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The Procession

The Procession
signed, titled and dated '“The Procesion” [sic] Maria Berrio 2015’ (on the reverse)
felt-tip pen, graphite, watercolour, day-glow paint, glitter, rhinestones and Japanese rice paper collage on canvas
72 x 60in. (182.9 x 152.5cm.)
Executed in 2015
Praxis Art, New York.
Private Collection, Vero Beach.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Praxis Art, The Harmony of the Spheres, 2015 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Almost two metres in height, The Procession (2015) is a sumptuous example of María Berrío’s richly intricate collage-paintings. Assembled from the Colombian-born artist’s signature medium of handmade Japanese paper, the picture depicts a group of women walking towards us beneath a butterfly-filled sky. Two young women in splendid floral outfits carry a girl on a palanquin. A gilded cage of parrots hangs from her shoulders, and she wears a peacock-feather headdress. She in turn holds a doll-sized woman who cradles a bird in her arms. Three veiled women in more subdued dresses stand by. One of them holds a black bouquet, and another a butterfly between her fingers. They are flanked by buildings with delicate, rice-paper façades in marbled blue and green. The work is dense with exquisite texture and detail. The strips of patterned paper that make up the women’s skirts reveal printed motifs from sunbursts to petals, polka-dots and tiny, swimming goldfish. Pink rhinestones glitter amid the flowers on the palanquin, and touches of Day-Glo paint fluoresce in the older women’s veils. Layered with magic and mystery, The Procession exemplifies the themes of feminine power, nature and myth that are central to Berrío’s practice.

Berrío was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1982, and moved to New York aged eighteen to study at Parsons School of Design, later earning her MFA from the New York School of Visual Arts. Her practice centres around the lived experience of women, reflecting on global migration and cross-cultural histories through the lens of her own biography. Many of her protagonists are inspired by Colombian folkloric figures such as Madremonte, the legendary ‘Mother Mountain’ who guards the forest. Animals populate almost all of Berrío’s works, often seeming to represent the souls of their human counterparts: she had a close childhood connection to the menagerie at her parents’ rural farm, which offered an escape from the instability and danger of the city. As well as the oral and ritual traditions of Latin America, the mood of Berrío’s works is deeply influenced by its literary heritage of magic realism, exemplified by authors such as Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges.

In true magic-realist fashion, The Procession’s closely observed urban details—overhead washing lines, slatted window-blinds and electrical units on the buildings’ walls—merge the real world with elements of fantasy. The colourful butterflies fill a dark, even ominous sky; others flutter as if trapped behind the windows. Two owls—traditional symbols of wisdom and vigilance—watch from behind the girl. The black bouquet held by one of the older women contrasts with the fresh blooms that tumble from the palanquin. Her difference from the others is marked in another subtle feature: all of the women apart from her have a bright beauty-spot beneath the left eye. If the picture’s narrative is elusive, its aura of communal strength, beauty and majesty is unambiguous. ‘The women who inhabit my paintings are embodied ideals of femininity’, says Berrío. ‘The ghostly pallor of their skin suggests an otherworldliness; they appear to be more spirit than flesh. These are the women I want to be: strong, vulnerable, compassionate, courageous, and in harmony with themselves and nature’ (M. Berrío, quoted in C. J. Bartunek, ‘“As Complicated and Elusive as Reality”: María Berrio’s Many-Layered Collages’, Georgia Review, Spring 2019).

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