Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, The Awake Volcano, Notions Of Fantasy, Desire, Fear & Pleasure, Thru July 21, 2024 Denver Art Museum

By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media, Biographical text provided by Denver Art Museum (see photo gallery below of reception and art works)

Sandra Vásquez de la Horra at the opening of The Awake Volcanoes, Denver Art Museum April, 7, 2024.
Photo by Latin Life Denver Media

When I first saw and met Sandra Vásquez de la Horra at the Denver Art Museum during a reception (see photos below) for the opening of her first solo show in a U.S. museum for the Chilean artist I was surprised at how unassuming, humble and friendly this highly accomplished artist is.

While she may be petite in stature her worldly nature reveals a giant in the art world. A sophisticated woman who sees life in unique forms of nature, politics and as the headline reads “notions of fantasy, desire, fear & pleasure.” “You see what you see according to your experiences, your education, your awareness” Vásquez de la Horra told Latin Life Denver Media when discussing the variety of work she has produced. “One person may see my work completely different from someone else.” she added.

Her work has been exhibited in 2022 Sprovieri Gallery, London; Kupfestich-Kabinet, Dresden, Germany (2021); Drawing Biennal, London, United Kingdom (2019); The Parkview Museum, Singapore (2017); Museum für moderne Kunst, Breman (2016); S.M.A.K., Gent (2015); Albertina, Vienna (2015). Solo shows include: Sächsische Akademie der Künste, Dresden, Germany (2021); Museo Novecento, Florence, Italy (2019); “Sao Paulo Biennal” curated by Luis Pérez-Oramas, Sao Paulo Brazil (2012); Musée d’Art Moderne, St-Etienne (2011); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (2010); the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2017, 2011, 2009) and the Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (2008). Now through July 21, 2024, its Denver’s turn to host this unique artist and her work.

Vásquez de la Horra’s works frequently show female bodies melding with surrealistic landscapes, and her practice is known for its poetic and artistic experimentation that weaves the absurd with the affirmation of affection and pleasure.

In 2023, Sandra Vásquez de la Horra was awarded the prestigious Käthe Kollwitz Prize 2023 of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany; The Guerlain Prize in 2019 and in 2021 received the Hans Theo Ritcher Prize. Her work is part of various public and private collections such as: Centre Pompidou, Paris; Pinakothek der Moderne, München; Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf; Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

Denver Art Museum welcomes spring/summer 2024 with Sandra Vásquez de la Horra: The Awake Volcanoes. “Silhouettes of human bodies, mountains, volcanoes and words appear throughout the work of Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, delving deep into shared and untold histories of trauma, desire, fantasies and taboos,” Fonseca said. “She is Chilean-born and has lived in Germany for several decades, creating her own artistic language, immersed in Latin American history as well as traditional European artistic traditions.

Curated by Raphael Fonseca, the DAM’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art.
The Awake Volcanoes will be on view from April 7 to July 21, 2024, in the Gallagher Family Gallery on level 1 of the museum’s Hamilton Building.

Raphael Fonseca is the first person to hold the title of Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum. He has been named one of the 100 most influential art figures in the world.

The Awake Volcanoes highlights paintings, drawings and prints by Vásquez de la Horra, who resides in Berlin, Germany. In her work, she explores notions of fantasy, desire, fear and pleasure to explore the relationship between the human body and the world around it. Drawing is central to her practice, reminding viewers that it is a flexible and dynamic medium that is still essential to contemporary art making.

“Throughout the last decade, the Denver Art Museum has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to engaging with artists and creatives connected to Latin America, and the collection has been a pillar of the museum’s program,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “With the keen eye and dedication of Raphael Fonseca and the generous gifts and support from John and Sandy Fox, Craig Ponzio and others, the museum is creating more opportunities to engage with and learn about the rich artistic contributions of contemporary Latin American artists, bringing their perspectives and stories to our community.”

Volcanoes have been one of her favorite subjects. “Growing up in Chile there are plenty of Volcanoes to be seen. I have toured many of them there and around the world” she said, sharing a story of how as a young girl she developed a relationship with a horse who took her into areas of volcanoes seldom seen.

Vásquez de la Horra was born in 1967 in Viña Del Mar, Chile, growing up during Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year military regime and leaving her home nation to study in Germany in the 1990s. Her drawings often include symbols from different cultures, and her female figures perform contrasting roles in narratives that deal with freedom, spirituality, and nature. Vásquez de la Horra’s works frequently show female bodies melding with surrealistic landscapes, and her practice is known for its poetic and artistic experimentation that weaves the absurd with the affirmation of affection and pleasure.

“With a nearly 40-year career, she works daily and continues to surprise those who have followed her for decades and those who have recently encountered her practice.” “With a nearly 40-year career, she works daily and continues to surprise those who have followed her for decades and those who have recently encountered her practice.”

At the DAM, visitors to The Awake Volcanoes will see drawing presented as a flexible and essential medium in contemporary artmaking, while gaining a wider understanding of Latin American artists and their creations. Visitors will be encouraged to explore feelings and moments of fantasy, desire and fear, as well as themes of mortality, rebirth, sexuality, myth and ritual, and to examine the violence and subjugation experienced by different people globally.

The exhibition is divided into four sections: Late un fuego allí dentro: There’s a fire inside , which explores the relationship between body and landscape; Botánica de la evolución: Botanics of the evolution, pays close attention to the cycles of life; Los pensamientos: The thoughts, asks in what ways does an image dialogue with writing; and Aguas profundas: Deep waters, offers a coexistence between humans, spirituality and our surroundings.

The Awake Volcanoes features 193 artworks spanning her four-decade career, including surrealistic drawings, paper sculptures and photographs. Her art explores mythologies, fantastical and hybrid botanicals, diverse geographies and text, with writing in Spanish, English, Italian, Latin and German,
expanding the possibilities of meanings for each artwork.

“Her work invites all of us to expose the mysteries and intimacies of our shared experiences, as she keeps expanding the territory she explores artistically, combining history, memory, dreams and imagination,” Fonseca said.

The catalog, co-published by Scala Arts Publishers, includes an introduction and four brief essays by Fonseca that convey Vasquez de la Horra’s artistic background in Chile and Germany. Throughout, Fonseca explores the artist’s forays into mythology, botanicals, geography, and text that create layered and complex meanings in her drawings.

The Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña also contributed a poem. The catalog is generously illustrated
and includes a checklist of works in the exhibition.

Sandra Vásquez de la Horra: The Awake Volcanoes is organized by the Denver Art Museum.
Support is provided by the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the residents
who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).

The most up-to-date information on planning a visit to the Denver Art Museum can be found
online under the Plan Your Visit tab. Use this page to find details on ticket pricing, public
transit options and access information. General admission for museum members is free every
day. Youth aged 18 and under receive free general admission every day, thanks to the
museum’s Free for Kids program. Free for Kids also underwrites free admission for school and
youth group visits.

For museum information, visit or call 720-865-5000.

Photos by Latin Life Denver Media