The Artsy Vanguard 2019: Zilia Sánchez
Zilia Sánchez with Lunar blanco, 1964, at Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, 2014. © Zilia Sánchez. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co., New York.
With titles like Amazon (1993) and Antigone (1970), Zilia Sánchez’s three-dimensional paintings evoke woman warriors and ancient mythologies. Her works are minimal and metaphoric, but leave lasting impressions.
The Cuban-born artist, who has lived in Puerto Rico for more than 50 years, has gone largely unnoticed internationally—until recently. In two solo shows in New York in 2013 and 2014, as well as the 2018 group show “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,” audiences experienced Sánchez’s reverence for the female form. The artist shows with Galerie Lelong & Co.
Sánchez, now 93, recently had her first museum retrospective, which celebrated the work she’s made since the 1950s. The exhibition, “Soy Isla,” debuted at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.; traveled to Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico; and will open in New York at El Museo del Barrio in November.
“With curved, abstract forms suggestive of the female body and a subdued palette of white, grays, blues, and flesh tones, Sánchez’s canvases appeared at once subtle and heroic, tender and voluptuous, aloof and tactile,” explained Phillips Collection curator Vesela Sretenović, reflecting upon seeing the artist’s work for the first time. “Fluctuating between painting and sculpture, they were swelling from the walls, pouring into the space. They were looking at me as much as I was looking at them, and I felt an immediate visceral connection with the work.” The show’s title, which translates to “I am an island,” draws on Sánchez’s personal narrative as an islander, a gay female artist, and a woman who has persevered through time.