The end of a relationship can feel like an emergency. Colombian artist Catalina Mejía knows this well. In her new collection of understated, gestural paintings and drawings currently on view at Bogotá’s Beatriz Esguerra Art, in “911: Recent Works by Catalina Mejía,” she employs text, wordplay, and images to convey the complex mix of events and emotions—despair, emptiness, and, eventually, hope—bound up with the loss of love. The exhibition opened on September 11, and its title references the enormous losses of that terrible day, as well as the emergency calls to 911. With these associations in mind, the artist’s compositions work on two levels: as intimate expressions of her own recent experience of the end of a relationship, and as reflections upon the universal human tragedy of loss.
Highlights in the exhibition include two powerful mixed-media paintings, Fuiste flor de un dia and Tangle (both 2014). Vertically oriented and shown side-by-side, these works feature a tumultuous melange of blue, grey, purple, and white brushstrokes, from which a sinewy black tangle of line emerges, and hovers in front of a pale, smoky ground. In Tangle, a figure can just be made out in the smoke and haze. The figure, who was once so present, is now shadowy and insubstantial, altered and obfuscated by emotions, distance, time, and memory. Similarly, in the smoke-on-paper drawing, You Are Fading (2014), a smoky silhouette stands in for the lost love, with the phrase “you are fading” overwritten onto this image of absence. In another drawing, The House is Burning (2014), an A-frame house is engulfed in a raging fire. Here the searing pain of loss threatens to destroy the now-broken home, and yet it remains standing.
There are subtler works in the exhibition, too, like the delicate watercolor and pencil drawing, Limit (2014). In the center of the white paper, dark smudges and brushstrokes resolve into the upper edge of a waterfall under a moonlit sky, a picture of land’s edge. In the composition’s lower right-hand corner, there is a cluster of words, some reading “on the edge” or “limite,” as if to suggest that even the worst catastrophe has a limit, and can be surpassed, and, eventually, overcome.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory