Firelei Báez

Trust Memory Over History

6. 7. — 13. 10. 2024


With dynamic compo­si­tions, intense color variety, and enigmatic motifs, the large-format paintings and expansive instal­la­tions of the Dominican-US-American artist Firelei Báez (b. 1981) demand attention and invite the viewer into visually overwhel­ming experi­ences in today’s oversti­mu­lated culture.

The New York-based artist’s fictional pictorial worlds combine headless creatures that magically oscillate between human, plant, and animal, with seduc­tively shiny hair, colorful feathers, plump fruit, and storm-tested palm trees. With a painterly stroke of libera­tion, Firelei Báez contrasts the violent chapters of world history with beauty and joy. Her themes range from Dominican and Caribbean culture, science fiction, and art and natural history to the colonial era, migration, life in the diaspora, racism, and gender issues.

While Firelei Báez’s paintings are based on histo­rical maps, construc­tion plans, or diagrams, her paper instal­la­tions consist primarily of painted book pages. The maps document state borders and thus control mecha­nisms and power relations, her abstract compo­si­tions and powerful creatures occupy and explode this world order. Her figures are difficult to grasp—self-determined, they defy catego­riz­a­tion. They subvert Eurocentric views and demons­trate resis­tance to past and present social hierarchies.

The energy that I have experi­enced in the world has to be expressed or I’ll just burst.”

Firelei Báez

In this sense, the exhibi­tion title, Trust Memory Over History, refers to the vast space between memory and oral tradition on the one hand and written and mapped history on the other. Firelei Báez confronts the absence of critical voices of discri­mi­nated people and countries in histo­rical documents of the manifes­ta­tion of power with colorful and figura­tive presence as a form of inter­ven­tion. With this correc­tive retro­spec­tion, she creates perspec­tives for alter­na­tive, global, and future-oriented ways of thinking. 

Following the acqui­si­tion of an instal­la­tion by Firelei Báez in 2018, the Kunst­mu­seum Wolfsburg is now presen­ting the artist’s first solo museum exhibi­tion in Germany. It features mainly paintings and paper instal­la­tions from recent years, including a work conceived especially for the exhibi­tion in Wolfsburg.

The exhibi­tion was organised in coope­ra­tion with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, and will be accom­pa­nied by a publi­ca­tion in English.

Uta Ruhkamp

Curato­rial assis­tance
Carla Wiggering

Firelei Báez, Encyclo­pedia of gestures (Jeu du monde), 2023, Öl und Acryl auf Archiv­druck auf Leinwand, 209,3 × 263,8 cm, Privat­samm­lung, © Firelei Báez, Courtesy die Künst­lerin und James Cohan, New York, Foto: Mats Nordman.