Alles over kunst

Gleanings  GLEAN ENG 2


Emma Reyes

Els  Roelandt

Praktische info

Emma Reyes, MAMCO, Geneva, through 28 January 2024,

The paintings of Colombian artist Emma Reyes (1919—2003), who like Georgia O’Keefe depicted flowers in a style bordering abstraction, invite viewers to intently focus on the depicted subjects. Reyes, who remains largely unknown, was born and grew up in Colombia. After spending her childhood living in poverty in a monastery in Bogota, she received a scholarship and moved to Paris in the late 1940s. Although she spent time studying and working under Diego Rivera, she was primarily a self-taught painter. She learned an important life lesson from André Lhote, who told her to stay true to what makes her work and background undeniably unique, such as her journey across Latin America and her time spent in the Paraguayan jungle. Reyes’ paintings depict individuals set among lush vegetation, in environments where human beings and the surrounding jungle are united. By portraying her subjects alongside animals or with a piece of fruit either in their arms or raised to their lips, she sought to tell an ancient story of kinship. Far from calling for a return to the wild, Reyes rejected the anthropocentric worldview, seeking instead to return humanity to its rightful place, in dialogue with its environment. It’s precisely these topics and approaches that ensure the enduring relevance and appeal of Reyes’ work. Over the years, her style evolved from an indigenist approach to encompass experiments in abstraction and geometric compositions, psychedelic florals, masks and monsters, but she always returned to figuration, and some of her most striking pieces are stark, haunted portraits. The MAMCO exhibition features a selection of rarely seen and mostly unknown paintings from the 1980s and early 1990s. This was the period when her art adopted a distinctively South American worldview that challenged the Western assumption of human beings’ superiority over nature. Her art also anticipated Colombia’s 1991 constitution that recognises the importance of protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity.

Installation view Emma Reyes, 2023–2024, MAMCO, Geneva, © Annik Wetter – MAMCO, photo Annik Wetter