Rendering her subjects in complex layers of pattern and imagery, New York-based artist Firelei Báez reconfigures visual references drawn from the past to explore new possibilities for the future. By overlapping representational motifs, Báez carries portraiture into a space where subjectivity is rooted in historical narratives as much as it can likewise become untethered by them. In her exuberantly colorful paintings, Báez negotiates identity in relation to overlapping, non-linear cultural and regional histories, combining symbolic cues that span from hair textures to textile patterns, plantlife, folkloric and literary references, and wide-ranging emblems of healing and resistance. Often featuring strong female protagonists, her works incorporate the visual languages of regionally-specific mythology and ritual alongside those of science fiction and fantasy to envision identities as unfixed, and inherited stories as perpetually-evolving.
Firelei Báez (b. 1981, Dominican Republic; lives and works in New York) received an M.F.A. from Hunter College, a B.F.A. from the Cooper Union’s School of Art, and studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. The artist’s work will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the ICA Watershed in 2020. In 2019, Báez solo exhibitions took place at the Mennello Museum of Art, Orlando, FL, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the Modern Window at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Her monumental outdoor sculpture, 19.604692°N 72.218596°W, is currently included in the 2019 High Line Art exhibition. Her major 2015 solo exhibition Bloodlines was organized by the Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL and traveled to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.