Firelei Báez, Untitled (A Map of the British Empire in America), 2021. Acrylic and oil on archival printed canvas, 96 7/8 x 132 1/4 x 1 5/8 inches (245.9 x 335.8 x 4 cm). Tate, London. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photo by Phoebe d’Heurle. © Firelei Báez
“My works are propositions, meant to create alternate pasts and potential futures, questioning history and culture in order to provide a space for reassessing the present.” — Firelei Báez
The ICA is organizing the first mid-career survey of the richly layered work of Firelei Báez. One of the most exciting painters of her generation, Báez delves into the historical narratives of the Atlantic basin. Over the past fifteen years, she has made work that explores the multilayered legacy of colonial histories and the African diaspora in the Caribbean and beyond. She draws on the disciplines of anthropology, geography, folklore, fantasy, science fiction, and social history to unsettle categories of race, gender, and nationality in her paintings, drawings, and installations. Her exuberant paintings feature finely wrought, complex, and layered uses of pattern, decoration, and saturated color, often overlaid on maps made during colonial rule in the Americas. Báez’s investment in the medium of painting and its capacity for storytelling and mythmaking informs all her work, including her sculptural installations, which bring this quality into three dimensions. This exhibition will offer audiences a timely opportunity to gain a holistic understanding of Báez’s complex and profoundly moving body of work, cementing her as one of the most important artists of the early 21st century.