Walking through Cirica, an exhibition of new ceramic-based paintings and sculptures by the artist Lola Montes Schnabel, at New York’s Vito Schnabel Gallery, second glances reveal a rich and referential world of meaning hiding just below the surface of her creations. In one sculpture, at a certain angle, a winged woman, faceless, like the Victory of Samothrace, appears. In a wall sculpture, glazed in yellows and reds and blue, Piet Mondrian’s Modernist compositions appear. In others, the work of Lucio Fontana. Mythical and literary stories surface alongside—and the mind conjures up scenes of gods feasting on grapes or artichokes or warriors battling in tangled scenes.
Montes, who is the sister of dealer Vito Schnabel, has been making such satisfyingly layered works for two decades, often embracing cross-medium experimentation. Here, in Cirica (on view through January 20, 2024) she is now revealing works made in collaboration with local artisans in Sicily, where she has lived since 2018. Drawing on Sicily’s incredible history marked by conquest, legend, and landscape, Montes merges the past and the present, pulling a decadent and delightful ancient world into the present moment.
The exhibition title is a reference to the Cirica peninsula—a place where fishermen are known to gather fragments of Roman and Greek ceramics that surface from the sea. In mythology, Cirica is the home of Circe, the temptress who ensnared Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, a powerful and transformative force.
Recently, we visited Montes as she was installing the show at the gallery and talked about how Sicily has changed her practice and how she allows herself to be a vehicle for inspiration.