On the white gallery walls hang two rope and terracotta sculptures. On the lefthand side of the image a ghostlike sculpture made of the same materials hangs from the ceiling. It resembles the form of a jellyfish.
Installation view, Tanya Aguiñiga’s “Swallowing Dirt,” Volume Gallery 2023 Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Volume Gallery

At first glance, Tanya Aguiñiga’s “Swallowing Dirt” seems to gesture to the phantasmagoric. Her spectral rope and terra-cotta sculptures fill Volume Gallery, suspended from the walls and ceiling. The figures ostensibly depict the uncanny body, which produces our premature illusory response. But under closer examination, Aguiñiga’s sculptures are corporeal. She threads together her two material disciplines to create a series of haunting forms that concretize when we approach them. 

“Swallowing Dirt” features eight unconventional portraits—sculptures that reimagine the immaterial “self” as tactile. The two ostensibly incompatible mediums—ceramic and fiber—twine together to create haunting figures. The terra-cotta and off-loom weaving blend together in an homage to Aguiñiga’s Mexican heritage. Emotional Body I spills from the gallery wall, engulfing a series of terra-cotta hands immersed in the rope sculpture. Similarly, the wall-hung Internal Body II holds terra-cotta internal organs within its fiber “belly.” Aguiñiga ventures to explore the esoteric, hanging Metaphysical Body II from the ceiling to create a hauntingly inviting display. 

On a vertical white faux wall installed in the middle of the gallery hangs an oversized rope sculpture, the rope tendrils pools on the base.
Tanya Aguiñiga’s External Body, from 2023, is made from cotton rope, terracotta, flax, and objects found in the L.A. River.
Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Volume Gallery

Aguiñiga’s sculptures appear unapproachable. At first, that is. But her abstract sculptures signal a tangibly human experience. The works not only literally represent bodies, but evoke the artist’s involvement. Aguiñiga’s use of clay from both Mexico and the United States means she is integrating the tensions with the commodification and colonization of the land. Through clay and fiber, Aguiñiga investigates the body and the conflation of both craft and materiality. 

“Swallowing Dirt”
Through 6/17: Tue-Sat 11 AM-6 PM, Volume Gallery, 1709 W. Chicago 2nd Fl., wvvolumes.com

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