VIDEO: Ana Mendieta’s Niece Gets Candid About the Artist’s Film Works

Keep an eye out for an upcoming documentary.

Since Ana Mendieta’s untimely death in 1985, her imprint on the landscape of art has only become more pronounced, with interest in her life growing alongside it. “Ana Mendieta: Experimental and Interactive Films” at Galerie Lelong in Chelsea, now in its final days, offers a glimpse of the experimental moment that shaped Mendieta’s entire approach to art.

Nine of the 15 film works here are previously unseen. As her niece, Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, explains in the interview embedded above, very little footage exists of Ana Mendieta speaking about her work, and the films were discovered in the process of research for an upcoming documentary about her life and legacy.

All of these films were made during Mendieta’s student days in the pioneering Intermedia department at the University of Iowa. While later known primarily for performance and earth art, Mendieta is shown here to have been early on heavily engaged in exploring the potentials of film as a medium. (The works have all been newly transferred to high-resolution video, allowing a much closer proximity to the detail of the original Super 8 footage than earlier low-res video transfers.)

One of the earliest pieces here, an untitled piece from 1971, consists of tremulous abstract animation made by scratching directly on the film stock itself, an exercise far removed from her famous interventions into nature that nevertheless, distantly, echoes the concern with the visceral rendering of a human imprint.

Ana Mendieta, <em>Untitled</em> (ca. 1971)<br>Image: Courtesy Galerie Lelong

Ana Mendieta, Untitled (ca. 1971)
Image: Courtesy Galerie Lelong

Other pieces hew closer to the themes characteristic of her more famous works. One of the more affecting examples on view is the quietly unsettling Sweating Blood, a static shot of the artist’s own face with blood slowly beading on her temples and running down her face—a horror-movie version of Andy Warhol’s “Screen Tests.”

Ana Mendieta, <em>Sweating Blood </em>(1973)<br>Image: Courtesy Galerie Lelong

Ana Mendieta, Sweating Blood (1973)
Image: Courtesy Galerie Lelong

Given the intense interest in Mendieta’s work, the attention paid to these lesser-known parts of her career seems destined to grow. Indeed, the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has on view an even larger selection of Mendieta films, “Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta,” through July 3, 2016. And keep an eye out for Raquel Cecilia Mendieta’s upcoming documentary, which is in post-production.

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