Competition: Win Champagne Afternoon Tea for Two at Mr White’s, Leicester Square

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PORTAL DE PLATA

26 August 2022 to 1 January 2023 White chapel gallery

Donna Huanca (b. 1980, USA), known for her immersive painterly and multi-sensory installations, concludes Whitechapel Gallery’s series of artist-curated displays drawn from the collection of the Christen Sveaas Art Foundation with an invitation to enter PORTAL DE PLATA (Silver Gate). 

In this final display, Huanca brings together paintings and sculptures paired with a specially commissioned scent and sound work by the artist to address the entangled relationship between colonialism, displacement, and the state of self-recognition.
 
On entry into the PORTAL DE PLATAa large circular curtained structure conceived by Huanca, viewers will encounter a dark blue wall pierced with antique silver spoons, a reference to Huanca’s Bolivian heritage. In Bolivian folklore spoons represent the womb, however here they are inverted – a spear rather than a receptacle. Silver mining was a crucial part of the colonial economy in Bolivia and it is still home to some of the largest silver mines in the world. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, 80% of the world’s silver supply came from the “CERRO RICO” mine in Potosi, where the artist’s father was born. With this gesture, Huanca weaves together broader histories of European colonial wealth accumulation, exploitation, and resource extraction with her personal family history.

Central to the space is Louise Bourgeois’ (1911-2010) Torso (Self-Portrait), a totemic marble sculpture which sits atop a pile of white sand, resembling an altar. The work is positioned between a painting by Huanca, Amyruca (2017) and a large, mirrored surface, at once reflecting the viewer and folding them into direct dialogue with the artworks, emphasising the relationship of the human body to its surroundings.
 
The surrounding works, Låst dør (Locked Door) (1989) by Else Hagen (1914 – 2010, Norway) and Åpen kvinne (Open Woman) (1990) by Bjørn Carlsen (b.1945, Norway), allude to contemplative isolation and the presence or traces of the artist. While not all works are considered to be explicitly self-portraits, each work gestures to the processes of self-creation and autobiography in artmaking.
 
Extending this hushed, immersive environment is a new scent and sound work created by Huanca which permeates the gallery; an earthy and smoky olfactory diffusion containing cedarwood and vetiver, and a recording of the artist’s father teaching her mother his native language, Quechua, a language indigenous to the Peruvian Andes.
 
Together, these works transform the gallery architecture into a meditative space, each work playing a part in a constellation of intimacy and reflection.

This exhibition will run from 26 August 2022 – 1 January 2023 at The Whitechapel Gallery and entry is free!

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