Harper’s is pleased to announce La Piel de la Tierra, Carlos Jacanamijoy’s debut solo exhibition at the gallery’s Chelsea locations. The exhibition features new oil paintings by the influential Colombian artist. La Piel de la Tierra opens on Thursday, May 18, 6–8 PM, with a reception attended by the artist.
Jacanamijoy’s rigorous painting practice is steeped in hybridity. The revered artist was born in the fertile Sibundoy Valley in the province of Putumayo, located in Southwest Colombia. Nestled in the heart of the Amazon, the region is home to an aboriginal Quechua-speaking community called the Ingas—descendants of the Inca Empire. In Quechua, Putumayo or “p’utuy mayu” roughly translates to “gushing river.” The name encapsulates the bountiful land that envelops the region. Here, verdant mountains of soaring altitudes border cascading waterfalls and quiet hot springs. The surrounding Amazon rainforest—noisy, evergreen, and full of life—provides a vibrant habitat for the world’s most biodiverse flora and fauna. Born in an Inga family to a father who was an important shaman, the artist was privy to aboriginal spiritual traditions and oral histories throughout his youth. These religious practices were deeply entangled in the poetics of the surrounding land and its prolific ecosystems. Certain plants, herbs, and other wildlife were identified as “teachers,” guiding human existence through their healing properties.
Jacanamijoy brought these tenets with him as he traveled throughout Colombia and abroad. As a young adult in the 1980s, Jacanamijoy migrated to the nation’s capital, Bogotá, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fine Arts and Philosophy, deepened his studies of Western art histories, immersed himself in political organizing coalitions, and began his career as a painter. In the 1990s, the artist’s work amassed international recognition: his mesmerizing paintings could be found in major solo exhibitions across Latin America, and then in the United States and Europe. Together, Jacanamijoy’s Inga cultural memory and formal academic training converge across surreal landscape abstractions that at once recall the ethereal geographies of his homeland and the acculturation of a cosmopolitan, traveling artist.
Jacanamijoy began his exploration of abstraction in 1983 while a student of Fine Arts at the University of La Sabana in Bogotá. Just sixteen years prior, the influential Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez left his mark on the city and beyond, canonizing the literary style known as magical realism through his foundational text, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Jacanamijoy crossed paths with the writer among their shared intellectual circles in Bogotá and ultimately went on to create a portrait of Márquez, paying homage to the writer’s legacy. In literature, magical realists distinctively blur the lines between fantasy and reality, often illuminating the supernatural within the mundane. While Jacanamijoy does not work in a realist vein nor does he center the banal in his paintings, the artist does draw from representational approaches—namely landscape painting—to imagine atmospheres not yet materially rendered but perceived metaphysically. In this regard, Jacanamijoy’s works can be experienced as magical abstractions that conceal abstruse myths, oral histories, and cultural traditions within enigmatic visual planes.
The works on view in La Piel de la Tierra sustain this approach across oil paintings that linger within divine space. In this new body of work, environments are repeatedly infused with esoteric gestures: sinuous marks meet fantastical hues that recall whispering trees, pensive skies, and electric waters. These sites are timeless terrains—night and day are imperceptible among an even synthesis of light and dark hues within each composition. In Nocturnos de algarabía for example, oceanic tones shadow submarine worlds that glisten with brilliant white light. These luminous pastels suggest a supernatural presence in sacred waters, peeking out from a tangle of green striations that resemble lush coral reefs.
In works like El árbol de los sueños that foreground warmer colors, cool notes continue to be integrated throughout the canvas, again echoing the nonlinear sequencing of these arcane scenes. Here, swaths of smoldering auburn dance around melancholic yellows and muted greens in layers of intimidating marks. Together, the balmy, yet fiery palette feels reminiscent of dusk on a sweltering summer day. Ultimately, however, flashes of vivid blue sky reanimate the lethargic sunset.
The paintings in this exhibition, like Jacanamijoy’s prolific oeuvre at large, appear to be in constant motion. This kinetic energy calls forth the buzzing spirits that dwell in the natural world. Inga ancestral religion is grounded in this ever-present, frenetic reciprocity between the natural and the physical world. It teaches us that the exchange among earth, the life that it bears, and the cosmologies it radiates sees no bounds. For Jacanamijoy, this metaphysical interconnectivity is at the helm of his artistic practice. The artist’s meditative, abstract compositions recall both psychic and geographic sites. Still, these otherworldly portals maintain a complex dialogue with Western schools of abstraction. In La Piel de la Tierra, Jacanamijoy skillfully excavates the spiritual possibility that resides within abstraction’s profoundly infinite color fields.
—Written by Daniella Brito
Carlos Jacanamijoy (b. 1964, Santiago, Colombia) received an MA from Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá in 1990, and an MCS from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá in 2014. Most recently, his work has been the subject of presentations at Almine Rech, Paris (2022); Harper’s, East Hampton (2022); Korea Foundation, Seoul (2021); Museum of Cultural History, Oslo (2020); Palacio de la Proclamación, Cartagena, BO (2019); Tabari Artspace, Dubai (2019); Museo Rayo, Valle del Cauca, CO (2019); and Museo de Arte Moderno, Toluca, MX (2018). Jacanamijoy’s work has been acquired by the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC; Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá; Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional, Bogotá; and Banco de la Republica, Bogotá, among other institutions. He lives and works in Cartagena and Bogotá, CO.