WAWI NAVARROZA: THE OTHER SHORE
Silverlens Gallery New York
11 January — 2 March 2024
NEW YORK, NY — Silverlens New York is kicking off 2024 with a solo exhibition by Filipina artist Wawi Navarroza, a leading figure in contemporary Southeast Asian art. The show marks Navarroza’s first-ever solo exhibition in the United States after more than a quarter-century of photography practice. The Other Shore will be on view from January 11, 2024 to March 2, 2024.
Born in Manila and moving between Manila, Madrid, and Istanbul, Navarroza is known for her large-format photographic tableaus and self-portraits. Her exhibition at Silverlens New York chronicles her work from 2019 to 2023, and invites new audiences into her expansive worldbuilding, where language is replaced by a vivid and opulent lexicon consisting of objects, place and cross-cultural exchange.
Examining the duality of worlds in the East and West, the individual and the collective, and personal identity and experience, Navarroza documents cycles of change, lineage, and transfiguration. Anchoring her exploration in folk memory, she delves into concepts of shame, superiority, and the provincial to unlearn and reclaim a legacy of Oriental art from various Asias, spanning Anatolia to the Pacific, and including Ottoman, Persian, and Indian art. Incorporated within her work are traces of the Philippines' post-colonial past, a history inherently linked to Hispanic culture, and exhibited in the prevailing Catholic iconographies and use of 'fiesta' colors. Drawing inspiration from Chinese screens, Japanese ukiyo-e, Thai Buddhist murals, and thangka painting from Bhutan, she creates an opulence of symbolism, mystery, and meaning.
The body of work featured in The Other Shore illustrates Navarroza's artistic evolution, moving from a phase characterized by exclusively monochromatic and austere tones to her current, heightened practice defined by the embrace of vibrant, tropical hues. This transformative shift was brought about by a series of misfortunes and dramatic changes, which the artist vanquished and transfigured into art. A pivotal chapter in New York, defined by Navarroza’s critical questioning surrounding her chosen medium during her Asian Cultural Council fellowship and continuing education at the International Center of Photography, ultimately culminated in a triumphant return, marked by a vibrant reengagement evident in spirited, dynamic, and daring polychromatic works.
Featuring a series of bricolage self-portraits that explore the intimate connection between women, reproduction, and the enduring essence of art, Navarroza employs an ornate and multi-layered aesthetic within a controlled studio setting. Integrating lens-work, photographic lighting, and the deliberate arrangement of objects, her work illuminates the peaks and valleys of the female experience, creating a portrait of Woman and her threshold of a thousand rebirths. Portraits in the series such as "Tropical Gothic" and "As Wild As We Come" were meticulously crafted through years of travel between the Philippines, Spain, Türkiye and numerous other countries. As a result, these works serve as a catalog of years marked by celebrations, transformations, and rebirth.
Throughout a lifetime of practice, Navarroza has employed her corporeal form as an artistic medium. Through her artwork, she elevates the portrayal of women beyond mere material creators, positioning them as inherent, innate forces within both art and the world.