Hearts, Glitter and Coins: Fernanda Laguna’s Artistic Love Letters

Fernanda Laguna's The Path of the Heart at The Drawing Center in New York brims with honest feeling
Fernanda Laguna, ‘No necesito nada del primer mundo / This is a message to the people that live in the first world’, 2001. Newspaper, coins, and acrylic on cardboard suspended from a branch. 40x57cm. Collection of Gabriel Vazquez.

Paintings and collages at The Drawing Center in New York brim with honest feeling

‘I’m not interested in being accepted by the art world; I’m not even interested in having my works last forever. I want to meet people who love me as I am… who will send me an emoji heart on Instagram,’ the Argentine artist Fernanda Laguna professed in a 2020 conversation with writer Chris Kraus. While unsung in the United States, Laguna has achieved cult status in Argentina for her unironic artistic love letters, poetic drawings and paintings that read like the artist’s own diary pages, filled with doodles of hearts, glitter and coins. The Path of the Heart, Laguna’s first solo exhibition in New York, unabashedly leans into the artist’s heartfelt pathos, presenting more than 50 drawings, paintings and collages, all brimming with honest feeling.

Fernanda Laguna. Te amo (I love you), 1994– 1995. Ink and colour pencil on paper.
22.5x15cm. Courtesy Oxenford Collection. Photograph by Bruno Dubner

The exhibition introduces viewers to Laguna’s work via drawings like Te Amo from Set de 12 dibujos (Set of 12 drawings, 1994–95). On a leaf of notebook paper, Laguna scribbles not just a planet, but something more like the idea of a planet, at least in the wandering mind of a youth. The affirmation “TE AMO” (I love you), scrawled with pencil in bubble letters, hangs above the ringed world immersed in a void of magic-marker blue. It is a charming, vernacular and personal artform that evokes the nostalgia of classroom boredom. From here, Laguna’s embrace of affect deepens. Works like Un día más sin amor (Another day without love, 2006) absorb the form of homemade calendars. Within a swirling border of charcoal-tinted paint, a sheet of white paper bears Laguna’s handwriting, a verse that bemoans lovelessness. It is embellished with bows of pink yarn, and Laguna has added a footer of 31 pencilled hearts, each scratched out. No necesito nada del primero mundo / The is a message to the people that live in the first world (I don’t need anything from the first world / …, 2001) takes the shape of a heart cut from newsprint, painted pink, dotted with coins and mounted to cardboard. There’s an intense yet fragile materiality at work in this and many of Laguna’s works. The paper heart, an analogue emoji, dangles from a thin, bone-white branch, and the work’s hand-painted poem-title becomes an ode to resilience – made in the wake of Argentina’s 2001 recession – cloaked with sentimentality.

More recent paintings, like Llorar (Cry, 2017), continue Laguna’s pursuit of affect (there’s a concurrent exhibition of her paintings down the street at Bortolami). The outline of eyes bawl golden-glitter waterfalls against a sea of black. Although these works are ostensibly more abstract and less direct, Laguna aims to prevent the viewer from reading them without sentiment: during installation, she pencilled the wall space around this work (and others) with a bow and curled border frame. This exhibition seeks to warm the hearts of even the most embittered New York cynics.

The Path of the Heart at The Drawing Center in New York, through 22 May

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