No se me quita lo naco:
Gabriel Chaile at Meridiano

Reaching through and beyond a rectangular atrium forever open to the sun and stars, a single monumental work activates both inner and outer structures – No se me quita lo naco, is a new site-specific installation at Puerto Escondido’s Meridiano that develops on Gabriel Chaile’s recent sculptural presentations at the Venice Biennale, the New Museum Triennial, and Studio Voltaire.

Through the synthesis of sculptural and social practices, Chaile creates communal spaces where material histories, cultural heritage, and contemporary life interact. Known for his large-scale anthropomorphic sculptures crafted from adobe clay, the artist engages with the archaeological and ethnographic narratives embedded within traditional ceramic artefacts across the northwestern region of his native Argentina. Often referencing pre-Columbian vessels used for nourishment and gathering, such as pots and clay ovens, Chaile traces how the visual accumulation of objects that have survived to the present day enact a symbol of resistance to colonial legacies of erasure and suppression. As both figurative and functional monuments of support, Chaile’s sculptures investigate what he terms the “genealogy of form”—how the evolution of contemporary culture is exacted by unearthing and affirming the past—through a poetic and critical lens.

Although in everyday use, the term “naco” in Mexican Spanish slang is a pejorative that refers to certain traits of lower socio-economic classes, Gabriel Chaile’s use refers to the meaning of indigeneity and being native to himself—how origin is not erased, nor the behaviour of its people. The artist embraces the multifaceted meanings of the term. “No se me quita” translates to I do not take away.

Julien Pacaud: of gods and men

This is Chaile’s first bi-chromatic sculpture; a site-specific response crafted alongside local artisans. Chaile uses both black pigmented clay extracted from the soil of Agua Zarca, a local Oaxacan town, using long family traditional practices and white limestone cal mexicana used in traditional practices such as cuisine and white-washing upon the façades of buildings. The new sculpture marks an aesthetic departure from the artist’s signature terra cotta surfaces, in keeping with Meridiano’s mission of inviting artists to make use of the unique site as an opportunity for experimentation.

The height of Chaile’s columnar chimney both receives and interacts with the specificities of Meridiano’s structure and surrounding landscape. As a continuance of ancestral craft, Chaile’s intervention echoes the site as a type of vessel with shared sculptural properties that correspond to the built environment’s form, space, and sacred architecture. Nested within its interior, the vessel emerges from the inner chamber of the gallery toward the sky. Expanding upon the artist’s interest in ritual objects and spaces, the installation emphasises the metaphoric dualities between light and dark, earth and sky, and inner and outer realms.

Situated on the Oaxacan coast in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Meridiano offers an open framework for long-form, site-specific, and experimental exhibitions of artwork by artists working internationally and across disciplines. Founded on the principles of dialogue and exchange, Meridiano’s contemporary art programming will be realised over two exhibitions per year. Gabriel Chaile: No se me quita lo naco follows the inaugural exhibition by Kimsooja (b. 1957; Korea), which opened in February 2023. 

Words by Fabzirio Mifsud Soler

Images: Alex Krotkov. Courtesy of the artist and Meridiano, Puerto Escondido, Mexico

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