VIDEO: Teresita Fernández on Her New Show at Lehmann Maupin and Advising Obama
To an untrained observer, Teresita Fernández’s fifth solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin Gallery appears to be about color. Unique prints made from thick, handmade paper bear bright pink forms against a rich, dark background. In the back room, hundreds of pink and black plastic tubes hang suspended from the ceiling, creating the impression of a brushstroke painted in midair. But Fernández’s work isn’t about color and she wants you to understand that. It’s about ideas.
“My research is the most interesting part of my process,” she told ARTINFO while on a break from installing her exhibition, “Night Writing.” “It’s where I find ideas for my work. I don’t believe that an image is an idea.”
The research for “Night Writing” began with Fernández’s investigation of “Ecriture Nocturne,” a secret code written in the early 19th century to enable Napoleon's soldiers to communicate at night, silently and without light. The research — “like going down a rabbit hole,” she said — led her to the history of Braille and humans’ own attempts to read the stars. All this disparate imagery is encoded in both her prints and large-scale installation on view at Lehmann Maupin’s Chrystie Street location through October 20.
“When I tell you the background of this body of work, it makes sense, but I’m connecting points that have no logical connection whatsoever,” Fernández explained. “At some point, I start to make these very subjective connections between things like the Northern Lights and Napoleon’s army.”
After inaugurating her new exhibition, Fernández will turn her attention to her side gig as a member of the President’s U.S. Commission on Fine Arts. (She was tapped for the job last September.) “Everyone always asks how it happened, but the truth is, it’s a mystery, even to the people on the commission,” she said. “You really just get a call.” As the only fine artist on the board, Fernández works with architects and urban planners to approve proposals for public projects in the Washington, D.C. area. “It’s powerful,” she said. “You’re dodging generations’ worth of horrible things people have to look at.”
Watch Teresita Fernández discuss her exhibition “Night Writing” and get a peek at the installation process in the video below.