Recent exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery have had a lighter tone — the dazzling Light Show or the surreal Alternative Guide to the Universe, for example. The latest exhibition is radically different. It shows the hard-hitting political and feminist works of Ana Mendieta, in a wide range of media.
Her early work often portrays the body in alarming or unusual situation, progressing on a radical tangent that includes blood-smeared arms across a canvas — as if the artist has been beaten and dragged away — to the distressing recreation of a rape scene.
This segment of her career was prolific and produced her most powerful work, as she explored the role of women in both her native Cuba and in Mexico following her exile. We are treated to photographs of burning effigies and a gnarled tree trunk covered in red flowers, resembling a bloodied corpse.
Her later works were much more subdued, drawing inspiration from ancient civilisations and their representations of the human form. Though her works became larger in size, they somehow pack less of a punch.
There is no doubting the potency of Mendieta’s work, particularly those pieces from her mid-career, but they all follow similar themes and when asked to fill the large space of the Hayward Gallery the repetitive nature of the works does reduce their impact.
Ana Mendieta: Traces is on at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre until 15 December. Tickets are £11 for adults, concessions available.