Ana Hernandez: Color of Clouds at Other Plans, New Orleans

By February 22, 2024
Ana Hernandez, HUMANITY, 2023, acrylic, cotton thread, repurposed “binary beads” on canvas hanging between reclaimed wood, 58 x 60 x 1.5 inches, reads top-down, left-right. Photography by Stephen Lomonaco and courtesy of the artist & Other Plans, New Orleans.

Taking its title from a passage in The Relación de Michoacán, one of the earliest surviving illustrated manuscripts from colonial Mexico, Ana Hernandez’s Color of Clouds is an intricate body of work that quietly unsettles the grammars of colonization. Commissioned by the Spanish viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, The Relacion was produced by a Franciscan friar and anonymous Indigenous artists who created its forty-four illustrations between 1539 and 1541. It is to the present, the primary source of information on pre-Columbian social practices in the modern day state of Michoacán. Scholarly studies of The Relacion have often noted what is missing from the work as much as what is present. For example, pages containing descriptions of religious ceremonies were removed from the original previous to its binding, with only one page remaining.

Through a distinctive juxtaposition of materials, earthen and technological, Hernandez creates an otherworldly synthesis of ancient writing systems. All and at once evoking Egyptian, Indigenous and Mesopotamian style glyphs and talismanic magic, the series works itself, in its various installments, into being a document of its own.

Ana Hernandez, jUjU, 2023, acrylic, natural and charcoal dyed cotton thread, repurposed “binary beads” and seeds on canvas hanging between reclaimed wood, 36 x 24 x 1.5 inches, (reads left-right, top-down) & MATTER (invisible/visible, unknown/known), 2023, acrylic, cotton and metallic thread, repurposed “binary beads” on canvas hanging between reclaimed wood, 34 x 24 x 1.5 inches, (reads bottom-up, left-right). Photography by Stephen Lomonaco and courtesy of the artist & Other Plans, New Orleans.

Functioning as both an integration and a disruption of “standard” modes of communication, Hernandez’s works repurpose wood, beads, seeds, naturally dyed cotton, and concrete to create codices that bridge time and space. Her utilization of textiles and concrete tablets employs binary code, the primary language of all digital technologies, as a starting point for her own unique representation of language.  In place of patterns of the numbers zero and one, Hernandez uses marks, both their presence and absence, in hues of black, white, red and yellow to create a new form of hieroglyphics and an opportunity to analyze their patterns.

Pieces like jUjU syncretizes the worlds of computer coding with Indigenous knowledge from both the Americas and the African continent. Similarly, REMEMBER (our relations, where we come from, who we are) charts this interconnectedness, in part, through the use of color. Red and black, when used separately and in combination, holds spiritual significance for many groups of Indigenous peoples on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The colors call many deities and energies into the space, with Hernandez’s language system creating the harmony and order necessary to accommodate them all. In Color of Clouds, such order is repurposed as a tool for destabilizing and subverting other oppressive systems of classification. The acrylic and concrete casting works such as DECOLONIZE, and REVOLUTION are simultaneously relics of the past and a powerful call to humanity toward present and future action in the interest of all living beings.

Ana Hernandez: Color of Clouds is on view at Other Plans in New Orleans through March 10, 2024.

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