Mariana Castillo Deball - Petlacoatl

reva and david logan center for the arts, university of chicago - chicago
november 16, 2018 - january 13, 2019

mariana castillo deball, xipe totec, museum fur volkerkunde, basel IV, 2018.

Mariana Castillo Deball explores representations of cultures through material artifacts. The artist’s research-based practice draws on a range of fields that include anthropology, archeology, and ethnography. In considering how cultural objects are staged, mediated, and valorized in the present, the artist creates a thoughtful dialogue between our contemporary moment and ancient history.


Deball has titled her first solo exhibition in Chicago Petlacoatl, taken from the Nahua word meaning “mat woven of snakes pointing in all directions.” The symbol of the petlacoatl was often included in ancient Mesoamerican divinatory calendars and functioned as an omen that presaged either the impending demise or rise of a ruler. The works on view include a series of watercolor drawings, extruded metal sculptures, modular concrete tiles, and plaster sculptures that respond to the tonalpohualli, a 260-day calendar system. Marking time through twenty distinct periods that each last thirteen days, the calendar was a tool for divination as well as a visual representation of spatial coordinates and ritual practices.

For the artist, tools for measuring time and telling fortunes such as the tonalpohualli and petlacoatl are emblematic of the material and immaterial connections in indigenous knowledge systems between bodies, both human and nonhuman, and the world. Deball’s installation  extrapolates from these systems to explore sculptural practice expanded through space and time.