José Vera Matos presents the solo show ‘Nuevas Almas Salvages’ in Lima.


Image courtesy of MATE.

17 March – 26 June 2016

MATE, Museo Mario Testino presents a new solo exhibition by José Vera Matos, Nuevas Almas Salvages in Lima, Peru.

José Vera Matos was in residence with Delfina Foundation during summer 2015 as part of our annual residency partnership with MATE, Museo Mario Testino. The partnership facilitates one Peruvian artist each year to live and work in London for a period of six weeks.

In this exhibition, José Vera Matos proposes a rereading of the great legacies of the Spanish Conquest—the language, the economic system, the Catholic religion—and their implicit baggage: domination, inequality, and repression. Vera documents these legacies in their current forms, transformed—nowadays—not by the meeting of two worlds, but by their absorption by the globalized world: popular music, informal commerce, mass culture, etc.

The video-installation Nuevo Absoluto contrasts two projections. In one, a man croons the melody to Solamente una vez (Only one time), in a slowed-down version. His posture expresses the emotional burden of the bolero, while his voice conveys the pain of the narration (perhaps in a kind of dialogue with flamenco’s quejío).The other shows the singer’s hands. His arms stretch out, with hands downward. From his wrists hang golden chains with crucifixes, recalling images of slavery (also associated with exploitation in the mines). Another shot shows his open hands, as if in prayer: trinkets being offered in a scene of faith and trade—religiosity and the informal economy moving to the beat of an ode to lost love. But this image also suggests the exchange of gold for knick-knacks: despoilment and trickery.

An installation formed by low, blue tables combines three unlike elements: broken and restored pottery, long wax sticks, and cut glass tumblers with whisky on the rocks. The Pre-Columbian past is revealed as irretrievably shattered, religiosity and punishment blur together (altar candles or rods for striking?), and the consumption of liquor speaks to the assimilation of lifestyles inherent to a contemporary colonization. Other sorrows, other losses, and other inheritances of new conquests are spread sparingly over this table: only one time, once again.

In Nuevas Almas Salvajes, José Vera Matos draws a link between voice, word, sound, and the silence that harbors an echo of a brutal past. A past updated in the souvenirs, relics, and emblems that embody our—musical, religious, social and emotional—traditions, stereotypes, and aspirations.