María Berrío - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Titled after the childhood game “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” María Berrío’s eponymous collage brims with the magical realism and visual dynamism which have come to define the Colombia-born artist’s celebrated oeuvre. Executed in 2015, the present work features three women seemingly floating atop flower stems, set in a richly layered utopian vista. Confronting the viewer directly with their gazes, Berrío’s women are imbued with an indisputable power and poise, reclaiming strength through their femininity.

    "The women who inhabit my paintings are embodied ideals of femininity. The ghostly pallor of their skin suggests an otherworldliness; they appear to be more spirit than flesh. These are the women I want to be: strong, vulnerable, compassionate, courageous, and in harmony with themselves and nature."
    —María Berrío

     

    The artist further empowers her figures with ornate clothing and jewelry, noting “The costumes are a way for me to bring these idealized images of women into reality… Some of the garments in my collages are invented, some are garments I actually own. Everything you see is something I would wear in real life.”i In He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, Berrío’s women are clad in richly patterned dresses, flowery headpieces and opulent jewelry. Berrío physically adorns her figures with rhinestones which abundantly flow from the central figure’s hands and dress, perhaps a reference to the jewelry worn by women from different Indigenous societies to protect against evil spirits. Their Frida Kahlo-like headpieces are halo-esque, further elevating the figures to an otherworldly status. Rather than a symbol of fragility vis-à-vis femininity, her women are ultimately made stronger through their attire, which serves both as armor and as a reason to celebrate beauty and womanhood.

     

     Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait, Dedicated to Dr Eloesser, 1940, Private Collection. Image: © Fine Art Images / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait, Dedicated to Dr Eloesser, 1940, Private Collection. Image: © Fine Art Images / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Berrío’s idyllic landscapes are informed by her upbringing in Colombia. While she grew up during a time of political and social unrest in Bogotá, her family would often escape the city on the weekends to their country farm. She explains, “Out in nature, I was able to play freely and let my imagination roam. The nature scenes in my collages are inspired by those experiences.”ii In the present work, the deity-like figures occupy rolling hills set against a mountain range and blue sky. The foreground is rich with foliage, and the women are both decorated with and physically floating atop flowers. It is in this paradisical depiction of nature that we witness the artist’s escape from the political tumult that permeated her native country.

     

    [left] Detail of the present work
    [right] John William Godward, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, 1896, Private Collection. Image: Artefact / Alamy Stock Photo

    He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not is titled for the folklorish game little girls play to find out if the object of their affection returns the sentiment. As the game goes, one player utters the words "He loves me; He loves me not," while picking one petal off a flower for each phrase. The phrase they speak upon picking off the final petal supposedly represents the truth as to whether their beloved loves them or not. In the present work, the figure at left holds a flower in her hands, ready to pluck a petal. Perhaps yearning for requited love, her vulnerability is on display. Yet Berrío does not consider this a weakness—rather, vulnerability and strength co-exist for her women.

    "It is the artist’s job to take humble materials and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I do this, not by hiding the physical properties of the materials, but by reveling in them as I transform them. The paintings are a fusion of fantasy, memory, dream, and reality."
    —María Berrío

    In each of her collages, Berrío painstakingly sources papers from across the globe—Nepal, India, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil—to weave together the rich history of these diverse nations. As in He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, her collages are a physical fusion of materials, traditions, and cultures, which she then overlays with watercolors, acrylic, and in the case of the present work, hundreds of rhinestones. The result a richly layered surface that leans on the materiality of its very creation to amplify the narrative, history, and story at play. “The work is thus informed by every bit of material layered in it, and by every place the materials hail from,” Berrío explains. “This process of fusing cultural production from a wide range of places is inherent to the form and, more importantly, to the meaning.”iii


    i María Berrío, quoted in C.J. Bartunek, “‘As Complicated and Elusive as Reality’: María Berrío’s Many-Layered Collages,” The Georgia Review, Spring 2019, online.
    ii María Berrío, quoted in Amanda Quinn Olivar, ed., “María Berrío,” Curator, 2019, online.
    iii María Berrío, quoted in C.J. Bartunek, “As Complicated and Elusive as Reality”: María Berrío’s Many-Layered Collages,” The Georgia Review, Spring 2019, online.

    • Provenance

      Praxis International Art, New York
      Private Collection, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Kristen Osborne-Bartucca, “Top Ten Pieces at the LA Art Show,” Artillery Magazine, January 15, 2015, online (installation view illustrated)

19

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

signed, titled and dated ""he loves me, he loves me not" Enero 4.2015. Maria Berrio" on the reverse
mixed media collage on canvas
72 1/8 x 72 1/8 in. (183.3 x 183.3 cm)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $1,603,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Global Managing Director and Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Associate Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206
[email protected]

 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022