: A Biography in Exile

A solo exhibition of Isabel Alicia Baptista

Mar 28 - Apr 28, 2019

Opening reception on Mar 28, Thurs 6-8pm

I remember feeling a deep excitement while watching the election results on TV. On the day of voting, my mother and I had trekked uphill to a neighborhood far from our own in order to reach the polling place. I remember being in a courtyard with folding furniture and a lot of rain. A voting booth was set up in what may have been a school. When the voting was over, it felt like standing in a deluge. We walked into a small shop where they sold ceramic statuettes of Catholic saints. We bought a couple and carried them home in a small black plastic bag. The statues were supposed to watch over us and keep us safe, but to which we would also have to pray….


1998 was the year when a sense of certainty and tradition ended. What we had for ourselves was washed away by a big surge of government change, a big unknown. There was extensive use of color and language for the new power. It was the year when I had this aspiration in my young mind for a good life ahead of us but it soon turned into something else…. 


                                                                                                       —Isabel Alicia Baptista




2019 Holds first solo exhibition at Thomas Park gallery, New York. 


1998: A Biography in Exile displays six paintings: Words and images are cut and intertwined, some recognizable, some not, on fabric stiffened by paint and glue. Words as image entered painting as early as 1911. When Braque and Picasso started fragmenting the picture plane, words emerged. With the disruption and then abstraction of the illusion in painting, words crept in as image. It happened almost simultaneously. As soon as words appear in painting or in any other media, they immediately lose or alter or resume their meaning. As if they entered a realm of persistent tension where they were continuously asked what they mean, what they are. As if they were in exile.

Like the words used by Cubists, Isabel’s words are fragmented. Often they are put together like wrong puzzles or shown in mirrored images that hardly make sense. The pieces of words are taken from French, Spanish or English. She was born in Venezuela and grew up there until 8 years old. Spanish was her first language but had to speak English since moving to the United States. While staying in France, she thought French was the language she could hear her voice in. She would open up a French copy of Mallarme’s Poesies and show how she picks up words from there to use in her painting, how she tosses the words around as if they were objects. Her notes are often fragmented. So are her images. It is as if she decided the act of fragmenting was a part of the grammar of her own language. Cubists’ fragmented surface was a formal decision, a pathway from illusion to abstraction; Isabel’s act of fragmentation is a way to make sense of her life. To deliver a perpetual sense of being in exile.

So she “writes” with images and words in fragmentation. In a way, that is more or less what people do these days with social media. She tells stories about herself and her life.  She contemplates on 1998, the year when she first felt a deep sense of optimism. In Coucher, where the number 98 is drawn in bold black lines, she writes “sleep(coucher)” on top of what looks like a black sky over the Andes. Her first ever aspiration in life overlaps with a blackout(“apagon”). This is where her life begins. Then she recollects some names, bodies spread on the ground, curtains(“rideaux”), and a room full of noise(“bruit”). Away from home, this is the land she resides in, where words and images are all fragmented, where she keeps telling stories, and wanting to make sense. 


2017 Participates in a group show, representative  representative at Rod Barton gallery, London. The show includes the works of Isabel Alicia Baptista, Ryan Cullen, Tom Krol and Malte Zenses.


2015-2014 Graduates from the Cooper Union. Upon graduation, receives The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation Award with the prize of $15,000. Uses the prize money to buy camera equipment and a ticket to Paris. Lives in Paris in November, December 2014 and January 2015 (During which she made trips to London and Frankfurt).


2010 Moves to NYC and begins her studies at the Cooper Union.


2008 Family moves to New Orleans, LA since her parents couldn’t find jobs in FL during the recession. A company in New Orleans offers her father a job and to pay for the relocation. In her senior year in high school, she attends NOCCA(New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), where she majored in visual arts. 


2000 Family moves to Polk County, FL from Caracas, Venezuela. It was her parents' decision to move to a small town with a Catholic school so that the children can learn English. The family had a regular and steady life there. 


1999 Family travels to Disney World in FL for a vacation. She recollects, “I didn’t know my parents took us there with a thought of moving here. They must already have felt that the government was out of control when it began to take lands and companies, anything that was private. The government was coming up with excuses to seize all money and power. My parents felt a sense of responsibility to leave the country to be in a position where they could help those who were unable to leave. They began preparing paperwork, saving money, all documents that were needed for legal process, sold the house and the cars.”


1998 Hugo Chavez is elected as President. According to Isabel’s mother, “The country was in a bad shape due to corruption even though a lot of dollars were coming in for petroleum. There was a lack of medicine, a lot of unrest, student protests and people living on very few means. Chavez came on the scene with his military background whose popularity grew FAST. There were promises of housing, food, education and money. People elected Chavez, and the majority were happy because “unruly capitalism” was going to be turned into a compassionate system that would do more justice for the poor, and share the petroleum wealth in a better way. They would call it “socialism of the 21st century”. If he would have called it a communist system he would have never been elected. When he began to create hatred between people who had and the people that didn’t have, and began to control all of the powers, and use government funding/wealth without any control, they decided to leave.” 


1993 President Perez is impeached.


1992 March Isabel Alicia Baptista is born in Caracas, Venezuela, to parents who are architects. She was born in between the two coups that were attempted by Hugo Chavez in Feb and Nov to get President Carlos Andres Perez out of power.