Two Exhibitions at M.C.I. explore the artist’s role in the world

As a summer special, the Mexican Cultural Institute has two art exhibitions up now featuring Octavio Paz and Sandra Pani. While these two Mexican artists have little in common, both exhibitions center on themes of self-examination. Both are ruminations on how the artist reflects the world and our role in it.

OPazExhb2Paz, the Nobel Prize winning poet,  didn’t make the artwork in his namesake exhibition. It features pieces made by artists who were moved by Paz’s writing. While he passed away in 1998, he is perhaps Mexico’s most beloved writer. Besides his large body of poetry, his book-length essay, “The Labyrinth of Solitude,” is widely considered the definitive tome on the Mexican soul. This year festivities are underway around the world to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

Octavio Paz: De La Palabra a La Mirada” features visual artists who befriended or were inspired by his words. The artists have transformed literature into visual art in both two- and three-dimensional form. Rufino Tamayo, Juan Soriano, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell, Balthus, and Cy Twombly are among the famous artists in the show.

OPazExh1The exhibit not only explores Paz’s words but honed in on the impact of his writing and artistic companionship. Many of the artists with work in the show were part of Paz’s large intellectual circle. The pieces, often displayed next to the poet’s words, include a variety of tributes in the forms of disks, oil and acrylic paintings, embossed stamps and other mediums.

Perhaps one of the most impressive, an arguably, authentic portrayals of Paz’ work as inspiration is the series of three-dimensional collages by his wife, Marie-Jose Paz. . This collaboration, which the poet named “Figuras y Figuraciones,” accentuates both self-exploration and perception.

“The lines between word and vision are blurred in this exhibit, giving greater meaning to the world of Paz’s life and words,” according to the curatorial notes that accompanied the exhibition.

While Paz explored self through stanzas and rhythm, Sandra Pani examines herself and her life through strokes and layers in the multi-media three-dimensional pieces . In her exhibition, “My Intangible Self,” Pani often uses layers—some translucent, some opaque—to build visual images of herself  In others, she uses multiple panels to focus on one piece of herself—either figuratively or literally. She repetitively contemplates the self in different angles and lighting.

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Pani often infuses her identity with nature, aligning her spine or midline between her lungs with the trunk of a tree. Ideas of spine and lungs that reoccur in her work perhaps align with the common aphorisms “have some backbone” and “just breathe.”

“These images simultaneously condense my myriad searchings and findings. The images expressed in ‘My Intangible Self’ emerge out of this search and are constituted of layers. It is a visual metaphor that I express the layers of which we are made. These images aim to actualize the complexity of the self through individual works of art. They are, perhaps an attempt to imprint who I am in images,” Pani said.

—Bria Baylor

Octavio Paz: De la Palabra a la Mirada
June 10 – July 31

Sandra Pani: My Intangible Self
July 3 – 31

Mexican Cultural Institute
2829 16th St NW ?
Free Admission?
Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sat. noon – 4 p.m.
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