State of Art

The Huffington Post. September 2014

by Carmen Pelaez


I first came upon Claudia Paneca's work when The invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn hosted one of their first annual open studio events. As I wove through the wonderfully diverse and extremely talented maze of artists, her work stood out because its depth wasn't betrayed by its simplicity. I wondered when director of ID, Lucien Zayan, would give her her own exhibit and it took a few years, but it was well worth the wait.

STATE OF MATTER, Cuban born Paneca's first US solo exhibition, used the time to grow into itself. Devoid of contrivance or pretense, the forms and sculptures all feel organic and recognizable even though they are completely born of Paneca's meditations. Made mostly of porcelain, every piece seems to pulsate as it inhabits THE GLASS HOUSE, a greenhouse like exhibition space connected to Invisible Dog. Smartly curated by Gaelle Porte, it's the kind of show that takes you in, making you feel connected on a cellular level to the world you've stepped into.

I really enjoyed being a part of that world, so I asked Paneca how she created it.


What is State of Matter?

State of Matter is a ritualistic meditation to explore the dialectics of matter and non matter through a personal vocabulary of images, writings and symbols. I was inspired by questions like: What is matter? Is conscience a state of matter as some cutting edge scientists propose? What is the essence of a material, an image and the artistic gesture? How does one incorporate more "poetry of Being" into the hyper materialistic society that we live in today?

How did you choose the materials you wanted to work in?

I chose to work mainly with porcelain clay because It fascinates me. All clay has a special memory (the propensity to return to a shape previously held) but that memory is even more present in high-fired porcelain. Clay is a material that carries a lot of information, energetically, historically, symbolically, and I use it as encoded symbolic data through this project. Clay as metaphoric matter. The central piece for the State of Matter exhibition is a ring made of raw porcelain clay on top of a black wood that describe different states of the material: moist, dry, dust. This ephemeral installation is a meditative metaphor of the cycle of life in our own state of matter. All pieces emanate from this central core.

How did the space influence your work?

When I got the chance to do my first solo exhibit in a non-traditional space The Glass House ended up being the ideal place to because its a space where the "inside" and the "outside" merge. This project grew from a deep meditation. The black canvas behind the white pieces were a way to incorporate that meditative space from which all the works came to light. The idea that the pieces inside The Glass House will look like specimens growing in a greenhouse was very close to the ideal. I felt like cultivating an interior space in a public place. In sunny mornings the play of light and shadows inside The Glass House takes all the black and white works to another dimension.


After seeing STATE OF MATTER, I thought a lot about the fleeting state of the art world. About the legendary critics that are tired of the carelessness with which shows are curated and audiences who instantly forget those artists desperate to glibly impress so they can cash out. Fortunately for us, Paneca understands that the best way to impress is by making an indelible impression. One that poetically reflects our cellular collectiveness and speaks to that which we can all understand but may not be able to verbalize. Its these kinds of shows that keep the state of art strong.

Los Intuigramas de Claudia Paneca

por Ernesto Menendez Conde


Las esculturas en pequeño formato, instalaciones, dibujos y fotografías de la artista cubana Claudia Paneca hacen pensar en vestigios de un mundo anterior a la escritura o la historia: herramientas de trabajo, amuletos, restos fósiles, vertebras o cajas torácicas. Son formas irregulares y dotadas de una inusual simplicidad, provistas de porosidades, de hendiduras, de incisiones. Superficies pulimentadas o sobre las que la artista en ocasiones imprime sus huellas dactilares. Materias erosionas o desgastadas, sobre las que supuestamente, alguna vez, un ser humano dejó la constancia de un instante. No obstante basta reparar en los materiales de las obras (porcelana, arcilla blanca, plexiglass, hydrocal) para advertir que no se trata en modo alguno de imitaciones de un pasado pre-histórico, sino más bien de construir ficciones contemporáneas destinadas a explorar zonas de la sensibilidad –y yo agregaría, más específicamente, de la sensibilidad femenina- que sería difícil, cuando no insuficiente, expresar con palabras. 

El pasado prehistórico funciona más bien como un referente visual que permite evocar formas abstractas y al mismo tiempo sensuales, alusivas a la fecundidad, al goce sexual, al roce de una superficie -o al propio gesto de hundir los dedos sobre la arcilla húmeda- en lo que poseen de primigenio, intuitivo e irrepetible.

Expuestas sobre pedestales, sobre mesas, junto a páginas manuscritas, dentro de cajas de plexiglass, como si se tratase de hallazgos arqueológicos, las piezas, vistas en su conjunto, ofrecen el efecto de un diario íntimo. Paneca propone el vocablo intuigrama, conjunción de intuición y signo gráfico (en el mismo sentido en que la palabra ideograma se refiere a un signo visual que representa una idea). Solo que los intuigramas de Paneca construyen formas visuales cuyo referente icónico no es en modo alguno explícito. Más que significar, sugieren y son esencialmente intraducibles –o mejor dicho, indescifrables- y desprovistos de códigos de lectura. Cabe poner en duda la condición sígnica de sus intuigramas. El espectador debe contentarse con saber que se trata de tentativas, más o menos apoyadas en ficciones, por convertir eso que vagamente experimentamos como intuiciones en imágenes visuales. 

Los intuigramas son asociaciones entre formas geométricas, frecuentemente zigzagueantes, y materias orgánicas, como la madera, que la artista se limita a ubicar dentro de la obra, como si fuesen objets trouvés. 

Ante los trabajos de Paneca posiblemente convenga hablar de un conjunto de piezas, de una instalación donde los fragmentos parecen dialogar y proponer analogías poéticas: un frijol guarda un parentesco visual con el cerebro humano, como si uno y otro fuesen embriones, unas formas abstractas pueden verse indistintamente como vaginas, anzuelos, larvas u organismos microscópicos. // March 2015

Claudia Paneca. State of Matter Solo Exhibition

Curated by Gaelle Porte. Sept 13 - Oct 18 2014 

Text by Gaelle Porte


Cuban born artist Claudia Paneca’s first US solo exhibition State of Matter takes root in The Glass House at The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, New York. Recalling a green house that facilitates the growth of plants, the exhibition space lends itself to the nature of Paneca’s environmentally immersive work. The Artist poetically meditates on matter through the use of organic materials such as porcelain clay, paper and wood. She creates minimal sculptures as a metaphor for cosmogony, in other words, how humans’ universe may have come into being. Like a scientist presenting research, Paneca displays her monochromatic artworks in the shape of a circle - leading the viewer through her imagined ontogenesis. 

The core of the show lies in the installation S.O.M. State of Matter Circle exhibited at the center of the space. Constructed from a ring of clay that symbolically suggests the exhibition as a whole, the material morphs from wet, to solid, and finally, to powder. A simple demonstration of the cycle of life, this large work is ephemeral and will transform over the course of the exhibition as it dehydrates, before it disappears, leaving only photographs and white dust behind it. Here, the Artist allows the material to act on its own. Paneca hardly interferes. Yet, it is in the few hand-strokes she applies to the clay to guide its shape, that the soul of the work is fully experienced.  

This is the sculptor’s second iteration of S.O.M. State of Matter Circle. Much larger than the first, this growth alludes to the direction in which Paneca’s work is evolving and her itch to build big if the space and techniques allow it. It also demonstrates the relevance of the work to her practice. A work that titled her exhibition and is a natural progression from the Artist’s 2008 ongoing Concentric Circles series with circular iconography at its root. For the exhibition, she imagined a new version of her optical illusion rings by creating a site specific piece that has a hand shaped porcelain spine coming out from it. 

As the viewer discovers the show in a clockwork round motion of its own, Initiation, Rite of Passage falls from the ceiling as another spine to come rest on the ground, revealing yet but an additional circle in its tale. The small porcelain bean-like sculptures that form it are stringed one on top of each other. In a laborious repetitive process, the artist molds the white clay in her hand – giving each individual piece a unique rounded shape. This ritual recalls her 2013 Ofrenda performance where participants were invited to make a finger print on a small ball of clay. For the Artist, “this intimate gesture transforms the basic material of clay into a simple, living representation of the creative act”. 

Initiation, Rite of Passage was actually inspired by the Artist’s numerous poetry entries on the creation of a human body and its evolution. In the same vein, she seems to apply its process to making an Artwork. 

“You were an atom, a larva, a fish ...  All creatures opened their eyes with you.  You were multiple beings before being sum and reflection of all of them…”

Mixing science with myth, Paneca invites to ponder on our entrance into life and plays with the idea, common to most religions around the world, that man came from clay. The artist re-appropriates established myths and gender status with a godly touch of humor, and presents works such as Pregnant God and She Rib. As their titles indicate, these two pieces take a feminist, perhaps more realistic view, on the patriarchal legends that have forged our societies. Similarly, the minimal The Hermaphrodite Brain sculpture reflects on the public discourse around gender affiliations connected to the left and right cerebral hemispheres of the vertebrate brain. By splitting her smooth egg-like porcelain sculpture in two perfectly identical halves, Paneca creates an allegory on our ways to conceive gender and biological interpretations.

Though porcelain is most present in the exhibition, the Artist explores a variety of other mediums throughout the show such as white ink drawings that bring to mind studies of the mysterious galaxy and our deep oceans combined. Circular webs leave ghostly traces on the black paper surface, inviting the viewer to contemplate Paneca’s personal rendering of our environment. Placed across in dialog with these drawings is Between Two Nights, a large installation that uses the exhibition backdrop as the main canvas to the work. The Artist cleverly transcends the 2D surface by letting the ceiling high canvas flow onto the ground. She blows on stars with marble dust, and places geometric shapes at its base, thus contrasting human-made versus natural and spiritual versus physical. The series Embrace and Refraction encapsulate these oppositions by juxtaposing found, reclaimed wood with Paneca’s white sculptures that gracefully respond to it.   

Displayed below the drawings, is a table of curiosities. Reminiscing on basic living forms, her works bring to mind delicate pieces of coral, fossil or bone. Among these little treasures, some of which are also scattered around the exhibition, is a notebook filled with her writing. A small example of what is a predominant practice in her Oeuvre. She begins her process by jotting her ideas down, possessed by a stream of consciousness inspired by her readings and research on philosophy, mythology and science. Her metaphysical verse then shapes the porcelain molded through her fingers, almost unconsciously as a flowing morphogenesis. Perfectly exemplified in Logos as the absence of words in her symbolic book allows the viewer to freely interpret the Artist’s personal vocabulary. One concept leading to another, Paneca’s Darwinian imagination grows, reinventing the world as we see it.