Sculpture Installation

Abrons Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement

FOTOMANA  |  New York, NY  1998-2000

Media: Cotton pulp with clay on lathand mixed media.
Essay by: Marek Bartelik

ARTIST STATEMENT (English / Espanol)

“In 1994, Amorós obtained an NEA grant and an Arts International traveling grant to visit Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The trip lasted two months. In the small, tourist-free villages, Amoros found a world that enchanted her with its spiritual and natural integrity, and met peoples oblivious to many Western anxieties. For Amorós, like many others before her, the trip turned into a personal experience — a search for her identity.

Incapable of making art while visiting West Africa, she focused on learning about local religions, cultures, and arts. She visited an old priestess in Larteh, located an hour-and-a-half from Accra, Ghana. She studied asafo flags (named after the word for traditional warrior groups in the Fante society of south-central Ghana) and explored different African religions. In Kumasi (Ghana), she observed a colorful court ceremony at the Manyia Palace, attended by the Ashantigini Chief and his warriors, who are admired throughout the region for their bravery.

While learning about Africa, Amorós discovered the kinship between Peru and Ghana; not only were the two countries once part of the same continent – with comparable climates and food sources – but they also share similar beliefs and artistic sensibilities. “After my trip to Africa, I could not make art for about four months” — Amorós recalls. “I needed time to approach art on my own terms.”

When she started working, she could not stop, until she found the desired expression. The works in this exhibition employ memories of the trip to West Africa as an oblique point of departure, but they are non-referential artifacts rather than literal evocations of the artist’s specific experience. Amorós agrees with the writer James Baldwin, who once wrote about his African roots: “To accept one’s past — one’s history — is not the same as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.”

The exhibition borrows its title, “Fotomana,” from the word “welcome” in a local dialect from the Senufo region of the Ivory Coast, a region known for exquisite sculptures and paintings on fabric. It presents a series of tablet-like reliefs made of a mixture of various organic materials.

In creating her works, Amoros starts with a piece of construction material called lathe. She cuts a metal honeycomb sheet of lathe into a desired size, then covers it with a compound of cotton pulp, raffia, straws, hay, sand and Arizona clay. The relief forms are modeled and affixed to the background with a water-based glue. The artist tints her works with red oxide because the original red color of the mixture turns pink after drying. The finished works are hung on sisal ropes braided with coca leaves dyed in tea. The small pieces are usually displayed on the wall as an ensemble. The larger pieces are arranged in more of a installation mode, as a series of flexible semi-transparent walls or curtains that conceal and disclose.

In this domestic habitat, the viewer can wander between the works and contemplate the rich surfaces on both sides. Defining space in such a fashion, Amorós further stresses the sculptural quality of her works, while making the tactility of their surface bespeak the work process.

Amorós’s works contain archetypical forms that act like pictographs. Silhouetted animals, people and houses appear in various combinations with geometric markings such as triangles, circles and spirals. Animated by centrifugal force or arranged in a grid-like pattern, they are more like presences than depicted representations. The backs of the tablets are covered with handprints, rhythmically applied like signatory notations.”