As Above So Below @ Mass MoCA, Teresita Fernandez

Blog post by Brian Williams

Taking up residence in one of Mass MoCA’s largest galleries, Teresita Fernandez’s installation of works collectively called As Above So Below is a series which examines the balance of the natural world through the large and the small. The installation consists of a variety of media: Fernandez utilizes gold and ink in her Golden series of paintings, graphite in Sfumato (Epic), and a variety of plastic tubes in Black Sun. The first work the viewer sees is the Sfumato (Epic), which covers the outer wall of the first floor’s central galleries. It comprises thousands of pieces of graphite no larger than golf balls, which when viewed from afar, looks like a map of the stars.

Interspersed throughout the exhibit are the Golden paintings (all done in 2014 with gold chroming and India ink on wood panel). These scenes blend the sky and the earth, perhaps even the underworld. The looseness with which the materials are applied makes each painting flow, allowing the viewer to be absorbed very easily. The application of the gold combined with additional flecks on the darker areas are reminiscent of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Nocturnes series, specifically the Nocturne in Black and Gold (1875, oil on panel). While Whistler was trying to evoke a sort of musical quality by associating his colors with sound, Fernandez’s paintings instead draw the viewer in by the reflective nature of the gold itself. The viewer’s vantage point changes as they move across the painting, with their reflection diffusing among the materials and becoming part of the work itself, giving a sense of intimacy despite the size of each painting. This effect is more pronounced with the larger paintings in this series, particularly Golden (Obsidian Sky), which measures twenty-four feet long by six feet high. From a distance, the sweeping panoramic landscapes appear to draw inspiration from Chinese landscape paintings, which also use ink as a primary medium.

The entire exhibition, but in particular, this series of images, is designed to make the viewer feel both enormous and tiny. The viewer is forced to look at each work from far away and from up close, and through the shifting viewpoints become fully immersed, involved, and interconnected.

This exhibit is on display at Mass MoCA through March 2015.