Sylvia Palacios Whitman








61 x 116.8 cm


Mixed media

Credits: Courtesy of the artist

Produced in 2020, this large-scale work on paper by Sylvia Palacios Whitman, a Chilean artist based in the United States, brings together several characteristic elements of her work. Interested in generating sensorial experiences that combine the artistic object with action (be it dance or performance) to expand the definition of the work of art, Palacios Whitman usually works with ephemeral pieces typical of theater props in her choreographies. In Banana, a male figure cut out of cardboard evokes the tradition of paper puppets. With his short-brimmed hat, suit, and shoes, the cardboard man is reminiscent of the representation of capitalism embodied in a man dressed in a suit in the Avant-Garde social painting. Another fundamental feature of Palacios Whitman’s work is the symbiotic relationship between drawing and bodily action: frequently, her works on paper resemble sketches for future performances, and her choreographies often produce pictorial images. Besides the cardboard silhouette, Banana includes a drawing of a banana on an indigo blue background as if the fruit were an island floating in the ocean. The banana appears to have a bleeding wound that links it directly to the figure of man/capitalism through a tangled line. Banana therefore draws attention to US extractivism in Latin America and, in particular, in the Caribbean islands where natural resources such as bananas are exploited by multinationals. The fact that the banana drawing is framed as a traditional work of art also brings to mind the art market, represented again by the man’s figure, as a parasitic system that preys on the hard work of artists. Palacios Whitman’s work is marked by her experience as a migrant in New York since the 1960s, an experience that nourishes her works with a political charge, as is the case of Banana. Curiously, in an interview in 2015, Palacios Whitman recalled the hunger she suffered during her first years in the Big Apple. The artist recalled that the monkey that accompanied her as a pet sometimes served as an excuse for the street fruit sellers on Avenue A to give her bananas, which she would then share with the animal. In short, like the knot of lines that appears in Banana, this work links in a rhizomatic way several characteristic elements of Palacios Whitman’s artistic career.