Bárbara Sánchez-Kane (b. 1987, Mérida, Mexico) presents New Lexicons for Embodiment for her first solo exhibition at kurimanzutto, New York. For the sixth iteration of From the Archive, we share past projects by Sánchez-Kane that reside at the intersection of fashion, performance, and visual art.
In both her gender neutral fashion label and her visual arts practice, all of Sánchez-Kane's work question Mexican machismo and the social construction of gender and sexual identity. The artist, who alternatively uses masculine and feminine pronouns, addresses the role fashion plays in shaping these identities. The result is a conceptual exchange between art and fashion that transcends binary associations with objects, bodies, and iconography, while emphasizing their performative and transformative nature.
Macho Sentimental vol. I, 2018
After receiving a degree in Fashion Design from Polimoda in Florence in 2016, Sánchez-Kane developed the gender neutral fashion label, Sánchez-Kane. The presentation of her collection, Macho Sentimental vol. I., during Milan Fashion Week in 2018, unveiled her ethos of the “macho sentimental”: a person who does not deny their natural impulses towards feminine and masculine forms of expression.
In this performance, Sánchez-Kane and five other characters are dressed in beige satin garments that are skillfully integrated with both whimsical and domestic objects. The characters are in an environment of white silk, roses, and arum lilies, a recurring symbol of Mexican muralism. This pure aesthetic, which eventually devolves into a mess of red paint and cut blonde hair, represents a moment of personal reflection for the artist as she confronts anxieties and fears related to religious and societal depictions of beauty, motherhood, and death. In one scene, the artist, clad in a khaki jumpsuit and a metal face cage ornamented with paint rollers, paints a woman’s body red. In another, a woman, covered by a shower curtain that hangs from the brim of her stainless steel hat, breast-feeds a baby.
Macho Sentimental vol. II, 2019
The second iteration of the collection, Macho Sentimental vol. II, manifested as a performance and exhibition at Palais de Tokyo on the opening day of the 2019 group show Prince·sse·s des villes. In this performance, the artist wore an iron mold of her body with juicers in place of her breasts, pubis, and rear. The other two performers, and eventually the spectators, squeezed oranges into the juicers. The artist received affection from Morena Valdés, who sang in the performance, as well as the unwanted advances of Pepe Romero, who wore cheese grater heels. Discussing the performance, Sánchez-Kane remarks, “I started doing performance as a way to express, the same as I do with my clothes in shows, a certain form of 3-D inspiration, the feeling, the touch and feel of everything that surrounds my work, to talk about what is happening in Mexico, of injustices, violence against women. It is a social denunciation of what affects us women.”
Accompanying the performance was an installation that included the iron mold and cheese grater heels, kinetic sculptures made from everyday objects, and a series of photographs of female pubic hair adorned with intricate designs and accessories.
Latino Couture, 2020
Sanchez-Kane’s following collection, LATINO COUTURE, was showcased within the Mathias Goeritz-designed walls of the Museo Experimental el Eco in Mexico City as part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Mexico, in 2020. The collection presented fashion as a means of deterritorializing people from heteropatriarchical systems. During the catwalk performance, the models exhibited emotional and sexual expressions as they showcased silhouettes of oversized denim and leather tailoring, corsets, and cut-out suits accessorized with Lucha Libre masks, embroidered hats, and arum lilies. Sánchez-Kane’s designs fostered new subjectivities and nurture the collective imaginary by placing clothes as a catalyst for new bodily experiences. This was echoed in the models’ obsessive writing of “macho sentimental” on the walls with white chalk, a dance, and the culmination of the performance in an orgy.
For her first solo presentation at kurimanzutto, Mexico City, Sánchez-Kane exhibited Prêt-à-Patria, as part of the project Siembra. The works on view critiqued the military apparatus in Mexico: a long-standing system that upholds hyper-masculinity and violence and contributes to the power of a national “macho” ideal. Prêt-à-Patria, a play on the french expression “prêt-à-porter,” meaning “ready-to-wear,” references the mass standardization of military uniforms and paraphernalia that aid in the performance of masculinity within the military.
The display centered around a video performance of a military escort parade known as escolta. The soldiers wear white masks that hide their identity, caps with elongated coverings, and olive green costumes that expose their back to reveal red lingerie beneath. The men command another group of shirtless, blind-folded men, with arum lilies delicately hanging from their pants; they are ready-to-be-used. The video was presented along with two sculptures. One sculpture comprises three soldiers wearing the same uniforms as in the video. They are impaled by a golden flagpole, and a make-up compact with the Sánchez-Kane logo erect from their groins. In another sculpture, the costume is flattened in an airtight, plastic-wrapped package.
The authoritarian aesthetic of the military and the exploration of Mexican identity were woven into Sánchez-Kane’s collection, Sánchezkaneismo, presented at kurimanzutto, Mexico City, in April 2022. The hybrid fashion show and mise-en-scène showcased twenty-five characters that embodied the core themes in Sánchez-Kane’s practice through the lens of the fashion house’s history. The dynamic interplay of bodies, plastic buckets and chairs, and rawhide bags and umbrellas, symbolized the contemporary human condition, where the boundaries between the “artificial" and “natural” blur.
Two nymphs, wearing rawhide lingerie, played dual roles as both hostesses and maternal figures, guiding the narrative toward its eventual climax. This climax featured a falsetto opera singer followed by Sánchez-Kane who poetically intercepted a drone carrying an arum lily mid-air. The unclassifiable presentation drew inspiration from the diverse influences that shaped Sánchez-Kane’s identity, uniting distant symbols and unlikely pairings to renounce the categorical.
Versos Rancios, 2022
Rawhide was the primary material in Sánchez-Kane’s contribution to Do We Dream Under The Same Sky at the Okayama Art Summit 2022 in Japan, curated by Rirkrit Tiravanija. The installation titled Versos Rancios filled a classroom at the former Uchinsage Elementary School. Six sculptures, made of rawhide in the shape of stiff white shirts, were positioned upright at vintage school desks. Suspended from the ceiling at the front of the classroom was a skeletal bronze ribcage with its vertebrae protruding from a rawhide shirt into long, elegant horns.
The malleability of the hide when wet mimics the malleability of a shirt, whose fabric also morphs to adjust to the body of the wearer, claiming agency in the body’s absence in Versos Rancios. In the installation, the sculptures are stripped of individual identity with the invisibility of cultural signifiers. The students become wounded, defeated by the societal constraints perpetuated by the teacher at the head of the classroom. Yet, like the models writing “macho sentimental” on the walls of Museo Experimental el Eco, audiences were invited to write on the chalkboard green walls, asserting their own narratives.
New Lexicons for Embodiment, 2023
The illuminated window display at kurimanzutto, New York, announces Sánchez-Kane’s most recent fashion collection and exhibition of sculptures, New Lexicons for Embodiment. Leather jackets and blazers, asymmetrical blouses and trousers, and loafers that also serve as coin purses transform the gallery’s entrance and bookstore into a boutique. The collection continues throughout the gallery. Piles of shoeboxes become pedestals for bronze sculptures of undulating mounds of lumpy limbs. These same limbs are formed through stitched leather and bobby pins for her most recent works on canvas; and a woven mass of red belts becomes a garment when worn by a model at the opening and a sculpture when mounted on the wall.
A school desk, like the ones found at the former Uchinsage Elementary School in Okayama, rests on the floor, occupied by a rawhide body in the shape of billowing drapery that both stretches to and falls from the ceiling. The chair is the often-invisible support for the projection of identity conveyed with fabric. As Sánchez-Kane remarks: “What’s under the clothing, what’s under the draping, what sustains the draping, is the most sincere.”
New Lexicons for Embodiment collapses the fashion runway and the fine art gallery into a hybrid, liminal space where anthropomorphic objects bring new meaning to those that wander through the exhibition. Possibilities emerge in the empty space between the sculptures and within the bodiless garments, giving rise to alternative forms of embodiment, expression, and transformation.