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Summer hours: only by appointment via email

 

 

 

Catherine Tafur

monographic publication forthcoming

CVCV

 

 

 

 

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
 
Emma Lazarus, 1883
(On a plaque mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty)


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In 2011, Tafur’s paintings registered the breakneck pace at which the world changed around her. This was a year that began with the promise of democratic revolution in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and spiraled out of control: the Syrian Civil War began in March; the Obama administration killed Osama bin Laden in May; and Muammar Gaddafi was executed by Libyan rebel forces in October following an earlier NATO military intervention in the country. Simplistic narratives about good triumphing over evil no longer felt appropriate. And outside of Tunisia, the Arab Spring failed to deliver new democratic governments to North Africa and the Middle East. In particular, Egypt found itself caught between the harsh rule of a military junta and the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic fundamentalism.

 

Revolution, 2011Revolution, 2011The above-described events inspired Tafur’s “Revolution” (2011), shown on left, an intricately surreal painting that coordinates the weightless hope of change with the crushing gravity of reality. The artist handicaps the canvas’ largest subject with a leg crutch. Nevertheless, this man — now sporting the idealized body of a Greek sculpture and the eye of a nightmarish cyclops — continues to protest. This distortion of the Egyptian rioter conveys the inability to parse progress from regress in the Arab Spring. What may initially look like change may lead to more of the dictatorial same. Similarly, the Tahrir Square protested never delivered on the new Egypt it had promised.

 

Tafur illustrates these dashed hopes compositionally, exploding the already fractured picture-plane with a nod to the precise geometries of Russian Suprematism.

Founded by Kazimir Malevich on the heels of 1917’s Russian Revolution, the artist wrote that “art no longer cares to serve the state and religion, it no longer wishes to illustrate the history of manners. It wants to have nothing further to do with the object.” In that way, it was a cultural caesura that complimented Leninism’s break from the country’s czarist regime. Spiritually, it was a reinvention of Eastern Orthodox mysticism and iconography. Tafur draws parallels to Suprematism in “Revolution” as a gesture toward the failed revolutions of the past. And while her affinity for the avant-garde aesthetic is clear, the artist cannot help but notice its shortcomings in affecting real positive, political change.



excerpt from “The Personal Is Always Political: The History Paintings of Catherine Tafur”, an essay by Zachary Small included in Tafur’s forthcoming monograph

 

 

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“During the 80s and into the early 90s, Peru was terrorized by a communist-Maoist-guerrilla-insurgency group called the Communist Party of Peru – Shining Path, or in Spanish, ‘Sendero Luminoso.’ They began an armed struggle against the State, killing tens of thousands of innocent people, ravaged the countryside in the sierra and made their way to the coastal capital, Lima, where my family lived.

I grew uRana Plaza in Savar: Death of a Thousand Workers, 2014Rana Plaza in Savar: Death of a Thousand Workers, 2014p with constant blackouts (because the Senderistas would target and dynamite the electrical towers) and bombs that shook our house, waking me at night, as I screamed for my mom. My childhood mind had no knowledge or understanding of what was really going on in Peru, so all I knew was that Sendero were communists and communists were monsters because they bombed and killed people. Imagine my shock when I first read the communist manifesto as a teenager in the U.S. and found that this wasn't necessarily the case. My memories of Sendero's bombs and my childhood fear of communism are the seeds that led to my interests in political systems. My experience of moving to American suburbia was confusing because I was very safe, but miserable. Being a lesbian immigrant in the late 80s and early 90s in suburbia was awful. I also was slowly learning about the malevolence and violence of capitalism. I'm now anti-capitalist as I'm sure is obvious with paintings such as Rana Plaza in Savar: Death of a Thousand Workers (2014, shown on right).”



excerpt from Catherine Tafur’s conversation with artist Eric Fischl included in Tafur’s forthcoming monograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAGA, 2019MAGA, 2019

Catherine Tafur    MAGA

2019

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper, collaged on archival inkjet print

16.75 by 21.4 in. (ca. 42,5 by 54,4 cm)

 

 

Country Club, 2019Country Club, 2019

Catherine Tafur    Country Club

2019

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper, collaged on archival inkjet print

16.75 by 20.75 in. (ca. 42,5 by 52,7 cm)

 

 

Serpent, 2019Serpent, 2019

Catherine Tafur    Serpent

2019

oil on canvas

36 by 72 in. (ca. 91,4 by 182,9 cm)

 

 

Untitled, 2019Untitled, 2019

Catherine Tafur    Untitled

2019

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper, collaged on archival inkjet print

16.75 by 20.75 in. (ca. 42,5 by 52,7 cm)

 

 

Zero Tolerance, 2019Zero Tolerance, 2019

Catherine Tafur    Zero Tolerance

2019

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper, collaged on archival inkjet print

16.75 by 21.4 in. (ca. 42,5 by 54,4 cm)

 

 

Figures at the Base of Trump Tower, 2018Figures at the Base of Trump Tower, 2018

Catherine Tafur    Figures at the Base of Trump Towers

2018

oil on canvas

60 by 36 in. (ca. 152,4 by 91,4 cm)

 

 

Grand Canyon, 2018Grand Canyon, 2018

Catherine Tafur    Grand Canyon

2018

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen), pen, gouache on paper, archival inkjet print collaged on paper

21 by 22 in. (ca. 53,3 by 55,9 cm)

 

 

Muslim Ban Triptych, 2017Muslim Ban Triptych, 2017

Catherine Tafur    Muslim Ban Triptych

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

10 by 32 in. (ca. 25,4 by 81,3 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Bald Eagle

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

12 by 12 in. (ca. 30,5 by 30,5 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Madman

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) and aluminum foil on paper

12 by 12 in. (ca. 30,5 by 30,5 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Plague

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

10 by 8 in. (ca. 25,4 by 20,3 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    The Supporter

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

14 by 11 in. (ca. 35,6 by 27,9 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    The Forty-Fifth

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

16 by 16 in. (ca. 40,6 by 40,6 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Grab 'em by the pussy

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

10 by 8 in. (ca. 25,4 by 20,3 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Arrival

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

10 by 7.5 in. (ca. 25,4 by 19 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Donald Trump Has Always Been There

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

15 by 15 in. (ca. 38,1 by 38,1 cm)

 

private collection Birmingham, AL

 

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Refugee

2017

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

14 by 11 in. (ca. 35,6 by 27,9 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    NYPD

2015

archival ink (Sakura Pigma Micron Pen) on paper

9 by 9 in. (ca. 22,9 by 22,9 cm)

 

 

Catherine Tafur    Irreparable Damage

2008

acrylic and ballpoint pen on paper

13 by 9.5 in. (ca. 33 by 24,1 cm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIOGRAPHY

Catherine Tafur is a Peruvian born artist based in New York City. Tafur spent her childhood in Peru in a bicultural home with a Japanese mother and Peruvian father before relocating to the US. The content of her work is informed by the experience of her youth as a queer, multiracial immigrant in American suburbia. Her drawings and paintings explore themes of death, violence, vulnerability and loss of innocence. Her subjects are political and personal, feminist and confrontational. Since studying at the Cooper Union School of Art on a full scholarship, she has had numerous group and solo exhibitions.


 

ARTIST STATEMENT

Painting is my method of mourning. Unbridled feminist rage, anger towards the evils of capitalism and patriarchy, and the emotional fallout of shattered expectations and broken belief system are the fodder that drive the content and shape my aesthetics. The failures of our social and political systems have exposed humanity’s incomprehensible capacity for violence. Witnessing such endless destruction leads to despair. The monster of late capitalist hegemony seems insurmountable, and modes of resistance begin to feel like Sisyphean tasks. Art is a method to wrestle with this disillusionment, to grieve for our loss of innocence, and to release collective anger in a visual scream. Here is Painting as funerary object and conduit for rage.


 

PRESS QUOTES

“Ms. Tafur has skillfully translated the confusion of our voyeuristic era, and the sinister underpinnings of our current global theatre in a concise, albeit disturbing image that speaks to our time… one of the most emotionally intelligent and visually pleasing shows I’ve seen all year.”
– Ola Manana, Talking Grid, 2012

 

“Political art has the power to comment on global situations and often dig deeper into what lies at the core, reflecting an alternative to what the media feeds its audience. Such is the case with artist Catherine Tafur…”
– Steve V. Rodriguez, Progressive Pulse, 2012

 

“News junkies may be intrigued by Catherine Tafur’s interpretations of current events. She puts a surreal spin on events that felt, at the time, truly surreal. Her paintings also point out the archetypes that help us explain traumatic events to ourselves.”
– Art & Culture Gallery Notes, Hotel Americano, 2012

 

“Tafur’s riveting, contemporary works explode with instances of violence, death, and madness.”
– Alison Martin, Examiner, 2012

 

“Her images are strong and contemporary. They are a unique mix of avant-garde, horror and science fiction, with both North and South American iconography: Yankees on one hand, Incas on the other. It is a powerful, mythical presentation of a human, especially feminine struggle for normal existence as seen through the eyes of a very personal, deep experience, growing up within the horrifying urban alien matrix.”
– Uri Lehavi, Art Channel, 2011

 

“…her work makes us aware of the irreconcilable conflict between our extraordinary capacity to love and our terror that we may not be worth loving. What we come quickly to understand from this work is that what pulls at our hearts eventually tears open our flesh.”
– Eric Fischl, 2010

 

“Connecting with Tafur’s art is not what happens – the shock of the grotesque surreal repels, but then locks in for real. It’s the wicked humor and high technique that does it: the shark mermaid beribboned B&D high above Times Square, Pig Beast as a baby, Elephant Turtle whose ears are legs. Not your standard bestiary. Not your standard art. So gimme more!”
– Bob Holman, 2010

 

“…Catherine Tafur approaches her work with great earnestness, but this is not the only reason that we find such a fresh vitality in her art… We are reminded that for an artist, the act of making art is an act of introspection.”
– Noorelkys Blazekovic, Irreversible: An International Art Project Magazine, 2010

 

“These “changelings” bare their innocence, pain, sexual pervasiveness and mutations openly to the viewer. Both beautiful and disturbing, some recall mythical combinations of human-beast not made from divine sources but rather painful interventions.”
– Diane Bowen, Saatchi Online, 2009