Lisson Gallery

Pedro Reyes gives a narrated tour of his New York exhibition 'Tlali'

18 June 2021

Pedro Reyes' latest exhibition at Lisson Gallery in New York, 'Tlali' (6 May – 18 June 2021) combines the artist's sculptural and social practices through a new series of sculptures and works on paper that draw from the language and symbols of Pre-Columbian civilizations. Derived from the Aztec language Nahuatl, 'Tlali' (translated as ‘Earth’), cites the perilous predicament of the continent’s name. In addition to the confusion between the United States of America and the larger hemisphere it occupies, the tainted name originates from conquistador Amerigo Vespucci, responsible for the enslavement and death of countless indigenous communities. The artist offers Tlali as an alternative, untainted, allegorical name for the continent. Featuring fourteen carved stone sculptures along with eleven drawings on amate, the presentation engages with Mayan, Olmec, Toltec and Mexica heritage and serves as a reminder of the very foundations of the American continent.

“It is imperative for a Mexican artist to learn Nahuatl,” says Reyes. “Proportionate to the use of Latin in the United States, many places in Mexico have a name in Nahuatl, so learning the language is vital to understanding the region’s geography and anthropology”. The artist echoes this sentiment in Tlali, allotting each work a Nahuatl title connected to Pre-Columbian symbolism. Carving directly in stone, the Mexico City-based artist brings an ancient artistic practice to the fore while exalting a discipline that dates over thirty-five centuries. The sculptures displayed throughout the exhibition feature the distinct geometric vocabulary used to depict human figures or architectural models by the Mesoamerican civilizations. Using red tezontle, volcanic stone, jadeite, and white marble Reyes continues his deeply political practice through the creation of new totemic and abstract forms.

Read more about the exhibition here.

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