Amidst the often unnecessary and spurious complexity that art has become, it is always a relief —for an art connoisseur that is not easily amused with pyrotechnics—, to find art that has truly achieved what I call “the Mona Lisa effect”: complex in its apparent simplicity, alluring in every detail, solid and yet pervasive as liquid gold, especially in a two-dimensional format in which it seems difficult to propose anything new.
Tania Marmolejo’s universe, with a “naked” eye, has plenty of tension, lyricism and visual traps. The artist masters the art of hypnotizing, bouncing the retina between seductive focal points highlighted inside a labyrinthine framework.
In a flashback, two images came to my mind that automatically inserted the artist and her work in the linage of some of the most selective figurative painting: Diego Rivera’s “Portrait of Linda Christian”, a little known oil signed in 1947, portraying the first Bond Girl reclined to a flourished tree and covering her bareness with an ethereal blouse. It is rumored that the actress was originally nude, but to please her mother’s concerns the painter covered her torso with a tiny transparent top —adding seduction to the final artwork. The other, triggers a more sophisticated nuance: a sinister childlike sensuality and the double meaning evoking fairy-tales, the sexual and also innocent arm wrestling present in Dorothea Tanning’ works.
However, Tania Marmolejo’s work mixes those rare qualities of beauty and mystery, modernity and timelessness, and exceeds this vanguard breeze with a very contemporary approach. Her vibrant palette of red, ocher, and gold has the warmth of the sun after a snowstorm, and has the intensity of Egon Schiele passed through a filter of Manga. This is not a simple sum of influences, but a new visual otherness.
She is as assertive as a modern Penelope, weaving fragile and subtle spider-webs over wood and canvas; building a neat abstraction- a pristine forest of leaves and birds that seem a work of the most obsessive-compulsive weaver. Maybe it is not a trap after all, but a waiting amusement —a “love’s labor’s lost”—. In any case, her forbearance and contempt are shady, implying a seduction. Indeed, innocence and seduction – or the seduction of innocence-, are pillars of her work; the intensive energy of her paintings owing to the tension between those pseudo opposites. While her female protagonists may be considered sensual magnets at first sight, they are also damned in their own threads; always vulnerable, like chrysalis engulfed in their cocoons, releasing —in a demure fashion— their delicious erotic flesh like butterflies growing into adulthood, yet still fighting childhood fantasies and nightmares. One can feel their inner battle, even approaching the work without any morbid curiosity, and perceive the intense erotica charging the paintings like a dynamo, (as in her own words): “We are feeling creatures —not only thinking —after all“. What is interesting is that this refined eroticism and intense lyricism opens a Pandora’s Box into thinking about the figures— and the self — not to exalt the libido, but compelling the viewer to imagine or decode the implied, underlying stories.
Following an old-established trend in western art —more than autobiographical; depicting the self in an infinite universe of possibilities— she lends her bewitching eyes to her many female figures, and the result is outstanding; a very intense and realistic gaze, without entering into hyper realism. To understand her work one must get caught in her spider web, free fall into her erotic world spun by Arachnidan threads; yet to survive the journey flanked by angels and demons, delusion and certainty, one must heed her own warning (and the title of one of her paintings): “Beware of strangers of the persuasive kind”.
About the artist
Born in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic in 1975. Tania studied Fine Arts in Norway, Altos De Chavon-(Dominican Republic), and Parsons School of Design in New York. Her paintings have been shown internationally in exhibitions and art fairs such as PINTA, In Context Art Miami, and events such as The Vagina Monologues. Her work includes animation designs for MTV, PBS, Hyperion/Disney, Scholastic Books, and illustrations for several published books.
2013 “Delicious Torment” (Solo Show)- Lyle O Reitzel Contemporary Art, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
2012 In Context- Art Miami, Lyle O Reitzel Gallery booth, Miami, FL
2012 “Extraordinary 5″, Group Show, Cafeina Wynwood Art Center, Miami, FL
2012 “The Awakening” Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston, Texas
2011 “Super Heavy” Lyle O Reitzel Gallery, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
2011 “Hyperboreans”, Group Show, Dacia Gallery, New York, NY
2011 “Enigmatic Visions”, William Bennett Gallery, Soho, New York
2011 PINTA 2011, The Modern & Contemporary Latinamerican Art Fair, Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery, NewYork
2011 “Toxic Longings” (Solo Show), Sensei at Panda Gallery, New York, NY
2011 “Superheroes”(Courtesy of Lyle O Reitzel Gallery) Casita Maria Center, New York
2010 PINTA ART FAIR 2010, Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery, NewYork.
2010 ‘Collective Show’ Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
2010 HIBRIDOS-Arte Dominicano, Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York
2009 XVIII IBERO – AMERICAN ART SALON, Katzen Art Center Washington, DC
2008 ART COLLISION Traveling Art Exhibit, San Francisco, CA
2008 XVII IBERO – AMERICAN ART SALON, Katzen Art Center, Washington, DC
2007 FEMENINO SUBTERRANEO, District & Co., Santo Domingo, DR
2006 THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES Show and Exhibit, Columbia Presbyterian, New York
2006 MAD ARTS SPRING SHOW, Madarts Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
2005 MAD ARTS WINTER SHOW, Madarts Gallery Brooklyn, New York
2005 DISTRICT & CO. OPENING EXHIBIT, District & Co., Santo Domingo, DR
2005 MADARTS FALL SHOW, Madarts Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
2005 PARK SLOPE STUDIO TOUR OPENING EXHIBIT, Madarts Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
About the critic
Joaquin Badajoz is a writer, art critic contributor for El Nuevo Herald and independent curator based in Miami. Has curated more than thirty art exhibitions in Cuba, Panama and US. Has had reviews, articles, culture theory and literature essays published in several magazines such as: ArtPulse, Wynwood Magazine, ArteCubano, LaGaveta, El Panamá América and La Prensa, Vitral, Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, RANLE, Cuadernos de ALDEEU, Hispania, amongst others. Is a fellow member of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language (ANLE, correspondent of RAE). Has given lectures at the University of Warsaw (Poland), Instituto Castellano y Leonés de la Lengua (Burgos, Spain), UCIP-UCLAP, Refresher Program (Lima, Peru), Altos de Chavón School of the Arts, affiliated of Parson the New School for Design, New York (Dominican Republic), and several institutions in the United States. Has been executive editor for Cosmopolitan and is a Front Page editor for Yahoo!