NOVEMBER 10, 2023 - MARCH 24, 2024


The Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, North Carolina is pleased to present The Nature of Things, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist Anna Valdez. The exhibition will be on view from November 10, 2023 through March 24, 2024.

The Nature of Things features paintings and ceramics depicting maximalist compositions of still life arrangements that seek to explore object-making and how objects form a tapestry of visual history, both contemporary and historical. Valdez rearranges her growing collection of natural and human-made objects in endless permutations in her Los Angeles studio. Semi-precious rocks, plants, shells, corals, animal bones, and taxidermized birds line the studio shelves. Valdez also incorporates her own ceramic sculptures, paintings, photographs, antique vases, books, milk crates, textiles, and rugs as she creates her visual language. Parts of Valdez’s studio resemble a small natural history museum and objects are never deaccessioned. “My paintings are like contemporary versions of cabinets of curiosity,” Valdez explains, “presenting viewers with a visual feast of carefully chosen objects and arrangements.” As she plans compositions from grouped items, new narratives arise. Considering the cultural or personal significance of each object, as well as tactile qualities like color and texture, Valdez endeavors to access new relational stories, compelling the viewer to become absorbed into her world.

The paintings made for The Nature of Things are some of the densest Valdez has ever imagined. Objects are juxtaposed, unified with patterned fabrics covering vertical and horizontal surfaces underneath and behind. Large speckled or striped leaves interrupt space from the edges of canvases, inviting viewers to peek from one layer through to the next. Detailed, verdant, abundant, and saturated, Valdez strikes a balance between order and chaos. As the collection grows, objects are painted again and again. Valdez finds a variety of ways to render an object in paint, which can signify the passage of time or a reinterpretation of context to circulate new meanings.

Strategies of reproduction, repetition, and pattern are also evident in Valdez’s ceramics, which can echo pre-existing objects or offer portals into paintings. Valdez has delved deeper into the craft of ceramics in an effort to generate objects that are specifically relevant and personal to her style. According to Valdez, “the impulse to fabricate ceramics is also born from the desire to generate a visual through-line that is uniquely my own.” Reoccurring vases land in a painting and function as a personal cultural artifact, capable of being dug up and examined again and again. The complex painted imagery on each ceramic encourages the exploration of multiple visual access points as the viewer moves around them.

Valdez’s compositions offer a glance into the studio, providing her audience with access to her space. The artworks in The Nature of Things offer several breaks from traditional perspectives, bending the arc on what the ‘nature’ of a place or object could be. While Valdez paints things from nature she does not necessarily obey the rules of nature. Indeed, there is no predefined nature to speak of in these works. There is an undertone of theatricality in the size of each painting, emulating the studio walls, sending an invitation to cosmically launch into the scene. Objects do not adhere to linear perspective or a traditional luminist style, creating sculptural extravagance on the canvas. Together, the works in The Nature of Things underscore the experience of a lavish studio-stage to which Valdez is perpetually reinventing.

Exhibition Video Tour - CAM Raleigh - The Nature of Things, 2024

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