Curated by Madeline Murphy Turner
For the 2022 edition of The Armory Show, Marlborough brings together the work of Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe (b. 1971, Sheroana, Venezuela) and Laura Anderson Barbata (b. 1958, Mexico City) to propose a visual dialogue grounded in their historical relationship of communal reciprocity, artistic collaboration, and friendship. An artist from Sheroana, an Indigenous community of the Upper Orinoco River region in the Venezuelan Amazon, Hakihiiwe works with drawing, printmaking, and painting to communicate the ancestral knowledge and living symbols of his Yanomami people. Anderson Barbata is a transdisciplinary artist from Mexico who realizes her socially-based practice through artworks that range from drawing and textiles to performance interventions.
In 1992, Anderson Barbata traveled to the Venezuelan Amazon, where the local Yanomami, Ye’Kuana, and Piaroa communities accepted her proposal to initiate a papermaking project in return for sharing their expert knowledge of canoe building. During this time, Anderson Barbata and Hakihiiwe met in Mahekototeri, in the State of Amazonas, where they founded the Yanomami Owë Mamotima initiative. The project invites residents to create paper from local fibers on which they write, illustrate, and publish their oral histories, inscribing a historical narrative that had previously only been recorded by outside anthropologists and missionaries. In 2000, their first publication, Shapono, received the Best Book of the Year award from the Centro Nacional del Libro of Venezuela and is now held in prominent library collections worldwide. Following the Yanomami Owë Mamotima project, Anderson Barbata and Hakihiiwe continued to develop their own artistic practices in tandem, traveling together to Caracas, Mexico City, and Chicago to participate in papermaking workshops. The first exhibition to bring together their individual artistic production, Laura Anderson Barbata and Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe: Origins elucidates how these two artists maintain a dialogue across space and time.
Featuring drawings, prints, sculptures, and photography, this presentation departs from Anderson Barbata and Hakihiiwe’s collaboration to explore how each approaches topics of the natural world. At the start of her career, Anderson Barbata’s artistic perspective was grounded in the metaphor of the germinating seed, the sensation of something inside of us that suddenly awakens and grows due to unexpected yet catalytic interactions. As a result, her early studio works—drawing, sculpture, and installation—look to nature and the environment as subjects. At the same time, her community projects in the Amazon are highly conscious of environmental protection through the exclusive use of local and natural materials, an awareness that, since 2017, is evident in her series of public interventions. Speaking about the impact that her time in the Venezuelan Amazon has had on her life, Anderson Barbata states: “Nature dictates everything, all activities: health, productivity, mobility, life, and death. One must learn to commune with this reality wholeheartedly, and to do so with humility, with respect, and with gratitude—and if you can do that, you will be able “listen” to it and to learn.”