The Phillips Collection presents the first museum retrospective of Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez (b. 1926, Havana). This long-overdue exhibition examines the artist’s prolific yet largely unknown career that spans almost 70 years, featuring more than 60 works including paintings, works on paper, shaped canvases, and sculptural pieces, alongside illustrations, design sketches, and ephemera. The exhibition traces Sánchez’s artistic journey from her early days in Cuba to her extended visits to Europe and residence in New York, and finally her move to Puerto Rico, where she now lives and works. Many of Sánchez’s works reference protagonists from ancient mythology (such as Trojans, Amazonians, and Antigone—all warriors and female heroines). Others have reoccurring motifs of lunar shapes, erotic topologies, and tattoo drawings that map physical and psychological spaces and add another dimension to her curvilinear geometry, rich with metaphorical meaning. The exhibition title, I Am an Island, serves as a personal metaphor for Sanchez’s experience as an islander—connected to and disconnected from both the mainland and mainstream art currents.
“The terrific range of project proposals we receive each year speaks to the mobile and porous disciplinary boundaries of contemporary art practice, and to the rich and inventive ways writers approach art today. They are alert to the urgent need to expand the conventions of art history and criticism with ideas from other discourses, such as black studies, transnational and diaspora studies, gender and women’s studies, and LGBT studies. The work of lesser known and overlooked artists and art communities continues to be mined, with writers articulating new ways to counter the striking imbalances of race, class and gender that continue to affect the arts and the culture industry.”