• text
  • pictures

Donna Huanca

Chicago, USA. 1980

As shown in her latest solo exhibition Lengua de Bartolina Sisa (2017) at Travesía Cuatro in Madrid, in recent years, Huanca’s work has stood out for its understanding of the body, and of the skin in particular, as a territory where surface and matter converse with architecture, space, and the world. Through paintings, sculptures, and performances, the artist creates disturbing futuristic-prehistoric scenarios where identity shatters into a sort of schizodynamic production of knowledge. In her performances, a set of actions is carried out by regular collaborators, producing slow-paced choreographies that conjure private rituals and meditations in the gallery space, confronting the viewer with a scenario equal parts uncomfortable and suggestive.

Her performances generate a space where bodies, materials, and forms gather to establish an architecture of presence. The titles of the paintings, through which matter emerges as something between the natural and the artificial, and in which blue predominates over skin tones and earthy colours, allude to different types of rocks, minerals, and natural processes. The totemic sculptures, on the other hand, combine a variety of materials that relate to the body and which stand out for their tactile qualities, such as clothes, skin, silicone body imprints, natural and synthetic textiles, or re-contextualized cultural artefacts. Collaborators’ bodies are painted from head to toe, resembling figures halfway between a shaman and a futuristic raver. As they move through the space in a trance, following an icy choreography, they switch positions, climb up and down stairs and props that are scattered throughout the gallery, and engage with paintings and sculptures in a wordless dialogue.

Huanca’s practice questions systems of knowledge such as biology, ecology, geology, or anthropology. Surrounded by the silent matter of the paintings and sculptures, one can almost feel the constant danger of life in relation to nonlife. The indigenous imaginary and the uncanny but vital collaborators’ movements actualize the animist insistence on the fact that all forms of existence have within them a vital affecting force. All the elements—both bodies and objects—are impregnated with cosmetic pigments, unifying and stabilizing the animate with the inanimate, the human with the mineral, the organic with the synthetic. The bodies’ coloration—like a virus—confuses and levels the difference between life and nonlife, and operates as an instrument of transformation, setting up a model for the fragmentation of cultural, gender, and national identities and the dissolution of the false dichotomy of nature and culture.

Donna Huanca (b. 1980, Chicago, USA) studied at the Städelschule, Frankfurt as well as the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and has been the recipient of the DAAD grant and a Fulbright scholarship to live and work in Mexico City (2012). Recent exhivitions include Jaguar and electric Eels, Julia Stoschek Collection, Verlin; Scar Cymbals, Zabludowicz Collection, London; Surrogate Painteen, Peres Project, Berlin; Ice Chrysocolla, Cabaret der Künstler Zunfhaus Voltaire, Manifiesta 11, Zurich; Poly Styrene’s Brace curated by Anne Barlow, Art in General, New York; in collaboration with kim?, Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, Latvia and Sade Room (formerly reclusive), MoMA PS1, New York.

Agathans, 2017. Oil, acrylic and pigment on digital print on canvas. 283 x 190 cm

Detail view. Awankitu (Abuelito Fuego), 2017.

Awankitu (Abuelito Fuego), 2017. Mixed media, oil, acrylic and pigment on plastic, stocking, textile, horse hair, leathers, metal on steel frame with aluminium fastenings. 210 x 80 x 60 cm

Exhibition view

Viinnadorians, 2017. Oil, acrylic and pigment on digital print on canvas. 283 x 190 cm

AxalPacha, 2017. Mixed media, oil and acrylic on textile, lead, horse hair, thread, faux leather, metal on steel frame with aluminium fastenings. 200 x 90 x 70 cm

Acacia Maidenii, 2017. Oil, acrylic and pigment on digital print on canvas. 190 x 142.5 cm

Performance, 2017.

Siltstone (Azul), 2016. Oil, acrylic and pigment on digital print on canvas. 190 x 285 cm


Donna Huanca will present Lengua de Bartolina Sisa at Travesía Cuatro Madrid. This is the first solo exhibition by the artist in Spain. The opening will happen next Friday 24th of February from 11 AM to 3 PM, with a performance at 1 PM. The show will remain on view until the 29th of April, 2017.

Donna Huanca is in the group show Jaguars and Electrics Eels from February http://acheterdufrance.com/ 5 to November 27 at the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin.



Donna Huanca will have her first solo exhibition in Spain at Travesía Cuatro Madrid in February, 2017