Upon entering Carla Rippey’s retrospective, Resguardo y Resistencia,* at Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, the viewer is confronted by a large-scale installation that presents a multiplicity of themes carried throughout the exhibition. The installation, Cuando Mi Sangre Aún No Era Mi Sangre [When My Blood Was Not Yet My Blood] (2008–16), consists of dozens of historical archive images transferred onto paper and intervened upon with sewn marks. The title refers to the fact that Mexico is the artist’s adopted country, and the work juxtaposes images of political violence with scenes of economic and social life from two time periods in the country’s history: a few years at the turn of the 20th century, and during the Mexican revolution. The work highlights the ambiguous relationships between large concepts and events—national and ethnic identity, historical memory, gender, violence, war, revolution, resistance—and the intimate activities and vulnerable spaces of the body in which, and through which, they work.
The circular structure of the exhibition emphasizes this intertwined relationship. On the interior wall, a few works are displayed alongside a detailed timeline of the artist’s life. Biographical events, which include falling in love, expatriating after leaving the United States, escaping from political repression during the Chilean coup, and then building a life and career in Mexico, are in dialogue with the artist’s work on the exterior walls and galleries. Just like the installation that opens the show, this curatorial structure mimics the way that individuals and artists interact with their social and political realities. Surrounding the timeline that represents the details of Rippey’s life are works that bring forth how all the big world events and ideas are lived personally.
Many of the works in the show speak to the fragility of personal agency when confronting political power. In Paisaje con Buitre [Landscape with Vulture] (1993), the artist depicts a desert landscape with a herd of camels, a few shepherds, and the cadaver of an animal in the foreground. A military helicopter hovers above the whole scene. Both the people and the animals depicted await their fate beneath rapacious forces they cannot control.