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Review: Juana: Structures of Reverie 

New work by Josephine Sacabo

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In this exhibition, Josephine Sacabo explores the meandering, shadowy passageways of the psyche as a kind of ethereal visual architecture. Inspired by Juana La Loca, the 16th-century "mad queen" of Spain who was imprisoned for 46 years, the series features spectral and dreamlike female figures positioned within intricately labyrinthine structures that look rock solid yet are elusive as rays of reflected light. That duality conveys a dynamic tension between gravitas and transcendence in complex compositions delicately balanced to evoke music, numerology and patterns of sacred geometry. Seen through the dark patina of old tintype processes, the images seem to glow with the dusky luminosity of the ages.

Sacabo modestly calls her works "manifestations of the written word" inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Vicente Huidobro and Stefane Mallarme among others, but they can mimic heat-seeking missiles with the potential to illuminate the poetic impulse itself. Her use of antique processes takes us into a Proustian attic of memories, a place where time opens to allow entry into other worlds. That shadowy patina forces us to employ intuition to see what can never really be seen but is only felt — in works like Juana (pictured), where the mad queen stares defiantly at us. Her decades of confinement led some to regard her as a martyred mystic, and in Lost Hours, a poetically disordered array of timepieces suggests a woozy, lurching sort of music. The shadowy, infinitely receding arches of The Passageway take us through vaulted stone chambers reminiscent of ancient Moorish alchemical diagrams depicting the origins of time and space, but Juana reappears in Tristeza, in an otherworldly feminine profile that blends seamlessly with the ornamental filigree etched into her dank, stony confines. Here as in so many of the works on view, the feminine and the spiritual appear as tidal forces that are partially shaped — but never completely contained — by the stoneworks erected by mere empires.


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