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Cristina Tufiño Makes Neon Artifacts for the Future

The Puerto Rican artist creates sculptures inspired by red light districts, fashion, and archaeology.

In her sculptures, Cristina Tufiño combines human forms (an ear, a foot) with manmade objects (a shipping box, a stripper heel) for a disarming body of work. “My work is informed by history, archeology, pleasure, and consumer culture,” says Tufiño, who works between San Juan, New York, and Philadelphia. She also cites red light districts and fashion as inspiration, combining contemporary commodity fetishism with ancient history for work that is both very of-the-moment and also out of time.

The Puerto Rican artist, who is represented by Galería Agustina Ferreyra, took over the gallery’s booth at last year’s NADA with a show of faux artifacts, including Jacuzzi Muse (pictured above). Casting ironic primitive forms in jarring neon hues, Tufiño’s work offered a wry commentary on the stereotyping of Latin American art and artists. “Latin-American identity, embodied in ancient ‘cultural treasures,’ is literally pre-packaged and made for export,” Amelia Ames noted in an Artspace article on Tufiño’s NADA show.

Tufiño describes her work as a post-studio practice, with a focus on “working outside and with found objects,” she says. “As a Puerto Rican islander I have developed ways of working wherever I may be and with my everyday environment.”

Right now, Tufiño is again looking to Puerto Rico for inspiration. “My current preoccupations post-Hurricane Maria are about engaging emotionally and physically with subjects that matter to me,” she says. This means exploring the place she grew up in and its financial decline, “through a series of questions that become layered and sometimes contradicting: what is resistance when we all bought into neoliberalism and late capitalist regret?”

As Tufiño’s sculptures question simplistic ideas of what Latin American artifacts look like, she is creating new artifacts that record the current moment in time. “I like the idea of my works becoming objects to be found in future,” she says.

Tufiño is currently preparing for a joint show at Brooklyn’s Selena Gallery with the artist Jonny Negron. Their exhibit Gran Turismo will open May 12, and is on view until June 9, 2018.

Explore more of Cristina Tufiño’s work at her website, built using Format.

More sculpture work:
Miles Gertler’s Sculptures of Palm Trees, Pill Boxes, and Pyramids
Good Luck Charms for the Internet Age
Day-Glo Wax Sculptures Made From Cacti

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