Spotlight: Donna Huanca Takes Over Sean Kelly, New York, With a Multisensory Installation

The Berlin- and New York-based Donna Huanca's first exhibition with the gallery is an immersive, multidisciplinary project.

Installation view of "Donna Huanca: VENAS DEL CAPULLO" (2023). Photo: Jason Wyche. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

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What You Need to Know: On view through December 23, 2023, Sean Kelly, New York, is presenting “Donna Huanca: VENUS DEL CAPULLO,” the artist’s debut exhibition with the gallery. For the show, Huanca has created an extensive, site-specific installation in which a recyclable “membrane” encompasses the galleries. Comprised of large-scale paintings on canvas, sculptures made from stainless steel and mixed media, and both scent and sound elements, the show invites visitors on a multisensory journey through Huanca’s practice and vision. The title of the show refers to both the active and passive phases that occur over the course of the entire creative process.

Huanca said of the exhibition, “With the installation and title, I wanted to respond to the art gallery being a place of commercial transaction and transform this space into a lab: a place that honors the creative process rather than the finished product.” The present exhibition is concurrent with another major solo exhibition of Huanaca’s work, “SCAR TISSUE (BLURRED EARTH),” on view at the Faurschou Foundation, Brooklyn, through July 14, 2024.

About the Artist: Originally from Chicago and currently living and working between Berlin and New York, Bolivian American artist Donna Huanca maintains a practice that explores the relationship between the human body and natural world. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to her work, Huanca employs a diverse range of materials—from industrial to traditional—to craft experiential environments, installations, and objects that dialogue both with the space they occupy and the viewers presence. Huanca received her B.F.A. from the University of Houston, Texas, in 2004, and subsequently studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, and Städelschule, Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt, in 2006 and 2009 respectively. She has been the subject of over two dozen solo exhibitions worldwide, and was named a Hirshhorn Artist Honoree by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., in 2016.

Why We Like It: A hallmark of much of Huanca’s work is its ability to create a dialogue with the specific space it is exhibited, and the exhibition “VENUS DEL CAPULLO” highlights this. The sheet-like “membrane” covering the walls of the gallery make the space decidedly Huanca’s own, and the arrangement of sculptures, paintings, and objects operate both autonomously as well as part of the collective whole. A range of metal sculptures punctuate the exhibition, and range from structured, reflective pierced steel to more organic cast aluminum structures, each evoking themes and ideas around the human body and its changeability. The former evoke the artist’s Bolivian heritage, and the traditional piercings and braids, as well as quipu (a form of record keeping based on knots) found in Incan civilizations, harmonizing ancient and traditional practices and modes of communication with a contemporary art-making context.

See inside the exhibition below.

Installation view of “Donna Huanca: VENAS DEL CAPULLO” (2023). Photo: Jason Wyche. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

Installation view of “Donna Huanca: VENAS DEL CAPULLO” (2023). Photo: Jason Wyche. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

Installation view of “Donna Huanca: VENAS DEL CAPULLO” (2023). Photo: Jason Wyche. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

Installation view of “Donna Huanca: VENAS DEL CAPULLO” (2023). Photo: Jason Wyche. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

Donna Huanca: Venas Del Capullo” is on view at Sean Kelly, New York, through December 23, 2023.

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