Edgar Calel: B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone)

    Edgar Calel: B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone)

    May 11–Aug 7, 2023

    • Images
    • Text
    • Events
    • Materials
    • Press
    • Sponsors

    B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone) continues artist Edgar Calel’s engagement with the Mayan Kaqchikel cosmovision and the transmission of its concepts and practices to new publics through spaces of contemporary art. Calel’s installations across media connect sites in and around his hometown of Chi Xot (San Juan Comalapa), Guatemala, to sites elsewhere through processes of transposition, consistent attention to materials, and local translation. At SculptureCenter, Calel inaugurates B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone), an installation of rock, soil, and fire that connects the essential elements of a site for jun k'obomanik, or giving thanks through offering rituals.

    B’alab’äj refers to a specific stone located at the foot of the mountains around Chi Xot, above a valley planted with corn. This stone is significant to the Mayan Kaqchikel for its status as a mediating landmark at which offerings, typically lit candles, can be left to ask ancestors for help for the forthcoming growing seasons. At SculptureCenter, Calel will create a microcosm of this geological and agricultural landscape with an installation of furrowed plots of soil and rock. Within an expanse of earth, stones will be placed to resemble the b’alab’äj, and the artist and SculptureCenter staff will light yellow candles on the rocks each day upon opening the exhibition space. The b’alab’äj imperative to “be thankful for everything we cannot see, but which exists” offers a collective approach to respecting deep knowledge and expressing hope and anticipation for the future. Calel’s works require entrusting devotional forms to an institution, its staff, and its constituents, and the artist views such a collaboration as a means of opening these traditions while remaining in dialogue with ancestral practitioners. His artistic strategies engage with his community’s robust artistic contributions and challenge histories of earthworks and ceremonially-inflected artistic practices in the United States.

    Édgar Calel: B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone) is the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition and is organized by SculptureCenter.

    Édgar Calel (b. Chi Xot (San Juan Comalapa), Guatemala, 1987) studied at the Escuela Nacional de Arte Rafael Rodríguez Padilla. He works in a variety of media, exploring the complexities of the indigenous experience, as seen through the Mayan Kaqchikel cosmovision, spirituality, rituals, community practices, and beliefs, in juxtaposition with the systematic racism and exclusion that the indigenous people of Guatemala endure on a daily basis.

    He recently had his first solo exhibition, Pa Ru Tun Che ́ (From a Tree Top), at Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City (2021); and has participated in numerous group exhibitions including uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things, 12th Liverpool Biennial (2023); Soft and Weak Like Water, 14th Gwangju Biennial (2023); Is It Morning for You Yet?, 58th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2022); The Crack Begins Within, 11th Berlin Biennial, Berlin (2020); Los Jardineros (The Gardeners), Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City (2020); Continuous Fire | Feu continuel, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2019); Virginia Pérez Ratton. Centroamérica: Deseo de lugar / Centra America, MUAC Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2019).

    His works are part of the permanent collections of Tate, London; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; the National Gallery of Canada, Ontario; Fundación TEOR/ética, San José, Costa Rica; MADC Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, San José, Costa Rica; and Kadist, San Francisco. Additionally, he has participated in artistic residencies including Tropical Papers (2021); Residencia Rua do Sol, Portugal (2019), and at Lastro research platform, Brazil, 2015), amongst others.

    Édgar Calel: B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone) is co-commissioned by SculptureCenter, New York and Hartwig Art Foundation, Amsterdam.


    Additional support for the exhibition is provided by Antonio Murzi.

    Leadership support for SculptureCenter’s exhibitions and programs is provided by Carol Bove, Lee Elliott and Robert K. Elliott, Barbara and Andrew Gundlach, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, and Jill and Peter Kraus. Major support is provided by the Marguerite Steed Hoffman Donor Advised Fund at The Dallas Foundation, Karyn Kohl, Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins, Eleanor Heyman Propp, and Jacques Louis Vidal. Support is also generously provided by the May and Samuel Rudin Foundation, Inc., with additional funding from Candy and Michael Barasch, Sanford Biggers, Libby and Adrian Ellis, Jane Hait and Justin Beal, and Amy and Sean Lyons.