Amalia Mesa-Bains: Archaeology of Memory is the first retrospective exhibition of the work of longtime Bay Area artist Mesa-Bains. Presenting work from the entirety of her career for the first time, this exhibition, which features nearly 60 works in a range of media, including fourteen major installations, celebrates Mesa-Bains’s important contributions to the field of contemporary art locally and globally.
For over forty-five years, Mesa-Bains has worked to bring Chicana art into the broader American field of contemporary art through innovations of sacred forms such as altares (home altars), ofrendas (offerings to the dead), descansos (roadside resting places), and capillas (home yard shrines). She expanded her installations from domestic spaces to include laboratories, library forms, gardens, and landscapes, focusing attention on the politics of space to highlight colonial erasure of the preexisting and still-surviving cultural differences in colonized Indigenous and Mexican American communities. Many of these works offer a feminist perspective on the domestic life of immigrant and Mexican American women across different historical periods—most notably the four-part installation series Venus Envy, which was created over multiple decades and will be displayed in its entirety for the first time at BAMPFA.
Standing at the juncture of cultural diversity, environmentally centered spirituality culled from ancestral non-Western worldviews, and intersectional feminism, Mesa-Bains has been heralded as one of the most prominent voices in feminist Chicanx art of her generation.
Amalia Mesa-Bains: Archaeology of Memory is organized by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in collaboration with the Latinx Research Center (LRC) at UC Berkeley. The exhibition is guest curated by María Esther Fernández, artistic director of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, and Dr. Laura E. Pérez, professor and chair of the LRC.
The exhibition is made possible by generous lead support from the Henry Luce Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Major funding is provided by Margarita Gandia and Diana Campoamor, Marta Thoma Hall, Pamela and David Hornik, and the UC Berkeley Latinx Research Center. Additional support was provided by a College of Letters and Sciences Dean’s Faculty Excellence Program project grant, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.