Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa: The House at Kawinal


Working in performance, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa (b. 1978, Guatemala City, Guatemala) creates dreamlike scenes that build on references to literature, folklore, magic, and childhood memories.

Cover Image:

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Life in his Mouth, Death Cradles her Arm, 2016 (still). Single-channel video, sound, color; 8:51 min. Commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part of Your Revolution. Courtesy the artist; Mendes Wood DM; Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City; and Sies + Höke, Dusseldorf

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Engaging fantasy and allegory, Ramírez-Figueroa’s installations combine sculpture and experimental theater to transfigure everyday images and objects into symbolic tableaux. Though the artist’s works often exude a sense of whimsy and playfulness, they also allude to tragic and traumatic events that have shaped the social and political climate of present-day Guatemala.

“The House at Kawinal,” the artist’s first solo exhibition in the US, presents a recent performance for video, Life in his Mouth, Death Cradles her Arm (2016), together with a new body of sculptures inspired in part by the artist’s research into the effects of the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam in Guatemala in the early 1980s. To build the dam, the Guatemalan government forcibly displaced thousands of Achi Mayan people through brutal military-led massacres that wiped out villages throughout the Chixoy River Valley. The flooding caused by the dam also submerged the Late Mayan (1100–1524 AD) city of Kawinal, the ruins of which are now largely invisible and inaccessible. For his New Museum installation, Ramírez-Figueroa presents a series of figurative works that suggest a lost and fragmented domestic space and evoke this violent displacement to reflect on its lasting impact on families, indigenous heritage, and the natural landscape.

Concurrent with his exhibition in the Lobby Gallery, three of the artist’s recent performances for video are on view as part of the Museum’s ongoing Screens Series, a platform for the presentation of video works by emerging contemporary artists. Collectively, these works share motifs of sleep and dream states as well as references to spirits and silent specters of the past.

“Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa: The House at Kawinal” is curated by Natalie Bell, Associate Curator.

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa was born in 1978 in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where he currently lives and works. Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle Lissabon (2017); CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2017); Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany (2017); and Gasworks, London (2015). His works have been included in the Venice Biennale (2017); the São Paulo Biennial (2016); the Lyon Biennale (2015); and the Gwangju Biennial (2014), among many others. His performances have been hosted by the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2016); Tate Modern, London (2015); and Castello di Rivoli, Italy (2013). The artist received the Mies van der Rohe Award (2017), a DAAD fellowship (2015), and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2012).

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This exhibition is made possible with support provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

Special thanks to the Producers Council of the New Museum.

Funding for artist research was generously provided by KADIST.

Special thanks to Mendes Wood DM; Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City; and Sies + Höke, Dusseldorf.

Additional support provided by Rudy Weissenberg and Rodman Primack.

Thanks to The Standard, East Village.

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