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'Victoria Cabezas and Priscilla Monge: Give Me What You Ask For' on view at Americas Society
Priscilla Monge, Pelota de fútbol (Soccer ball), 1999–2012. Sanitary napkins and black leather. Diameter 9 3/4 inches; 25 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

NEW YORK, NY.- Americas Society is presenting Victoria Cabezas and Priscilla Monge: Give Me What You Ask For, curated by Miguel A. López (Chief Curator of TEOR/éTica and Lado V, San José, Costa Rica). The exhibition is the first to bring together the work of Victoria Cabezas (b. 1950) and Priscilla Monge (b. 1968), two Costa Rican artists from different generations.

“This exhibition, carefully organized by the Peruvian critic Miguel López and produced in close collaboration with TEOR/éTica, a solid and pioneering contemporary art organization in Central America, captures the essence of two artists’ experimental proposals that have mapped the Costa Rican context from their distinctive perspectives of the body”, stated Gabriela Rangel, director and chief curator of Visual Arts. “López, who leads TEOR/éTica, chose to present two extraordinary artists whose contrasting outlooks converge at the core of art in the twenty-first century: sexuality and gender”.

The exhibition explores how the two artists have challenged conventional art disciplines, including painting and sculpture, by drawing on their own lived experiences. Monge and Cabezas both use experimental artistic strategies to advocate for women and to critique established patriarchal structures.

“Pondering Cabezas and Monge’s paths helps us understand how the critical infrastructure in Central America has changed during the last four decades,” said Miguel A. López. “It also helps us recognize genealogies that show that women were, to a large extent, the catalysts for change in terms of the boundaries of the region’s contemporary art."

Cabezas has experimented with photography to explore issues associated with exotification and interventionism in Central American political economy and formulated a criticism of gender constructions in popular culture, mass media and telenovelas. She is represented in the exhibition with works from the beginning of her career in the early 1970s through the 1980s. In Sin título (Untitled) (1973)); El banano emplumado (The feathered banana) (1973); and En el bosque 1 (In the forest 1) (1973), Cabezas addresses with humor the politics of bananas -an essential aspect to the understanding of the political economy and international relations in the region. At the same time, the banana alludes to sexual desire, the commodification of bodies, and the interdependence between the construction of masculinity and concepts such as consumption and exploitation.

From 1983, the exhibition shows Cabeza’s series Mujeres, gatos y televisores (Women, cats, and televisions), which critically explores through photographs the rhythms of television and women’s everyday lives. Here, she uses her own body and her private space to reflect how soap opera meets the socio-cultural needs of women feeling isolated at home.

“Give Me What You Ask For allows me to revisit and rethink my own work in new light, through the dialogue created between Priscilla´s work and mine by the show’s curatorial scrutiny,” commented Victoria Cabezas.

Even though she started as a painter, Priscilla Monge is a post-medium artist who has questioned how gender hierarchies condition social spaces and sought to reveal the entwinement of love and aggression. She is the recipient of the 2018 Francisco Amighetti National Award for Visual Arts for the presentation of her work in the exhibition Ejercicios de Autonomía, which was carried out in TEOR/éTica in 2018. This is Costa Rica's most prestigious award in the arts.

In the late-1990s and early-2000s, Monge started using sanitary napkins to create a series of powerful objects, photographs, installation, and performances. During those years, Monge created soccer balls made out of menstrual pads, defying the patriarchal constructions ascribed to a dominant gender to specific sport disciplines (soccer). On the other hand, the material used embodies the taboo prescribed to women to keep their menstruation hidden and silenced. Some of the works by Monge included in Give Me What You Ask For are Pelota de fútbol (Soccer ball) (1997); Huevos de oro (Golden eggs) (1998); Bloody Day (1998).

“It is important to note that during the 1990s most cultural initiatives in Central America were being led by women, most of the artistic production of the time was also made by women. As artists we were not oblivious, we had very important things to say, and to make visible,” said Priscilla Monge. “This is being acknowledged by significant institutions, like Americas Society and others, by presenting, showing and learning about and from relevant works made by artists outside the mainstream.”

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