The Layered Delights of Marthe Aponte’s Paper Works
Metro Gallery, Pomona
through May 31
Written by Sydney Walters
The Metro Gallery is currently exhibiting a delightfully playful show that celebrates Marthe Aponte’s psychedelic illustrations. Her works on paper are tiny whirlwinds of color that derive their personality from a rich index of mandalas, picotee and pinhole art.
Her pieces hang in small white frames on two of the gallery’s walls. She strikes a harmonious balance between vibrant color with stark white. The negative space complements the flamboyant plats of texture and color.
Aponte’s exhibit considers life as womb, fertility and friendship. In The Eye of the Egg, a vaginal shape is adorned with swirling pink curves, green polka dots and a red flower erupting in the center. Hundreds of holes made with an awl are punctured around the central shape. In her exhibit, she crafts more than one vaginal symbol, many of which are featured as flowers on surrealist floral arrangements. These bouquets are an assemblage of pattern and symmetry that make strange, desert-like foliage that pack a powerful punch of drama.
These works are best seen in person. Photographs flatten the effect and conceal the intricate layers and textures woven into each piece. Her most impressive hybridization of paper components is Anatomie Vegetale I, a wild array of flowers. In it, she cuts layers into the paper making a receding purple spiral as the heart of the blossom. Reflective red paper signifies tiny flower petals. The rest of the arrangement is composed of vaginal and phallic flowers. The vaginal lenses enshrine complex, multicolor patterns that contrast the phallic, snakelike plants stemming in monochrome, expelling mouthfuls of fluffy white petals. The effect is a celebration of feminine life ablaze in unexpected color.
Aponte is mindful about her process and pays tribute to two historic means of art making: mandala and picotee. The mandala is one of the richest visual objects in Tibetan Buddhism. It was designed to be a healing practice and a meditation ground for rendering a visual landscape for the imagination. Because her illustrations are comprised of mandala patterns, they lean into the history of meditation and take on a metaphysical presence rather than embellishment detached from deeper meaning. The contrasting colors between interior and exterior shapes are an example of Aponte’s consideration of picotee, a word derivative from France meaning a flower that is “marked with points.” The hibiscus, rhododendron and castilleja are examples of flowers whose edge is a different color than the interior. Used in her practice, this adds depth and showmanship to these flowers that would otherwise fall flat.
Her final inspiration is influenced by early Australian Aboriginal dot paintings where Aponte mimics their process with an awl needle. Like the mandala, these ancient dot paintings hid sacred designs into the patterns. Aponte pokes through the paper making hundreds of tiny dots. On other pieces she stretches bedazzled nylon across the drawing creating a glittering constellation. The repetition of the dots offers consistency, blanketing the exhibit in a cohesive pattern.
Her figurative work, while lacking the structure and balance of her floral pieces, take a turn into the realm of surrealism as the figures float on technicolored dreamscapes. In The Bird’s Nest of Agnes, a slack jawed Agnes gazes unfixed at the viewer. Four green birds, looking more like caterpillars with beaks, poke out their heads from beneath her cloak shaped like a ladybug’s shell. Witnessing the delightful strangeness of her figures is like being absorbed into Aponte’s dreamland ripe with the bizarre and curious.
Imaginary Birds and Fantastic Creatures will be up April 13th until May 31