Death Becomes Her

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Betsabeé Romero's Skull of A thousand Faces at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Diana Atri’s father was a Mexican textile manufacturer who produced denim for Levi’s and the Gap, so when he passed away three years ago she worked through her grief with the help of friend Joy Huerta by launching After & Again, a contemporary art platform celebrating textile craftsmanship through artist collaborations and limited-edition collections. “Textiles are the core of a culture,” says Atri. “Once you understand a textile, you understand a cultural background from that place.”

Their first project, Skull of A Thousand Faces, opened in Los Angeles last weekend and featured a luminous architectural intervention by the Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero, inside the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (Its brief run ends today.) Organized by power curator Sylvia Chivaratanond, Romero’s installation provides a fitting counterpoint to the After & Again mission by transforming the Spanish Renaissance space with tissue paper scrolls and balloons depicting pre-Hispanic Dia de los Muertos iconography hanging from the walls and ceilings. The room is anchored by a four-point configuration of Romero’s famous carved tires (featuring migrant imagery from the Aztec codex) whose gold-leafed interiors are illuminated from within by LEDs and handcrafted sugar glow-skulls adorned with graphite drawings. Meanwhile, soaring from the rafters are examples of After & Again’s first collection: 200 limited edition Peruvian pima cotton T-shirts created by 170 Mexican artisans who spent two months hand-embroidering each one with Parisian silk thread. They were then fitted with hand-tooled copper wings made by a Mexican coppersmith. “It’s about giving lightness to darkness,” says Chivaratanond.

Romero notes the repetitive iconography comes from a fascination with mirrors and the Mexican tradition of ofrendas. “I think the generosity around the celebration of death is lost in the world, especially the art world,” says Romero, adding, “One of the issues in my work is to put craft-makers in an honorable place. It’s a culture that’s alive. Every single material in this piece has a mystery. I love when objects make you think just by the way they have been worked.”

Betsabeé Romero’s limited edition “Skull of a Thousand Faces” is available through afterandagain.com.