Donna Huanca: Obsidian Ladder

Art, Performance art Free
Donna Huanca: Obsidian Ladder
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Time Out says

Known for using nude bodies as her canvas, Huanca’s site-specific performance piece has filled the Marciano’s theater gallery, a former gathering place for the Freemason’s secret order of men, with painted female models.

The only consistent thing about the Marciano’s theater gallery is how wildly different it appears during each exhibition, and Obsidian Ladder is no exception. Huanca has bathed the space in harsh white lighting—made (unintentionally?) more clinical by the white-clad museum employees who line the perimeter. But the pieces between the massive, slanted vertigo-inducing walls feel far more organic and ritualistic. Seven models—sometimes standing, other times kneeling or laying down—adorned with pendants, elaborate hair pieces and thick ponytails move slowly about a series of steel sculptures. There’s no set path or choreography; the models are free to move as they please, though there are certainly moments where all of their movement seems coordinated.

Two important things we should note: Performances are only scheduled on Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. Though Huanca’s blue swirls of paint are still beautiful, the installation isn’t complete without the models. Speaking of, that brings us to our second point: Yes, the female models in the installation are fully nude. It’s certainly something to keep in mind for younger viewers, though nothing is obscene or lewd—quite the contrary, as Huanca’s body paint work is simply stunning and lends the whole piece an empowering air.

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