Press Release


April 4 - August 3, 2019
Reception April 4, 6 - 8 pm
Gaa Projects Cologne


Gaa Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by New York-based visual artist, Esteban Cabeza de Baca. This exhibition at Gaa Projects Cologne will feature recent paintings and sculptures by Cabeza de Baca, created during his two-year residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, Netherlands. The exhibition runs through May 18, with an opening reception on Thursday, April 4 from 6 - 8 pm at the Gaa Projects Cologne located at Große Brinkgasse 8, 50672 Cologne, Germany.


Esteban Cabeza de Baca (b. 1985) was born in San Ysidro, California, on the border between Mexico and the United States. Fundamentally influenced by growing up on the border, Cabeza de Baca draws largely from his personal experiences and the histories embedded within the American landscape. Of Mexican and Native American heritage, Cabeza de Baca’s paternal ancestry can be traced back to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish conquistador turned spiritual healer and writer who eventually advocated for an alliance with Indigenous peoples. For Cabeza de Baca, painting serves as a medium to give voice to his ancestors, his personal experience and offers images as tools for unlearning and reimagining the past.


Blurring the boundaries between abstract and figurative modes of representation, Cabeza de Baca’s paintings are rendered in accumulated layers. Employing a broad range of painterly techniques, pictorial space is transcended and amplified. Figures in his paintings emerge and recede into the picture plane, announcing themselves as guardians and cohabitants of his dream-like ecosystems. Within these landscapes, figures appear larger than life. Mythological beings, animals, skeletons, contorted bodies, and spiritual entities connote a sense of awakening and reclaiming. With these images, we are offered visibility of histories opaquely veiled by colonized images of the American West.


Cabeza de Baca’s work often starts en plein air and references sites of specific historical and cultural importance. On location, he creates quick impressions of the landscape, which are then expanded in larger iterations. Connecting to the landscape through paint, wood, clay, and found materials, Cabeza de Baca’s sculptures and paintings are studies of site, depicting the traumas of the landscape through a narrative that blends past and present. Drawing from ancient petroglyphs, and the unique characteristics of these sacred landscapes, Cabeza de Baca’s work reroutes time and space to confront a colonialist history of erasure. Rooted in a deep sense of place and purpose, history is presented as a non-linear and spatial experience.


For this exhibition, Cabeza de Baca presents a series of sculptures and paintings inspired by ancient cave paintings endangered by President Donald Trump’s expansion into Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Through painting and sculpture, these petroglyphs are re-animated and brought to life. In their rendered forms, these images illuminate and bring awareness to the beauty of the American landscape, the necessity to protect and guard these spaces as living cultural landscapes.


Esteban Cabeza de Baca is an MFA graduate of Columbia University and received his BFA from Cooper Union. Cabeza de Baca has completed residencies at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, Netherlands; LMCC Workspace Program, New York; the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, New York; and a Byrdcliffe Residency, in Woodstock, New York. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Unlearn, Fons Welters Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Verano (with Heidi Howard), Gaa Gallery Wellfleet, MA; and Bluer than a sky weeping bones, Gaa Gallery, Provincetown, MA. Group exhibitions include, Royal Painting Prize, The Dutch Royal Palace, Amsterdam, Netherlands; New Acquisitions, Nederlandische Bank, Amsterdam, Netherlands; The Complexities of Unity, Yale University; Home/Not Home, Colorado Convention Center; Water Is Life: Indigenous Peoples Day in Support against Dakota Access Pipeline, Salvage Station, Asheville, NC; The Narrative Figure, David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Scent, Dickinson Gallery, New York; and Manhattan TODAY, Leroy Neiman Art Center, New York. Cabeza de Baca currently lives and works in Queens, NY where is part of the Drawing Center Open Sessions residency.