Systems and Constellations

Milagros de la Torre

In Residence: Jan 27 – Mar 23, 2020

Exhibition: Mar 19 – Aug 23, 2020

Milagros de la Torre’s practice is rooted in both exhaustive research and personal history. She grew up amid the political upheavals in 1970s and 80s Peru and has been interested in photography since childhood. Her father had an ascendant career in the Peruvian military as a high-ranking counter-terrorism intelligence authority. Therefore, it is no coincidence that her work looks at photographic processes used throughout history that reveal darker sociopolitical motivations or implications.

Systems and Constellations was conceived when de la Torre was doing an inventory of past projects and returned to a 2012 series of the same name. Her work with human faces punctuates different periods of her career. This was an interesting discovery due to the fact that the artist was diagnosed with a memory condition called prosopagnosia or face blindness, which makes remembering people’s faces exceptionally challenging. Her diagnosis not only helped her recontextualize various life events, but also resulted in her pouring over texts and images in relationship to the human face. Her meticulous research and prosopagnosia diagnosis combined with an onslaught of technological developments in facial recognition inspired her exhibition at Artpace.

The video, titled Intervals, is a lyrical presentation of how humans have been measuring faces and what consequences of this have been for our civilization and its future. Images range from Egyptian diagrams of facial measuring to the 19th century state-sponsored theories of identifying characteristics and faces representative of criminals, individuals with mental disabilities, or those with illnesses, an early exercise similar to racial profiling. Intervals details systems used until 2020, and the new available technologies in facial recognition are astounding.

The delicate sculptural work on view Erased, Deleted, Omitted turns the idea of facial recognition technologies on its head. The 3D printed face is unrecognizable as an individual. The details and facial features are obscured by pixels offering the possibility that technology can indeed fail.

Her inky portraits of children intentionally require close inspection and reveal facial diagramming superimposed over their faces. The red points and lines appear to puncture and slice their diminutive faces in aggressive, but subtle ways. Similar linear diagrams are utilized in her installation Recollection #1 featuring convex mirrors. Mirrors of this type are often used for surveillance and monitoring in order to “keep safe” people and property. They are placed strategically inviting the audience to interact with each of them. Finely etched into their surfaces are constellations of stars representing important dates in the artist’s life derived from her residency at Artpace. One, for example, is based on Artpace founder Linda Pace’s day of birth. De la Torre combines and re-translates both the mirrors and facial diagramming from what was once a discriminatory practice in the 19th century, for example, into an otherworldly and moving experience.

There is an intimacy, quietness, and depth in de la Torre’s Systems and Constellations. Each work encourages further examination of its diverse materials, surfaces, images, and the indisputable beauty of her work. The artist poetically offers for consideration the ideas of systems and science alongside the idea that human beings, faces in particular, are in themselves constellations.

Photo Credit: Charlie Kitchen
3D Tour Capture: Chris Mills

Download PDF of Gallery Notes for Systems and Constellations


Milagros de la Torre

New York, New York, USA

Milagros de la Torre is a New York based artist working with the photographic medium since 1991. She studied Communications Sciences at the University of Lima and received a B.A. (Hons) in Photographic Arts from the London College of Communication. Her first solo exhibition (1993), curated by Robert Delpire, was presented at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. In 1995, she was an artist in residence at the Cité des Arts and worked as a curatorial assistant in the Photography Department at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris.
She received the Rockefeller Foundation Artist Grant and was awarded the Romeo Martinez Photography Prize and the Young Ibero-American Creators Prize for her series The Lost Steps (1998). De la Torre participated in ‘Contemporary Artistic Practices’, a residency at The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. She was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship (2011), The Dora Maar Fellowship, The Brown Foundation (2014), The Peter S. Reed Foundation Award in Photography (2016) and was the recipient of a ‘Merited Person of Culture Award’ from the Ministry of Culture in Peru (2016).
In 2003, her artist book Trouble de la Vue was published by Toluca Editions, Paris. The Americas Society, N.Y. presented Observed, a solo show curated by Prof. Edward J. Sullivan. The Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) honored her with a mid-career retrospective exhibition (2012) curated by Prof. Sullivan.
She has been a resident artist at the ICP-Bard MFA program and has given artist lectures at The Getty Research Institute; Columbia University; The International Center of Photography; The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Parsons, The New School; The School of Visual Arts; Hunter College; The Americas Society; University of London, El Museo del Barrio; Penumbra Foundation; Syracuse University; Phoenix Art Museum; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico; Center for Contemporary Studies, University of Barcelona; Museo de Arte de Lima, MALI, Peru.
Her work has been exhibited broadly and is part of permanent museum collections including: The Art Institute of Chicago;  Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; El Museo del Barrio, New York; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge; Yale University, New Haven; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston; The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence; Diane and Bruce Halle Collection, Phoenix; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Essex Collection of Art from Latin America, U.K.; Universidad de Salamanca, Spain; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico; Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires.
De la Torre’s work has been reviewed by Art in America, The New Yorker, ARTFORUM, Frieze Magazine, Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, TIME Magazine, Public Radio International, Broadly, Beaux Arts Magazine, Jeu de Paume Magazine, EXIT Magazine, ArtNexus, Arte al Día, and Atlantica Journal.

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Monica Espinel

New York, New York, USA

Monica Espinel is an independent curator and writer specialized in Modern and Contemporary Art from Latin America.  She has experience working internationally in museums, galleries, alternative art spaces, biennials, auction houses, art fairs, and philanthropy.  Curatorial projects include: ‘‘Black Milk: Theories on Suicide’’ (Marvelli Gallery, New York, 2004), ‘‘Carmen Herrera – Estructuras’’ (Latincollector, New York, 2008), ‘‘Memory Leaks’’ (Creon, New York, 2010), “Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz” (curatorial assistant, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), “Rituals of Chaos” (Bronx Museum of the Arts, 2012), “The Skin I Live In” (SP-Arte, 2013), “Bruno Miguel: Todos à Mesa” (Galeria Emma Thomas, São Paulo, 2015) and “Hybrid Topographies – Encounters from Latin America” (Deutsche Bank, New York, 2018).
Espinel was a Mentor for the Associate Artists program of the Liverpool Biennial (2016-18) and is the recipient of numerous awards including ArtTable’s Diversity Grant to be a curatorial fellow at Wave Hill (2009), a Milton & Sally Avery Arts Foundation Curatorial Fellowship at the Bronx Museum of the Arts (2010), and a Roswell L. Gilpatric Award to work in the department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2011).  Her writing has been featured in ArtNexus, Arte al Dia, Flash Art and
Espinel is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She holds a BS in psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Art History from Hunter College.

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