Sara Modiano

Sara Modiano / 1951–2010 / Colombia


The 5th Ural Biennial Main Project features the work:
“Cenotafio (Cenotaph)” (Marble bricks, 1981/2019)
Courtesy of the Sara Modiano Foundation and Instituto and Instituto de Visión, Bogotá

From the series “Desaparece una Cultura” (A Culture Disappears) (photographs, 1981/2019)
Courtesy of the Sara Modiano Foundation and Instituto and Instituto de Visión, Bogotá

Coming from a mathematics background, artist Sara Modiano’s practices frequently revolved around the concept of “divine geometry”—the idea that shapes carry cultural and religious significances. Whereas her earlier paintings explore abstract geometricism, her later sculptural works are more conceptual and politically charged.

Modiano’s Cenotafio (Cenotaph) (1981), a site-specific installation that resembles a pre-Columbian mortuary construction, is rebuilt at this biennial with marble bricks. Presented alongside the monumental installation are seven photographs from the series Desaparece una Cultura (A Culture Disappears) (1981), which document sand sculptures of stepped pyramids installed at the beaches of Puerto Salgar, Colombia disintegrating as seawater washed over them. Created in response to the volatile political climate in Latin America of the time, the installation and photos provide a powerful analogy for the violence of (post-)colonialism—likened here to the relentless forces of nature—which submerges and suffocates indigenous cultures. While eroding forms resembling precolonial funerary architectures signal the dying of local cosmologies, the works also have a hopeful dimension. They suggest a possibility for reviving the past by reincarnating its forms into different bodies, here sand or marble bricks. In Modiano’s sign system, the spiral of right angles—a “divine” geometric pattern found in the architectural structures—also signifies the passage to the beyond, in this case, a passage both to the underworld of cosmologies and to the futures that will inevitably be haunted by them, or maybe, witness their rebirth.