Feathered Serpent and the Eagle
A Solo Exhibition by Manuel Hernandez
13 January - 17 February
Another year has passed and now Gallery Poulsen is ready to kick off 2024 with a spectacular debut exhibition! We are incredibly excited to welcome Manuel Hernandez to the Gallery Poulsen roster of artists. Hernandez will be presenting his first-ever solo exhibition in Europe titled Feathered Serpent and the Eagle, which is composed of a series of large-scale and brand-new paintings. Feathered Serpent and the Eagle opens on Saturday, January 13th in Gallery Poulsen with an opening reception from 12.00 to 16.00. As a conclusion to the exhibition, we will host a finissage on Saturday, February 17th from 12.00 to 15.00 where Manuel Hernandez will be present.
The content of Manuel Hernandez’ dynamic paintings broadens the narrative of contemporary Native American people within Latin America. In the compositions, written history merges with the oral histories of his ancestors to create a visual representation of reclamation and all the feelings that come with it. The title of the exhibition refers to the serpent and the eagle, both of which are recurring symbols within Native cultures throughout South and North America. The pair represents a unity between the original people, but also a clash between two contrasting forces. For Hernandez, they particularly symbolize the dichotomy between loving and conserving indigenous traditions and the erasure of these in order to integrate into the dominant culture.
In his artistic practice, Hernandez creates rough surfaces attached to walls which are subsequently painted using a dry brush method to create an impression reminiscent of old murals, a method which in its totality acts as a tribute to the Mexican Muralist movement and the ancient fresco murals of Teotihuacan in Mexico. In a departure from the tradition of square paintings, Hernandez cuts his canvases into shapes resembling animal hide paintings. His works are inspired by family stories, historical research, and visits to, and exploration of, his ancestors’ artworks and ruins. Hereby, the new works of the exhibition retell the stories of Hernandez’s ancestors, reestablishing his connection to the cultures of indigenous populations in America from a new perspective. By adopting this method of work Hernandez creates large-scale paintings that integrate the past with contemporary attitudes and ways of life.
The majority of Hernandez’s ancestors’ artwork, books, and buildings have been destroyed; to refamiliarize himself with these ancient ways of expression, Hernandez visit different locations and museums to find the ones that have survived the trials of time. These relics radiate stories and energies that he captures in his art practice. One recurring motif is the depiction of a traveling merchant that Hernandez found in the American Indian Museum in New York. This character expands upon and criticizes the dominant Western conception that Native people were a few scattered tribes. The discovery of this object led to the creation of Unrecognized Exchange, a painting in which Hernandez depicts his ancestors in a market full of people from different regions of America.
The paintings Ely and Vegas are both large-scale portraits exploring firsthand viewpoints of people who have been displaced but, despite that, are healing and reclaiming their cultural heritage. During the paintings’ preparatory phases, Hernandez recorded conversations with the two subjects, which were played back during the painting process. From these recordings, he gathered the words and symbols that surround the subjects in the portrait paintings. By sharing this journey of reconnecting with indigenous roots and revising the dominant historical narratives, Hernandez wishes to heal the wounds left by the destruction of their ancestor's cultures. The portrayed individuals move forward while honoring the past, finding a space where the serpent and eagle can coexist.
Hernandez was born in 1998 in Iztapalapa, a populous area of Mexico City. He received his BFA from Indiana University Southeast in 2021 and his MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2023. His work has been shown in the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY, and in October 2023 he presented a solo exhibition at FRIEDA in Philadelphia, PA. He currently lives in New York City, where he works in his studio in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY.
Feathered Serpent and the Eagle