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Installation view of Lola Montes: Cirica exhibition featuring ceramics by the artist

Lola Montes, Artichoke Candleholder, Italy (Four Heads), 2023. Hand-carved and painted ceramic. 15 3/4 x 11 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches. © Lola Montes. Photo by Argenis Apolinario; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Gallery.

In her vivid clay constructions Lola Montes creates a visual memoir that draws upon a wide range of sources. Alternately eloquent and gruff, the work moves between the past and present touching upon the storytelling that ultimately informs mythologies, religions, and even the history of art.

An array of tiles composed of hand-painted flowers, titled Zucchini Flowers, on split ceramic segments hangs in the hallway outside the gallery’s main room. The flowers are set against a stark white ground and call to mind Cy Twombly’s poetic renditions. Testifying to Montes’s multi-regional affinities—her lives in Milan, New York, and mostly, in Sicily, where she collaborates with local artisans to produce time-contingent pieces that reveal centuries’ worth of imagery—are plaques marked with mythological-evoking figures, not least, of the goddess Circe, after whom the show is named. Circe, an enchantress, was the daughter of the son god Helios and is known for being able to bring about the metamorphosis of humans into other life forms.

Throughout the gallery, there’s a sense of many pasts conversing with present time, acknowledging the art of Montes’s peers and near peers, including her father, Julian Schnabel, as well as the Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana, who, like Montes, attacks the surfaces of his materials to extract and amplify meaning and expand upon the spirit of the present. One feels the influence of Renaissance sculptor Lucca della Robbia whose terracotta classicism lent a sculptural elegance that reacted to the raw, more guttural sculpture of ancient Sicily.