Tanya Aguiñiga: Telar Terrenal / Earthly Loom

6 January - 10 February 2024



Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present Telar Terrenal / Earthly Loom, a solo exhibition of new textiles by Los Angeles-based artist Tanya Aguiñiga and her first showing with the gallery.


Aguiñiga’s practice is heavily influenced by the traditional crafts of Mexico and pre-Columbian Latin America. Using off-loom weaving techniques, as well as knots, knitting, and crochet, Aguiñiga creates elaborate networks of braided thread, some of which are dyed with a terracotta slurry that hardens like a rigid skin on the surface of the rope. The textiles are arranged in cascading forms that resemble the detritus that accumulates along the banks of the Los Angeles River. Many of the works, in fact, carry stones and sculpted objects, including terracotta hands and organs, among the warp and weft of its weave, a symbolic “catch” that relates the process of weaving to the physical sustenance provided by fishing. The elemental needs of food, clothing, and shelter thus become entry points for thinking about the kinds of practice that might aim at providing a concomitant spiritual nourishment.


Aguiñiga thinks of her works as portraits, representations of the body that capture its tenuous—and often timorous—contact with the world around it. For Aguiñiga, this body is not singular but made up of the familial bonds and informal relationships that extend out from the individual and form a community around their person. In Matriarchal Womb, Aguiñiga bases the shape of the textile on the outline of her and her daughter huddled together in a shielding embrace. The knotted mass at the center of each interconnected figure represents the physical dependence of the child upon the mother, connected by a cord belonging to both. It offers an image of motherly love in which the identity of mother and child is both conjoined and articulated as difference.


Throughout her practice, Aguiñiga has looked to the history of migration between the United States and Mexico as a way of exploring the mutual dependence of people and the transit of labor and goods across borders. Aguiñiga’s newest textiles draw on the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers as major waterways connected to industry and labor that also exist as sites of leisure and recreation, small pockets of nature within the urban expanse. For Aguiñiga these rivers became places that recorded the life of the city, and she began to see them not only as sources for the work but as creative practitioners in their own right—potential collaborators skilled in combining materials and eking out the relationship between seemingly disparate objects. 


During the record-breaking rains of 2023 in Los Angeles, Aguiñiga began to notice tangled webs of objects dredged up by the river and deposited into the branches of the trees near her studio. These found assemblages were the products of a serious practitioner, a weaver working with the things around her, drawing the remnants of countless lives together effortlessly and with a freedom of form that doesn’t hem or haw but arrives at the most succinct conjunction of objects, “as beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella,” as the old surrealist adage goes. Aguiñiga’s textiles are a tribute to the river as an artist overlooked for too long, whose work has the potential to reveal the hidden currents that connect countless different lives to a place over time.



Tanya Aguiñiga (b. 1978) is a Los Angeles-based artist/designer/craftsperson who was raised in Tijuana, Mexico. She holds an MFA in furniture design from Rhode Island School of Design and a BA from San Diego State University. In her formative years, she created various collaborative installations with the Border Arts Workshop, an artists’ group that engages the languages of activism and community-based public art. Her current work uses craft as a performative medium to generate dialogues about identity, culture, and gender while creating community.

Aguiñiga is a 2022 Latinx Artist Fellow, a recipient of the 26th annual Heinz Award, a United States Artists Target Fellow in the field of Crafts and Traditional Arts, a NALAC Grant Recipient, and a Creative Capital 2016 Grant Awardee. She is the inaugural fellow for Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. She has been the subject of numerous articles in American Craft Magazine and has been featured in Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century, KCET’s Artbound, and PBS’s Craft in America Series.


Aguiñiga is the founder and director of AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides), an ongoing series of artist interventions and commuter collaborations that address bi-national transition and identity in the US/Mexico border regions. AMBOS seeks to create a greater sense of interconnectedness while simultaneously documenting the border.


Recent museum exhibitions include Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living, appearing as part of AMBOS, at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, Hella Feminist at the Oakland Museum of California, the 2022 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, LatinXAmerican at the DePaul Art Museum, Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., and Craft and Care at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Her work is included in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Mint Museum, Charlotte; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design; the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Aguiñiga is featured with AMBOS in the sixth edition of Made in L.A. this year.


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