Pre-Columbian Totems Reimagined by Pedro Reyes

Pre-Columbian Totems Reimagined by Pedro Reyes

Inviting his audience to reflect on the social and historical complexities of his heritage, Mexican artist Pedro Reyes’ latest series is a collection of carved, totemic stone sculptures that reflect on the complex history of the North American continent and the Mesoamerican civilizations that inhabited it—imbued with political charge, it is a reminder of its dark past and foundations.

The artist, who is known for his highly political practice, explores the power of individual and collective organization to incite change through communication, creativity, happiness, and humor. His work addresses social issues through sculpture, performance, and video, with the intention of highlighting individual agency and fostering dialog about global politics.

In his latest body of work, Pedro Reyes explores the complexities of American history with a collection of carved stone sculptures, rendered in volcanic stone, jadeite, and white marble, that allude to the plethora of symbolic objects from Mayan, Olmec, Toltec, and Mexican heritages.

“I am fascinated by the resilience of direct carving in stone. Once a stone has been carved, it earns its permanent place in the world,” says Reyes.


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Using the artistic and architectural language and geometric vocabulary of pre-Columbian civilizations, his totemic, abstract sculptures are a socio-political critique of the United States of America and the larger continent it occupies, as well as its history of enslavement and its genocide of Indigenous Peoples. Carving into the spirituality of stone, with the sculpture series, Reyes further aims to bring an ancient practice to the fore, exalting a discipline that dates back over 35 centuries.

The work is a beautiful collection of serene shapes and volumes that remind us of the heaviness of the natural elements, in keeping with the cultural significance of the people they represent. The contrast between the smooth marble and rough volcanic stone invites viewers to touch, quite fitting for a collection that so poignantly shines the spotlight on the human condition in this historical context.

sculpture by Pedro Reyes sculpture by Pedro Reyes sculpture by Pedro Reyes


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