Marela Zacarías’ Sculptural Paintings Find Inspiration in Ancient Textiles

Born in Mexico City and based in Brooklyn, Marela Zacarías blurs the line between painting and sculpture. Her colorful work frequently integrates elements of traditional textiles from various cultures, including her native Mexico. At Praxis gallery in New York, several of her vibrant, sculptural paintings are on view for a solo show called “Warp and Weft,” which draws inspiration from the rich history of Mediterranean textiles, based in part on Zacarías’ research into her own ancestry in the region.

For this new series, Zacarías’ process involves affixing sections of window screens to wooden supports, then using a joint compound to create a sort of undulating canvas, upon which she paints intricate line patterns with striking color combinations. The lively, fabric-like results are free-flowing and highly expressive.

Works like Oulad Bou Sbaa (2016) and Kalambakka (2016) feature rectilinear patterns on rippling, organic forms in a palette of black, charcoal, white, and red, almost as if they’re cut from the same tapestry. (Warp and weft are, after all, weaving terms related to interwoven threads on a loom.) Elsewhere, Tell al Ansaria (2015) flows with brighter hues of magenta and tangerine.

Previously, Zacarías spent years collaborating on large-scale figurative murals. However, she transitioned into abstract multidimensional paintings when, as she has said, “my own voice as an artist [wanted] to claim a little more space to experiment.”

Nevertheless, she found a way for her sculptural paintings to engage with public spaces. The artist has installed works in a range of places, from the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, to a hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“The creative process [with mural painting] only lasts for the time that you’re making this little mock-up,” Zacarías has said. “There was part of me that needed more, that needed that moment of creating while you’re making.” That newfound freedom of expression comes through in this cohesive body of work that connects cultures while colorfully intertwining the past and the present.


—Anna Furman


Marela Zacarías: Warp and Weft” is on view at Praxis, New York, May 26–Jul. 2, 2016.

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