2 More
Property to Benefit the Bronx Museum of the Arts

Above All Things

Above All Things
signed and dated
Polaroid photographs
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm.) each
60 x 24 in. (152.4 x 61 cm.) overall, triptych
Executed in 1997.
Ambrosino Gallery, Coral Gables.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Coral Gables, Florida, Ambrosino Gallery, M.M. Campos-Pons, New Work, 1997.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, 25 Feburary-3 June 2007; Miami Beach, Bass Museum of Art, 21 September-12 November 2007, María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Everything is Separated by Water, n. 17, p. 125 (another edition illustrated in color).
North Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Third Space: Inventing the Possible, 25 September-2 November 2014, cover (illustrated).
Pompano Beach, Florida, Bailey Contemporary Arts, Building a Feminist Archive: Cuban Women Photographers in the US, 20 November-21 December 2019.

Brought to you by

Kristen France
Kristen France Vice President, Specialist

Lot Essay

“Who is the other? What is center? What is periphery?” asks Campos-Pons. “My work really tries to contest and to contextualize the discourse of what it means to be a Cuban woman who happens to be black, happens to be born in that particular period of time in this large platform of ideas” (in W. Luis, “Art and Diaspora: A Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Afro-Hispanic Review 30, no. 2, Fall 2011, p. 156). Born of African, Cuban, and Chinese heritage on a sugar plantation in Matanzas, Campos-Pons graduated from Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte in 1985 and earned an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 1988. Since immigrating to the United States in 1991, she has evolved a diverse, multimedia practice informed by Afro-Cuban history and religion; race, ethnicity, and gender; and memory and migration. Campos-Pons has exhibited at major international venues—Havana Biennial, Documenta, Venice Biennale—and her acclaimed retrospective, María Magdalenda Campos-Pons: Behold, opened at the Brooklyn Museum in September 2023 and is currently on view at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

“I have been interested in time-based work for a long time and photography is a very compelling medium to comment on ideas of selfhood,” Campos-Pons reflected in 1997. “I was interested in a dialogue between the performance and the creation of the image. Polaroid was the perfect tool in which I could elaborate on the immediacy of the process, which offers great opportunities for improvisation as well as play, with a very rich, saturated palette and a glamorous surface” (in L. Bell, “History of People Who Were Not Heroes: A Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons,” Third Text 12, no. 43, 1998, p. 42). Campos-Pons began to use the 20 x 24 Polaroid camera when she was a student at Mass Art, and in the 1990s and 2000s she adapted its ultra-large format into now iconic series of triptychs, among them When I Am Not Here/Estoy Allá (1997), Red Composition from the Los Caminos (The Path) series (1997), and the present Above All Things.

A self-portrait rendered across three images, Above All Things portrays Campos-Pons in solemn monochrome: she is clad in a fluid, columnar white dress, her face and nails painted white; a plate of white cakes balances on her lap; coconuts, cracked open to expose their white fruit, lie at her feet. In channeling a Yoruba deity—suggestively the elder orisha Obatalá, creator of the world in the Santería tradition—she acknowledges the persistence, and embodiedness, of her Afro-Cuban identity. “My idea about a search for identity is to embrace the other, to understand the other, to share in a space of similarity,” Campos-Pons explained. “In the search for identity we need to mark the differences but what we want to find in the end are the similarities. . . . As a black Cuban female living outside of Cuba, I have something to say that is particular and personal about this in-between space” (in L. Bell, op. cit., p. 42).

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

More from Latin American Art

View All
View All