19 Jan 2024. Paris
Karla Kaplun confronts colonial histories of her native Mexico through a multidisciplinary exploration of Baroque aesthetics. Working across mediums of painting, drawing, collage, video and participatory workshops, she thematizes the influence of Spanish conquest on formations of Mexican cultural identity through a distinctive visual language characterized by dynamic contrasts, fluid compositions and evocative imagery. The figures in her works emerge from tenebrous backgrounds and appear ensconced in surreal settings where classical conventions of visual perspective and rational structure no longer apply. An uneasy equilibrium between the living and the dead lends these depictions a macabre sensibility, reinforced by harsh lighting that reveals levitating skeletons and luminous specters among the entangled limbs, twisted torsos, and outstretched palms of various human protagonists.
Kaplun’s visual vocabulary adapts an array of references, both sacred and profane, to configure enigmatic and unresolved narratives. Perceptual paradoxes abound in her paintings, reflecting the syncretic formations of Mexican identity wrought by three centuries of Spanish colonial rule. Contradictory expressions of reality and artifice, revelry and despair, underscore an embrace of the Baroque proclivity for emotional intensity through a deliberate use of jarring juxtapositions and a rejection of classical ideals of symmetry, order and restraint. Throughout her work, Kaplan appropriates aspects of Caravaggio’s cinematic drama, Ribera’s morbid tropes and El Greco’s ethereal sensuousness, yet she deploys these elements to assert an implicit critique of power structures perpetuated by the European painting tradition and the painful legacy of subjugation imposed upon indigenous peoples by Western colonizers. Kaplun’s contemporary interpretation of Mexican Baroque borrows motifs and subjects from the Biblical canon and strips them of religious function, inverting Catholic mechanisms of sociocultural supremacy and reclaiming agency over representations of historical trauma.
Karla Kaplun was born in 1993 in Querétaro, Mexico. She currently lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico. Recent solo exhibitions include: High Art, Paris, France; Gaga & Reena Spaulings Los Angeles, USA; House of Gaga, Mexico City, Mexico. Recent group shows include: Lodos Gallery, San Rafael, Mexico City, Mexico; Aoyama Meguro, Tokyo, Japan; Britta Rettberg, Munich, German