Gabriel Chaile (b. 1985, San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina) creates soaring clay sculptures that expand on the forms, rituals, and traditions of precolonial cultures in northwestern Argentina, where he is from. Raised in San Miguel de Tucumán, a city on the margins of what was once the Inca empire—known for its melding of Spanish, Afro-Arab, and Indigenous traditions—Chaile playfully intertwines Indigenous mythologies and contemporary social references with reverence and humor. His bulbous, anthropomorphic sculptures resemble the distinctive ceramics of the Condorhuasi-Alamito peoples (c. 400 BCE–CE 700, Catamarca, Argentina), which the artist has long admired and described as being “in between two states, as if they are about to become something else.” Rather than replicate their intimately scaled antecedents, Chaile’s larger-than-life sculptures evidence how the cultures and visual forms of his ancestors are unquestionably alive, towering like deities from a new yet familiar cosmos. Some have even functioned as massive earthen ovens from which he has cooked and fed communities, actively functioning as vessels through which we nurture and relate to one another.
MATRIX 283 / Gabriel Chaile: No hay nada que destruya el corazón como la pobreza (Nothing destroys the heart like poverty) is the artist’s first solo museum presentation in the United States. For this exhibition, Chaile presents newly commissioned work reflecting on the social concerns of his community. Often made in homage to particular individuals—ancestors, family, and friends—Chaile’s sculptures reflect how social issues of the present connect to long histories of anti-colonial resistance.