapeless as ancient textiles. Is she preserving them? Is she slowing their decay? Or is she crafting the sinews and the organs and the vessels of a new creation? What if it’s somehow both, like a metaphysical salvage? Perhaps the bodies are not dead, only sleeping.
The show features a video, sharing the same title. Not only the eye of the artist is involved, but her hands and the rest of her senses do play a crucial role in this installation.
Time and Death are once again like waves crashing on the shore: you can hear them too, as Daniela’s hands dissolve a weird fabric in an even weirder-looking bath. The sense of oddity and displacement is reinforced by the juxtaposition of digital and analogical layers of recording to achieve a liminal monster: not so much in the horror sense, but according to the Latin etymology of “monstrum”, a wonder, something to be warned about (the same root is in the english verb “demonstrate”).
Daniela Cueva’s exploration goes indeed beyond paper and colors, as she has been working on the artistic and communicative potentialities of novel organic materials, such as the discarded coils of bacteria that she grew herself in her studio. Time, and the death of the microorganisms produce a material that the artist – half weaver and half sculptor – may use, until time (again) brings about the death (sic!) of the organic artwork… unless the artist decides to bring about its dissolution/decomposition as part of the performance itself.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes, 1:9-10)