Marela Zacarías / Great Expectations

How does a Brooklyn artist imagine both her past and future? After a decade of hard-fought accomplishments in New York City, artist Marela Zacarías completes a large-scale project while anticipating the arrival of her first child. Leaving behind a career painting public murals, Zacarías moved to the city hungry for artistic growth, and completed an MFA at Hunter College, shifting her practice towards a more satisfying form of personal expression. “Grad school put me upside down,” she says, “It really pushed me to find out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. And I’m glad, because now I feel like I can say a lot more things through my own language.” The fruits of Zacarías’s labor are evident in her Bedford-Stuyvesant studio: the artist, along with her husband, Weston Pew, and a team of assistants, are hard at work creating the undulating sculptural and painterly forms that have become the artist’s signature. The new work—a commission for the William Vale Hotel—reveals the historical evolution of neighborhoods like Williamsburg, where the hotel is currently under construction. Zacarías herself is part of the city’s irresistible collective ambition, having become a full-time artist with a growing studio practice while bringing a baby boy into the world. Like the city she calls home, Zacarías envisions a bright future. “It seems like it’s not going to get slower,” says the artist, “I’m definitely not planning on stopping my work and hopefully get to spend all my time with my baby and seem him grow.” Featuring the work Mannahatta (2016).

Marela Zacarías (b. 1978, Mexico City, Mexico) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

CREDITS | ART21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Director & Co-Producer: RAVA Films. Cinematography & Editing: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Aerial Photography: John Marton. Design & Graphics: Open & Uros Perisic. Artwork: Marela Zacarías. Music: Ergo Phizmiz & Margita Zalite, Jackson F. Smith, Podington Bear & Yacht. Thanks: Colleen RJC Bratton, David Foarde, Katherine Garcia, Emily Mason, Christian Maychack, Coralina Meyer, Drew Miller, Weston Pew, Michael Roopenian, Ray Smith, Mordy Steinfeld, Sean William Sweeney, José Luis Tranche, The Brooklyn Arts Council & The William Vale Hotel. An ART21 Workshop Production. © ART21, Inc. 2016. All rights reserved.

Marela Zacarías Goes Big & Goes Home | ART21 "New York Close Up"

What does an artist bring to a homecoming?
Working in her Bedford--Stuyvesant studio, artist Marela Zacarías undertakes "Red Meander" (2014), a commission by the Art in Embassies program for the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. Zacarías enlists the help of a team of eight assistants to create the fifty-eight foot long by eleven foot tall work—her largest painted sculpture to date—over the course of nine months. Comprising twenty handmade sections that fit together like a puzzle, each component is made of sanded joint compound over window screen affixed to wood supports. The undulating surface of "Red Meander" is emblazoned in intricate patterns of sixty-seven acrylic colors inspired by Mayan patterns, specifically textiles from Chiapas and Oaxaca. "Hidden in plain sight in the clothing and decorations, these symbols survived colonization and modern times," says Zacarías, "Weaving became a form of cultural resistance that was passed down from mothers to daughters for centuries." Growing up in Mexico City, the artist also recalls visiting Diego Rivera's murals (1929--30, 1935) in the National Palace. Having spent a decade painting over thirty murals ranging in size from ten to over a hundred feet long, with this project Zacarías realizes a major achievement: exhibiting her work back home in Mexico, for the first time, and as a permanent installation in an historic building. Recognizing both the problems and promise of the U.S. immigration system, Zacarías suggests that "for me to do this piece, it was like really meeting myself kind of in the middle of it. I want to connect to the people that are going through this transition." Featured in this film is additional artwork by Diego Rivera and music by Los Amparito & Los Músicos de José.

Marela Zacarías (b. 1978, Mexico City, Mexico) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about the artist at:

CREDITS | ART21 "New York Close Up" Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Producer & Editor: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Cinematography: Rafael Salazar, Iria Gómez Concheiro & Ava Wiland. Sound: Iria Gómez Concheiro & Ava Wiland. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Design & Graphics: CRUX Design & Open. Artwork: Marela Zacarías & Diego Rivera. Music: Los Amparito & Los Músicos de José. Thanks: Art In Embassies, U.S. Department of State, Atelier 4, Camille Benton, David Foarde, Katherine Garcia, Celia Herrera Lavín, Jorge Herrera Lavín, Gregory Kuykendall Jr., Christian Maychack, Caroline Maxwell, Weston Pew, Michael Roopenian, U.S. Consulate General Monterrey, Sean William Sweeney, Zaira Zacarías Bustos. An ART21 Workshop Production. © ART21, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Los Amparito:
Los Músicos de José:

ART21 "New York Close Up" is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and by individual contributors.

Marela Zacarías's Work Finds A Good Home | "New York Close Up" | Art21

What happens to an artist's work after it leaves a museum? Artist Marela Zacarías moves a suite of sculptures titled "Supple Beat" from the Brooklyn Museum to different spaces in the borough. At Zacarías's Gowanus, Brooklyn studio it's evident that the space she has to create and store her large-scale works in is extremely limited—a stark contrast to the museum's wide-open Grand Lobby where "Supple Beat" is being exhibited (as part of the museum's on-going "Raw/Cooked" series.) Zacarías and a crew of art handlers led by Collections Manager Walter Andersons deinstall four of the sculptures. Constructed in carefully conceived parts, their painted geometric patterns cover window screen and joint compound understructures. Zacarías shares her inspiration: the Willamsburg Murals that were created in the late 1930s for a Brooklyn public housing complex and painted directly on walls in common areas. Overtime, they were neglected and covered up, but eventually restored and moved to the museum where they are on long-term loan. Zacarías describes how this poignant story reflects her feelings about her own work—formally and emotionally resistant to their surroundings, literally "running out from confinement." After the deinstallation, Zacarías and a group of friends deliver the sculptures to new but temporary homes. Three of them are stored in a do-it-yourself-style storage space in Gowanus, and the fourth, "163--213 Manhattan" (2013), is taken to a friend's loft in Williamsburg. As Zacarías and her crew install the work in this compact space (yet another contrast to the museum) she reflects on this fitting end: "163--213 Manhattan" now has a home in Williamsburg like the murals that inspired it. And like those murals, the Williamsburg location is probably only a temporary resting place for Zacarías's sculpture. Also featuring the works "122-192 Bushwick" (2013), "202-254 Graham" (2013), and "215-274 Humboldt" (2013). 

Marela Zacarías (b. 1978, Mexico City, Mexico) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about the artist at:

CREDITS | "New York Close Up" Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Producer & Editor: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Cinematography: Rafael Salazar, Ava Wiland & Nick Ravich. Sound: Nick Ravich & Ava Wiland. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Design & Graphics: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: Marela Zacarías. Music: Los Músicos de Jose. Thanks: Michael Aitken, Walter Andersons, Brooklyn Museum, Angela Jann, LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, Steven McClure, New York City Housing Authority, Alex Nuñez (A.K.A. DJ Miami Heat), Isaac Parker, Weston Pew, Ben Pomeroy, Michael Roopenian, Eugenie Tsai, Sally Williams, Jeffrey Wisotsky. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2013. All rights reserved.

"New York Close Up" is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Lambent Foundation; Toby Devan Lewis; the Dedalus Foundation, Inc. Additional support provided by The 1896 Studios & Stages, and by individual contributors.



Raw/Cooked: Marela Zacarias 

The seventh exhibition in the Raw/Cooked series, titled Supple Beat, presents the work of Gowanus-based artist Marela Zacarias. Recommended by Ramírez Jonas, Zacarias has created four site-specific sculptural works inspired by the Williamsburg Murals, uniting her interests in abstract forms, the history of objects, and urban renewal. Her large-scale pieces appear to be climbing the walls of the Museum's first-floor lobby and Great Hall, interacting with the architecture as if they were murals come to life. Zacarias draws on the concept of resilience implied by the Williamsburg Murals and explores the idea of bouncing back from adversity, relating to the history of the public housing project for which the murals were commissioned and the history of the works themselves. She constructs her unique sculptural forms from window screens and joint compound, which she then paints with original patterns. In Supple Beat, Zacarias's patterns are inspired by the related murals' unique color palettes and geometric forms. Born and raised in Mexico City, Zacarias has painted more than thirty large-scale public murals. She holds an MFA from Hunter College.

Raw/Cooked: Marela Zacarias
February 1--April 28, 2013

The (S) Files 2011: Meet Marela Zacarías

El Museo's Bienal: The (S) Files 2011 is El Museo del Barrio's sixth biennial of the most innovative, cutting-edge art created by Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American artists currently working in the greater New York area. This year's edition spreads all over the city, showcasing a record 75 emerging artists in seven different venues.