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Miguel Arzabe: Cóndor de Cuatro Cabezas (Four-Headed Condor)

May 8, 2021 - June 4, 2021

Clouds of color gravitate toward the center of the piece, woven delicately and exactly to create the sense of movement, order, background, foreground, and texture. The mind leaps from familiarity to abstracted wonder in an instant.

Johansson Projects is pleased to announce a forthcoming solo exhibition of recent works by Oakland-based artist Miguel Arzabe entitled Cóndor de Cuatro Cabezas (Four-Headed Condor)which will be on view to the public [by appointment] from May 8 through July 24.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by the ancestral mythology of the indigenous Sacaca people of the Charcas region of Bolivia, who––like many pre-Hispanic groups––held a pantheistic conception of the world, wherein the sun, moon, earth, plants, animals, and all nature are divine beings with a life-force.  Within this pre-Incan cosmovision is the transposition and recombination of animal parts into divine beings. These beings continue to be expressed in the textiles of the region that portray pájaros monstruosos, “monster birds,” such as half-puma half-eagle, or a four-headed condor.  The Sacaca believed that the sacred condor, a large black bird that lives mainly in the Andes Mountains of South America, linked the world of the gods with the earthly world due to its extraordinary ability to fly to heights of over 15,000 feet above sea level.

The works included in Cóndor de Cuatro Cabezas feature intricate canvas and paper weavings that are crafted from strips of painted reinterpretations of artworks by pre-war American abstractionists, which Arzabe weaves into new visual interpretations using improvised patterns inspired by Andean textiles.

He says, “The four heads of the condor referenced in the exhibition title represent the various ‘authors’ of each work: the two artists whose works I deconstruct; myself as the third artist who then reconstructs their work into a new, mixed form; and the viewer, who then engages with and creates new meanings from the resulting woven piece.”

The formal approach of weaving is also symbolic unto itself; the warp and weft can be considered a metaphor for the marriage of abstract form to meaningful content and the desire to infuse formal inquiry with social meaning, which was a central focus of many artists working in the 1930s American avant-garde.

In her book Sociología de la Imagen, Bolivian Aymara historian and social theorist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui defined what is referred to as “the Ch’ixi approach” to the idea of mestizaje, a term for racial mixing between Indigenous and European peoples that has also come to describe the political ideology of modern national identity, unity, and social progress in Latin America. Cusicanqui posits that, rather than the combination of the two races resulting in a homogeneity of racial expression, the identities continue to be expressed discretely in different contexts.

Arzabe says, “My weaving practice is a way for me to explore my own identity as an American with Bolivian ancestry. Not only do these works draw from an American painting canon in which I have been indoctrinated, but also a weaving tradition that for my whole life I have associated with my parents and the many trips we made to see my extended family who live in the same region as the Sacaca, all though none of my family are Indigenous weavers. For many mestizos, the origin of the Indigenous bloodline is speculative, since only the European origins were codified. I want to confront the inherent white supremacy within that tendency of generations of families to highlight their European roots while neglecting their Indigenous ones. My work ultimately has to do with recuperation, the act of reinvesting old things with new energy, just as the condor bridges the worlds of the living and the dead.”


Miguel Arzabe makes colorful and dynamic abstractions that take the form of weavings, paintings, and videos. His materials include paper ephemera from art shows, reproductions of modernist paintings, and discarded audio recordings, which he then deconstructs and reverse-engineers into new forms. Drawing inspiration from the cultural techniques and motifs of his Andean heritage, Arzabe weaves the fragments together to reveal myriad intersections between form and content, the nostalgic and the contemporary, loss and recuperation.

Arzabe lives in Oakland and is a charter studio member at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco. His work has been featured internationally at the Centre Pompidou in Paris; the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal; the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale in Gongju; MAC Lyon; MARS Milan, RM Projects in Auckland); and FIFI Projects in Mexico City. In the US, his work has been included in exhibitions at Marylhurst University in Oregon); the Berkeley Art Museum; the Albuquerque Museum of Art; the de Young Museum; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has been an artist in residence at Facebook, the Headlands Center for the Arts, Montalvo Arts Center, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. Arzabe holds a BA from Carnegie Mellon University, an MS from Arizona State University and an MFA from UC Berkeley.


Johansson Projects is a contemporary art gallery that functions as a curatorial laboratory, creating exhibitions that pair established and internationally-recognized artists with up-and-coming locals. With no show confined purely to gallery walls it prompts viewers to actively engage with artists who explore the mysteries embedded in modernity often using unorthodox materials and methods. Johansson Projects is a locus for curators, collectors, and artists to connect and engage in dialogue with the larger art community both regionally and nationally. [For media inquiries, please contact Kimberly Johansson: info@johanssonprojects.com]


Johansson Projects


Wheelchair accessible
BIPOC artist(s), Women-owned
Event Type
Gallery, Visual Art
Pandemic Info
By Appointment


Johansson Projects
2300 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94612 United States
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