Exhibiting thirteen mixed-media paintings — works built and layered from a palette of materials including, in part, 24 karat gold leaf, watercolor, blueprints, and watercolor pencils, Álava constructs complex narratives of what can best be described as “the hive mind” using what seems at first to be a disarmingly simple iconography.
Instead, Álava is exploring an allegorical landscape between bees and humans, drawing corollaries between systems of colonization, control, reproduction, and extinction through making visual metaphors of how a Queen Bee controls her colony. As she explains, “A queen bee can control her entire colony with as few as 12 pheromones, and yet those control the colony, reproduction, and its makeup.” Now, as bees become threatened, Álava also uses components of their lifespan, including aspects of their construction like the hexagon, to mark the spaces that humans, colonize, inhabit, move through, and impact in similar ways.
At Maus Contemporary, Álava will present thirteen pieces in two series, and a floor installation. Each is a component of her ongoing series Hexagons, which unites mixed media paintings on linen, site-specific installations, performance works, and public forums, lectures, and presentations, into larger dialogues surrounding the issues being addressed.
Constellation 0, a small-scale mixed-media painting, combines elements of astronomy, chemistry, and geometry, to present a work which creates metaphors for the pheromones for flight, the opportunity for escape, and the unity of systems.
Hexagons: constellation, is a multi-part, large-scale work, spanning 12 uniformly sized panels of linen on wood. Each is unique, a collage of blueprints on linen, delicately covered with gold leaf, watercolor, pigment, watercolor, graphite, and watercolor pencils. Here, Álava’s works transfix viewers to the sky, where they oscillate between the space of bees’ flight and the space of their own, suggested by the blueprints’ imagery.
It can be challenging to synthesize complexity into beauty, yet Gema Álava’s Hexagons do precisely that. Her materiality is seductive and luscious, making her works enticing to view. The subject matter is recognizable and evocative, leaving space for interpretation. And, her subject matter is timely, universal, and pertinent.