Mercedes Reátegui on María Abaddon and Wynnie Mynerva

The title of María Abaddon and Wynnie Mynerva’s exhibition, “Paradiso,” is also that of the last book of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the account of a journey through heaven. The show’s curator, Miguel López, never explicitly referred to this poem in his text for the show, but it would fit into his curatorial methodology: a pastiche composed of a range of elements, from historical references to discourses on gender and affect. Traces of this approach could be found, for instance, in the exhibition poster’s design, in which several works are superimposed to create a towering numinous effect, and generally in the attempt to create a Beaux Arts sumptuousness in the gallery space. Framing his text as an intimate letter to Abbadon and Mynerva, López portrayed the artists’ process as a symbolic act of dissidence in favor of a political reembodiment of gender. The text seemed to conflate—to essentializing effect—the complex bridges between affectivity, friendship, and LGBTQ activist dissidence.

Mynerva’s large oil paintings of bodies in transformation and genitalia in states of elation were playful, individualized self-portraits. Rather than resonating with the collective relationality and embeddedness implied by the curatorial text, they evoked an exuberant, individual search for sexual and libidinal gratification. In Deseos en dietilamida de ácido lisérgico (Desires in Lysergic Acid Diethylamide; all works cited, 2022), body parts, some of which may be the artist’s own, have been isolated and printed on a set of LSD blotter sheets—perhaps destined for the shared absorption of the artist’s dissolving form. But, generally, Mynerva’s oscillation between a multiplicity of forms and figurative self-representation was most effective with the impact of larger scale.

Although Mynerva’s exuberance converged with the curator’s claims for celebration and libidinal desire, Abaddon’s pieces seemed to escape this framing. The artist created a space in which animal, human, and vegetable-like forms mutually disturbed each other. Multicolored thread, cotton, foam, and wool erupted into peculiar shapes reminiscent of moss or lichen. In Desierto (paisaje de piel) (Desert [Skin Landscape]), a profusion of threads crisscross and tangle up in each other, as if the artist’s weaving had produced living, breathing tissue. Surfaces such as these carried the echo of a weird sentience. At the other end of the gallery space, approximations of torsos and limbs combined to create hybrid animal bodies made out of metal and textile. They appeared to bear a great tensile strength. Among these figures—or guarded by them—rested Abaddon’s Paraíso (Paradise), an installation reminiscent of a mysterious lair, or perhaps an altar. Its giant buds and polyps incorporate a mass of colors and textures, while arms and legs made of wax and plastic sprout from this nucleus as if from some strange colony of unidentifiable organisms.

In his impressively skilled world-building, the artist intuitively appeals to the trope of the weird, which I characterize as the manifestation of something other than natural that prompts a convulsive transformation of reality. This ideologically driven, posthuman figuration recenters attention on alternative hybrid entities. In Abaddon’s work, a speculative imagining enables a fiction of a desired, yet undetermined, future: a “monstrous future” that hosts a potential for care. At a time when utopian anticipation—the discourse of projected societal change—is being reconsidered and intensified, Abaddon’s recent work could not be more relevant.

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