In the first European solo exhibition of the Brooklyn-based artist, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter presents more than 30 works by Guadalupe Maravilla, bringing together pieces from four major series of his body of work: Tripa Chuca, Embroideries, Disease Throwers, and Retablos. The exhibition's title, Sound Botánica, references botánicas, small stores that sell herbal and other traditional remedies, together with charms, incense, candles, and other items used for religious or spiritual purposes
Several personal events in Maravilla's life have had an impact on his art. In 1984, at the age of eight, Maravilla immigrated to the United States as a single, undocumented child. He was fleeing the civil war in El Salvador. As an adult, he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. To alleviate the side effects, he combined the treatment with other healing practices such as sound baths. The artist's interdisciplinary practice constantly refers to experiences with exile and illness, migration and healing.
The exhibition in Norway presents a survey of Maravilla’s considerable body of work including a series of freestanding sculptures entitled Disease Throwers, which are created from found objects and materials collected while Maravilla retraces his migration journey. At the heart of each sculpture is a gong that is activated during sound baths; a collective, ritual, and meditative healing experience created by the artist.
Tripa Chuca (Dirty Guts) is a reference to a Salvadorian game that Maravilla played during his childhood and along his migration route. The series is also represented in a site-specific work at the Henie Onstad, in which Maravilla “plays out” the game in collaboration with a previously undocumented person. In these drawings, Maravilla directly treats the topic of migration and his own immigration history.
In his Embroideries series, Maravilla condenses the thematic elements of his drawings. On each embroidered work, disembodied limbs, hands, and clenched fists are stitched with dripping blocks of ice (a reference to ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), skulls, and a hand sowing seeds. These are fictive, contemporary emblems created by the artist to symbolise resistance against the persecution of and political pressure on undocumented immigrants.
Retablos are devotional “ex-voto” paintings, a popular art form traditionally used to express gratitude for surviving dangerous events. In Maravilla’s retablos, and in the long inscriptions he has inscribed on each of them, the artist gives thanks and expresses gratitude for, among other things, a new chance in life after his cancer treatment, which has made it possible for him to continue as artist and healer.
Sound Botánica is accompanied by an illustrated exhibition catalogue. One of the first publications presenting Guadalupe Maravilla's work, it features new essays by Michelle Kuo, danilo machado and Allie Tepper, a curatorial essay by Caroline Ugelstad, a foreword by Tone Hansen and by Paulina Rider Wilhelmsen, as well as a conversation between the artist and Diya Vij.
Guadalupe Maravilla is the recipient of The Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award 2021.