Women’s History Month: Zilia Sánchez’s “Mural in Cement”

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.

Laguna Gardens building with mural by Zilia Sánchez

Laguna Gardens building with mural by Zilia Sánchez

Essentially an architectural painting, Zilia Sánchez’s Mural in Cement, created in 1971, is a modular, relief-like structure built on the facades of two condominium buildings in Laguna Gardens, a housing complex near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Using fiberglass molds that she fills with cement, Sánchez creates the mural’s abstract bodily forms and paints them white, similar to her erotic topologies. Commissioned by Henry Gutierrez, a Cuban architect-developer living in Puerto Rico, the project enables her to continue making art and to settle on the island.

Sánchez says of her mural: “I have always been interested in architecture and wanted to study it. I started taking courses in linear drawing at the university, where they focused a lot on mathematical constructions. However, when the Revolution happened and the university closed, I never got to pursue an architectural career. But yes, I really liked it. When I was in Puerto Rico I made a mural in Laguna Gardens and planned it myself. I even made the molds, first out of canvas and then turned them into concrete. My paintings have an architectural element as well: the three dimensionality. The affinity to architecture is something that has always been inside me, it is something instinctive.”

Detail of mural

Detail of mural

Zilia Sánchez standing next to her mural

Zilia Sánchez standing next to her mural

The Making of Diocco (Contact)

See behind the scenes of the making of Diocco, an original mural painted for the Phillips by Senegalese artists Muhsana Ali, Fodé Camara, Viyé Diba, and Piniang (Ibrahima Niang). Of the process, Muhsana Ali says, “we started feeding off of each other’s ideas and energy, and the idea of this collaboration between—or relationship between—the United States and Africa started coming through in many different ways.”