NKAME at the Fowler
Belkis Ayón Retrospective NKAME through Feb 12, 2017
The current explosion of Cuban art in the LA art scene can lead to missing the truly revelatory. The current Belkis Ayón printmaking show at the Fowler is quietly great. The retrospective includes some 43 works that are ambitious, complex, surprising and disturbing as their narratives and symbolism unfold. There is a grand, even tortured mythological meaning in the life-size prints of the doomed princess Sikan, the artist's alter ego, menaced by the secret brotherhood that put her to death to keep its power.
Ayón's work deals with profound issues of gender, discrimination, life, death and transcendence over repression. There's enormous drawing skill in these black, white and gray works, made three dimensional through multi-textured layers. Images of snakes, fish, goats and ghostlike figures abound with penetrating eyes but no mouths to speak. There’s a short video of the artist that helps us understand collography - printing multiple times using cardboard plates. The show left me feeling exhilarated and sad - we lost this phenomenal artist at 32.