Miguel Arzabe

Johansson Projects is pleased to present Miguel Arzabe’s recent works in our online viewing room. Many of these works, produced in 2021, were shown in the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery titled “Condór de Cuatro Cabezas / Four Headed Condor.” The inspiration for the title is from a textile he bought while visiting family in Bolivia. The blanket hangs in his dining room at his home in Oakland, where he and his family see it when they sit down to eat. It is finely woven with blocks of color and stylized symbolic creatures depicted in rows, including several lines of condors.

After doing some research at a local bookstore in Cochabamba, Miguel found a book titled “Arte Textil y Mundo Andino” that delineated traditional textile styles in the Andes. From this book, he deciphered a four-headed condor on the textile. These amalgam animals – made from multiple parts of one animal, or one part from multiple animals – are mythical creatures that have persisted in Andean weaving traditions since before the Inca period, surviving multiple waves of colonialism. The origin of the blanket Miguel found also might have been made in his grandparents’ home region. This deeply rooted familial and cultural history is at the core of Miguel’s art practice.

We hosted a conversation between Miguel and Jill d’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where we learned how Miguel’s signature weaving style evolved from these influences and the two- and three-dimensional components of his ongoing explorations and considerations.

Miguel Arzabe

Jun. 15 - Aug. 15

For this series of work, I started out with two paintings. There is something very appealing to me about weaving a painting that is already fully realized – the composition, the palette – has already been well-considered. These works already have their own presence. I’m aiming to maintain some original integrity of the original work, and bring something new to it by weaving them together.

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Miguel weaving “Quemado” in his studio

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"The goal of art is to have a conversation. I want to share my works and have people derive joy from them and think about their place in the universe."

Te Quiero Inti (2021), Woven acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

“Te Queiro Inti” commemorates Miguel’s love for his daughter, Inti. Inti is one of the most commonly used words in Quechua, meaning “sun.” The painting contains traditional textile patterns (frets) to reference landscape features like a mountain, a thunderbolt, and rain.

“Te Queiro Inti” is in the permanent collection of the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

Isla Del Sol (2021), Woven acrylic on canvas, 50 x 46 inches
Llallagua (2021), Woven acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

Landscape is such a huge part of not only my artwork but also my life.

This piece above is Llallagua. When I finished it, I was just reading a book about mythical creatures, and when the Spanish chroniclers arrived they made a dictionary of Aymara terms (Incan pre-colonial language). The word for a mythical beast is “llallagua.” So I named this painting Llallagua because I saw animals in the mountains in this painting. There is also a town called Llallagua near the mine my father worked as an engineer. We used to go through that town. So the painting also has a connection to my father.

Para Humber (2022), Woven acrylic on canvas, 60 x 78 inches

“Para Humber” is Miguel’s most recent large-scale work, now on display in “Tikkun: For the Cosmos, the Community, and Ourselves
at the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco through January 2023.

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About the Artist