Women’s History Month: Zilia Sánchez and “La Noche Lunar”

To commemorate Women’s History Month, The Phillips Collection will be celebrating female and female identifying artists during the entire month of March. Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island)—the Cuban artist’s first museum retrospective—is on view at The Phillips Collection February 16-May 19, 2019.


Visitors with Zilia Sánchez's Lunar works in the Goh Annex Stairwell

Zilia Sánchez, Lunar (Moon), 1985. Acrylic on stretched canvas, 71 ½ × 73 ½ × 14 in. Collection of Ignacio J. López Beguiristain and Laura M. Guerra, San Juan; Lunar (Moon), c. 1980. Acrylic on stretched canvas with custom wooden base, 23 × 21 ¾ × 5 in. Collection of Mima and César Reyes, San Juan. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

The moon (or lunar) is a common theme in the work of Zilia Sánchez. Her Lunar paintings and sculptures bring an elusive, symbolic content to her work. As she recalls her memories of growing up in Havana, she explains, “I cried a lot when I was little and the only way for my mother to console me was to take me outside to see the moonlight.” This soft and calming light when day turns into night continues to give Sánchez a sense of comfort and well-being throughout the years.

The moon universally marks the passing of time and is often associated with feminine principles. With its soft glow, the full moon is a symbol of subtlety, reflection, and quietude. In Spanish, the word lunar has a double meaning, referring to either a mole/beauty mark or to the moon, thereby underlining the synergy of the body and nature, the personal and the cosmic, that is present in many of Sánchez’s works. “Lunares have sensuality and sexuality,” says Sánchez. “They are marks of beauty.” While some of the Lunar pieces emphasize the purity of circular forms in white, blue, and gray, others bear tattoo drawings that trace cryptic trajectories. Reflecting on her Lunar works, Sánchez frequently mentions the Caribbean moonlight—la noche lunar—that brings her tranquility.

Zilia Sánchez, Lunar con tatuaje (Moon with Tattoo), c. 1968/96, Acrylic on stretched canvas, 71 × 72 × 12 in., Collection of the artist, Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

The Phillips Collects: Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh, No Face (Crown Heights), 2018

Simone Leigh, No Face (Crown Heights), 2018, Terracotta, graphite ink, salt-fired porcelain, epoxy, 20 x 8 x 8 in., The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2018

Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago) creates exquisitely crafted ceramic sculptures informed by her ongoing exploration of black female subjectivity and ethnography. Through ceramics, Leigh references vernacular visual traditions from the Caribbean, the American South, and the African continent, as well as the black diasporic experience dating from the Middle Passage to the present. Vessels, cowrie shells, and busts are reoccurring forms, each making symbolic reference to the black body.

The faceless bust of No Face (Crown Heights) is encircled by a rosette featuring dozens of tiny, handcrafted ceramic roses. Leigh thinks of her sculptures as performative in the sense that she is “performing” the work of anonymous African potters (often women). The hollowness of the works is not meant to impart emptiness or anonymity, but rather the loss of authorship associated with African ceramics.

Leigh is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Hugo Boss Prize.Her work is the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Perez Art Museum, Miami; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, among others.

“I am so pleased to embrace this subtle and thought-provoking work by Simone Leigh for The Phillips Collection. The personal, hand-made quality of this mysterious object engages us with surprising intensity. I’m particularly glad that we continue to add to the number of women artists represented in the collection.” —Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski

Inside It Looks Like It’s Going To Be (Part I)

The Phillips’s latest Intersections Contemporary Art Project, Richard Tuttle: It Looks Like It’s Going To Be, has opened on the second floor of the Phillips House galleries. In the extensive exhibition—his “most ambitious,” according to the artist—Tuttle has paired a 41-verse poem that he wrote with 41 artworks that he created for the installation. The exhibition also includes 16 works on paper that he selected from the permanent collection.

Richard Tuttle with his work Just in Case You want to Order (2018). Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Richard Tuttle with his work Just in case You want to order (2018). Photo: Rhiannon Newman

The artist explains: “There’s this point where the artist—and that includes poets and choreographers or novelists—cuts themself off from their audience. The kind of work I do, it’s intense and it’s concentrated, I can actually become unmindful that this is about communication, this is about an audience connecting. But it’s also—a friend of mine, a very wise friend of mine, spoke in terms of the lecture form and said that, ‘If the lecturer does not make contact with the audience, it’s not a lecture.’ I think that’s the same in art where the artist loses contact with the audience. It’s a tightrope, it’s a walking an edge where if the audience is too much in the mind of the artist it becomes popularistic or loses strength. We’re talking about a sound bite situation and I very much—I fall in love with certain ideas and I turn those over in my head for brief periods of time.”

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It's Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It’s Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It's Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It’s Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth