First London exhibition of celebrated Paraguayan artist opens at Cecilia Brunson Projects

Feliciano Centurión, Ave del Paraiso Florecido, c. 1995, Embroidery on blanket, 60 x 50 cm. Photo: Eva Herzog, Courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

Opening on the 18th September at Cecilia Brunson Projects, the Bermondsey gallery specialising in historical and contemporary Latin American art, is the first London exhibition of the celebrated Paraguayan artist, Feliciano Centurión entitled I Am Awake: 1992–1996.

Centurión, who died at the age of 34 in Buenos Aires from the complications of AIDS in 1996, was a central figure of the Arte Light movement of the late 1980’s and was linked to the Ricardo Rojas Cultural Centre in Buenos Aires. These artists were known for their flamboyant, irreverent works which embodied progressive attitudes to sexuality and lifestyle, all emerging in response to the fall of right-wing dictatorships across Latin America.

Centurión’s work marks a moment in Latin American consciousness where distorted and layered views of reality took favour over previous utopian ideals. The artist was raised in a small-town and absorbed Guaraní Indian and Spanish Jesuit culture. His mother and grandmother taught him lacemaking, embroidery and crochet, all which is seen throughout his work.

In his frazadas blanket and dinosaur works, Centurión intervenes the most intimate household textiles which are typically mass produced and embroiders beautifully detailed Paraguayan Ñandutí lace, patches and backgrounds of colourful fabrics that depict his night-time dreams and relate back to his heritage.

Feliciano Centurión, Familia de Dinosauruis, c.1990, Plastic toy animal with crochet wrap, 15 x 10 x 5 cm. Photo: Eva Herzog, Courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects
Feliciano Centurión, Familia de caballos, c.1990, Plastic toy animal with crochet wrap 10 x 15 x 5 cm. Photo: Eva Herzog, Courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

According to confidantes such as fellow artist Ana López, his diagnosis came with an overwhelming sense of vertigo — the feeling that a virus was tugging at his whole consciousness, not just his health. These feelings are woven into his pieces. Works that followed became increasingly intimate, small pictorial elegies — stars, suns, on pillows, handkerchiefs and scraps of blankets.

Feliciano Centurión, Estrella de mar, c.1990, Embroidery on blanket and acrylic paint, 49 x 38 cm. Photo: Eva Herzog, Courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

To help him cope with his fear day-to-day, Centurión embroidered mantras throughout his work, such as Liliana Maresca’s ‘El amor es el perfume de la flor’ (Love is the fragrance of a flower) to the more somber mantra from Alina Tortosa’s poem, ‘La muerte es parte intermitente de mis días’ (Death is a recurring part of my life).

This exhibition is comprised of a series of works from the artist’s estate — some of which have never been shown publicly since his passing. The show consists of embroidered ‘frazadas’ (blankets) along with plastic dinosaurs bedecked with crochet outfits, painted paper plates and a documentary film entitled ‘Feliciano Centurión: Abrazo Íntimo al Natural’, directed by Mon Ross.

Feliciano Centurión, Untitled (Birds), c. 1990s, Acrylic Paint on Paper Plates, 85 cm (Plate Circumference). Photo: Eva Herzog, Courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

Cecilia Brunson, gallery founder and director says, ‘Highly codified and drawing on the art forms of his native Paraguay, Feliciano Centurión’s work exudes spirit, bravery and light, and its aesthetic power is further enhanced when contextualized with the oppressive regimes he was compelled to live and work under and quietly against throughout his life. The gallery is delighted and honoured to present this landmark show, and in doing so to pay tribute to Centurión and satisfy the growing interest in his work both in Latin America — he was one of twelve individual artist shows highlighted in the 33rd Bienal de São Paulo in 2018 — as well as in Europe.’

The exhibition will run from the 19th September — 27th October at Cecilia Brunson Projects.

Cecilia Brunson Projects
2G Royal Oak Yard
Bermondsey Street

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