Isabel Ruiz: “Carlos Mérida Prize” 2017

December 14, 2017 – January 13, 2018


Isabel Ruiz’s work is an arduous investigation, but it is also an evaluation on her inner most intimate ghosts.


Javier Payeras


The 9.99 Gallery is pleased to present, in its main gallery, the exhibition Isabel Ruiz: “Carlos Mérida Prize” 2017. This show looks to pay homage to the Guatemalan artist, her career, and her artistic merits.


The “Carlos Mérida” Prize 2017 is very special to Isabel because she is an artist who has never worked in expectation of getting something in return. She belongs to a generation of artists that was raised far away from the market and the idea of fame. Everything she has ever done is due to her passion for art, a passion which she shares with her family who has supported her in everything.


Isabel Ruiz: “Carlos Mérida Prize” 2017 is the third exhibition from the artist in the gallery. On March 2015 a one-person show called Thirty years of silence was presented, and in October of last year, Something I lived focusing on works on paper was presented in the Project Room. This exhibition gathers works from the series Río Negro (Black River), 1996; the Inframundo instalación (Underworld installation), 2008; as well as a group of large format digital prints, based on the engravings the artist executed in the eighties.


Isabel Ruiz’s work is known for its political and social critique and for its references to literature and history, especially Mesoamerican traditions. There are also grotesque images and some of certain animals like the bull and the bat, and, of course, her personal experiences as an artist, wife and mother.


The writer Javier Payeras recently said, in reference to Isabel Ruiz’s work: “[In] one of her most emblematic works: Río Negro. The images function as a requiem for all the victims of the war in Guatemala, Central America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa… all of them damaged with the ideology of third-world countries. Here where the dead are numbered but not named because giving them a human identity barely matters due to the fact that they are nothing more than statistics of the deceased.” Isabel remembers this difficult and painful time yet rich in creativity. She states that during those years “the creatives were spontaneously undertaking the topics that were being lived at the moment, and that in the decades from the seventies to the nineties many valuable works of art were being made in the different disciplines, music, literature, and visual arts.”


Inframundo instalación has its origin in Inframundo, an engraving that represents an underworld in which the main figure is Sotz, a bat or the dark side of life according to the Mayan culture. For Isabel, the underworld depicted by the Mayas keeps repeating itself ever since, even after five hundred years of European colonization. In the original engraving, Isabel merges both European and Mayan cultures, typified by the confrontation of two Sotz who, by clashing together, create a new culture. This encounter can be seen in the detail of the touching fingers, imitating the Creation scene of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which caused a great impression on the artist when she saw it.


Several digital prints complete the exhibition. Isabel’s initiation on digital impression was aided by the Spanish artist and engraver Juan Carlos Melero, with whom she worked on them. The digital prints come from small engravings that by going from a small to a large format amplify the narrative and make the whites, grays, and blacks —and in some cases, the sepia— stand out with striking intensity, also making the texture of the paper in which they are printed even more noticeable.


Isabel’s career has been prolific even though she has said otherwise, “it is not in my interest to make art just because, which is why I don’t produce much, this is because my process goes hand in hand with an analysis that lasts months, even years. I never start creating a work if I have not thought it out well. For the artist, art is not only an aesthetic and entertaining proposition, but it is also a space for real-life investigation, which is then translated into visual metaphors.