Luis González Palma
Jerarquías de Intimidad

May 13 — July 2, 2004


Hierarchies of Intimacy is Luis González Palma's newest body of work; it focuses on the complexity of communication found in all intimate relationships—these pieces are less explicitly rooted in the troubled history of his native Guatemala than his earlier work. Many of the images suggest a larger drama that has been interrupted: connections lost, broken, or rediscovered. As with González Palma's previous work, Jerarquías de Intimidad is marked by a lexicon of symbols: desire, solitude, grief and pain manifest as physical objects, talismans that include stones, knives, skulls, thorns and chairs. These are the keys that grant access to the subconscious world of González Palma's images, a world that reflects the hierarchies of intimacy upon which our lives and relationships are built.

Luis González Palma is one of Latin America's most important photographers. Born in Guatemala in 1957 and trained as an architect, he currently lives in Argentina. He began his career as an artist in the 1980s, photographing native Mayan Indians in theatrical settings, often adorned with objects related to their cultural heritage: wings, flowers, crowns, and masks. The resulting portraits are dignified, almost regal; González Palma's subjects gaze outward with a sense of wisdom that seems centuries old. His technique augments the historical roots of the work; González Palma distresses the amber patina of each photograph by folding, scratching, stitching, and painting, often adding elements such as cloth and kodalith to make the artwork unique. In the introduction to the book Poems of Sorrow, John Wood writes that Luis González Palma's photographs "transcend time and place, suggesting that mythicism, beauty and sorrow, and the human condition are his ultimate subject matter."

Luis González Palma was exhibited in the 49th Annual Venice Biennale in 2001. His work is also included in numerous museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago; the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Boston; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Publications include Poems of Sorrow (Arena Editions, 1999) and Il Silencio de Maya (Peliti Associati, 1998).

The New Yorker
May 31, 2004

Thorns, knives, and surrealistic chairs recur in these big (nearly three feet square), self-consciously beautiful, and mysterious images encased in resin. González Palma, a Guatemalan who now lives in Argentina, used high-contrast Kodalith film to photograph staged scenes. He then attached enlarged transparencies to gold leaf that had been mounted on red paper and painted over with a watery layer of bitumen. Brushstrokes and bits of red showing through the gold make for a luminous patina reminiscent of old Christian icons. Some of the images—like that of a shirtless man at a table in one panel of a diptych who sits opposite a skull wearing a cone-shaped hat—are reminiscent of Joel-Peter Witkin, but González Palma only flirts with the macabre. He deals in poetic allusions of the lyrical sort.