The title of Mexican artist Lucía Vidales’s current exhibition, Sudor Frío (“cold sweat” in Spanish), evokes a paradoxical state: the body is inactive, maybe even immobile, yet perspiring. On view at New York’s PROXYCO are 12 unusual figurations all made in the last year, a time when many of us remained largely confined to our domestic spaces. The artist’s paintings, filled with sluggish, draping limbs, plumb the tension of the show’s titular phenomenon — our pandemic bodies may be moving slower, but our minds and hearts are racing.
Vidales creates complex compositions with simple gestures. In “Shadow sign” (2021), a few lines and forms come together to render the lower half of a sitting figure, its single visible leg folded over a chair. A strikingly angular knee juts out prominently like the bow of a ship, but the thigh’s contours are soft and gentle, and the warmth of the painting’s glowing, orange palette is comforting. It reads like a loving and forgiving self-portrait.
Immediately across from that work is “Ixiptla” (2021), a much darker painting in which two shadowy characters appear to carry away a woman’s drooping body. In this piece and throughout the show, verticality is the dominant direction. But Vidales’s protagonists are not rigid, upright, self-assured figures. Their extremities are long, languid, and wobbly; the hoisted figure’s hair tumbles down in one big, oily mass like my own unwashed locks.
The paintings, ranging in scale from medium-sized to tiny, eight-by-six-inch rectangles, continue along the walls of Proxyco’s spacious gallery. Vidales’s preference for mixing mediums — a single canvas might combine encaustic, charcoal, oil, and acrylic — makes them pleasingly difficult to decipher, as does her audacious juxtaposition of discordant hues. Lulling blues sit next to fleshy and gauzy tones, further disrupted by swathes of fluorescence; fearless, gritty black; and earthy terracotta.
The uncanny compatibility of these colors recalls the chromatic experiments of the artist Maria Lassnig. And like Lassnig, who developed “body awareness painting” — a method of painting only the parts of her body that she could feel — Vidales is keenly attuned to her own physicality. Her works embrace the ways in which we become aware, embarrassed, overwhelmed, and maybe even immensely proud of our bodies in moments of solitude.
Lucía Vidales: Sudor Frío continues through April 24 at PROXYCO (121 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan).