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Victoria Cabezas and Priscilla Monge: Give Me What You Ask For / Joseph Shaikewitz

April 09, 2019

Victoria Cabezas and Priscilla Monge: Give Me What You Ask For, the current exhibition at the Americas Society, scatters moments of resonance between its two featured artists. The show’s framing foregrounds a few largely biographical overlaps, such as the pair’s shared national heritage, their respective spells in the United States, and their overarching professional marginalization. And yet, Miguel A. López, co-director and curator of San José’s burgeoning art space TEOR/éTica, where this show originated, smartly eschews an overly simplified or clean-cut curatorial premise, instead accentuating the differences that underlie their distinct modes of address. The outcome amplifies two of Central America’s most powerful voices, stressing Cabezas’s and Monge’s personalized interventions into gendered discourse, political violence, imperialist attitudes, and paternalistic views of their native Costa Rica.

One informal pairing in the opening gallery demonstrates the kind of fluid kinship implicit throughout the whole of the exhibition. In Monge’s Dear Priscilla (1992), the title salutation opens an embroidered soliloquy. “I am writing this letter,” explains a repentant narrator, “to ask you permission if I may talk to you about what I did, and how I think I have hurt you.” The artist imagines an apology from her father for the lingering traumas of childhood sexual assault. “One of the ways I believe I may have hurt you,” the cursive text continues, “is that in my entering your room the way I did, I have taken away your ability to feel safe in the one place you should feel safest, your own home.” The heavy linen support for this script is largely blank, but for a delicate loop of blooming flowers: an insignia for rebirth...

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