The Baldwin Gallery
Text by Dennison Smith and Verity Seward
Photographs by Oceana Masterman-Smith and David Ellingsen

Raised in Colombia during a violent civil war, and now resident in Cornwall, England, the sculptor Carlos Zapata creates intimate and emotive works that have evolved from personal experience even as they belong to the tradition of folk and tribal arts. The Mestizo Art of Carlos Zapata is this remarkable artist’s first monograph, which follows an important exhibition of his work at The Baldwin Gallery, London. 

In a polarized time, when everyone is talking about ‘identity’, we have overlooked the inclusive, flexible tradition of mestizo Latin America, which fuses colonial, indigenous, and slave cultures to transcend national and historical boundaries. Zapata’s mestizo art engages with the riches and horrors of history in equal measure. Folk and tribal art meet Christian iconography, and merge spiritual and political realities. Fetish and icon become interchangeable. War is paired with the intimate and supernatural. The rough burlap jacket of Zapata’s sculpture Shaman Protector drips with protective amulets, evoking Vodun talismans and nkisi power figures—but the amulets are handcuffs and guns: protection in an era of kidnappings. 

Yet death is understood as the antecedent of life: beside a wooden carving of a pale blue corpse, a tree sprouts its first green leaves, and Saint Rabbit’s human breasts and pregnant belly glisten with silver leaf. Painted with hand-mixed pigments, carnivalesque, rough-hewn, and deceptively simple—even toy-like— Zapata’s art is at once celebratory and unflinching.

Zapata is best known as an artist of whimsical automata, mechanical hand-cranked sculptures infused with the exuberant Colombian folk traditions. Yet even the most light-hearted of his works may reveal a darker side.

The Baldwin Gallery curates dialogue between cultures, nature and art. Representing contemporary artists and specialising in Canadian First Nations art and international environmental art.

ISBN 9781911475408 – Paperback – 260mm X 210mm – 64 pages – £17.99