• Cecilia Vicuña: Sonoran Quipu

Cecilia Vicuña: Sonoran Quipu

January – August 2023
Great Hall

Sonoran Quipu brings together a dynamic body of work and a new publication by Chilean-born Cecilia Vicuña, a poet and one of today’s most celebrated artists. The project, developed for MOCA Tucson and the Sonoran Desert borderlands, interweaves ecological and cosmic themes exemplified in Vicuña’s singular lifework. After encountering the 15 Flower World Variations of the Yaqui Deer Dance poem by Jerome Rothenberg in the mid-1980s, Vicuña began her own personal translation of the ceremony, creating a “poethical” dialogue between her Indigenous Andean mestizo perception and Yaqui poetics, through the shared symbol of sacrificial dance. Sonoran Quipu is the culmination of Vicuña’s long-standing engagement with the Yaqui Deer Dance through a site-specific monumental quipu sculpture, a signature form drawing on an ancient Andean record keeping system consisting of knotted cords that the artist conceptualizes as a poem in space to diagram cosmological structures. The exhibition will feature a seed quipu, inviting visitors to examine strands of seeds native to the Sonoran Desert with magnifying glasses. Commissioned for MOCA’s Great Hall, the quipu will be presented alongside drawings, sound pieces, and poems that emerged from Vicuña’s translation process. Accompanied by the first United States publication of text, the exhibition will frame the ideas and objects woven through the project and involve a Tucson Minga (Vicuña derived the word from the Quechua minccacuni, meaning a continual process of reciprocal exchange for a common purpose), a collaborative piece manifested through interdisciplinary programs that combine science, the arts, and community engagement in celebration and solidarity with the Sonoran Desert.

The artist wishes to acknowledge that the concepts of “Flower World” and “Quipu” were created by our Mesoamerican and Andean ancestors respectively, and that this exhibition is devoted to honoring their gift to us. Out of respect for the Yaqui community, the project will avoid making use of their cultural images and artifacts.


About the artist:

Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948 in Santiago, Chile; lives and works in New York and Santiago) received her M.F.A. from the National School of Fine Arts, University of Chile in 1971 and continued with postgraduate studies at Slade School of Fine Art, University College London from 1972-1973. This year alone, solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at a number of major institutions, including the Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2022); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2022), and Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia (MAMU), Bogotá, Colombia (2022). Vicuña is also included in The Milk of Dreams, 59th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2022), and for her participation, she was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (2022). Her work is in numerous public collections, including the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; and Tate, London, United Kingdom. Vicuña is the author of 27 volumes of art and poetry.