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Tecla Tofano (b. March 5, 1927, in Naples, Italy, d. October 20, 1995, in Caracas, Venezuela), was an outstanding artist and writer, whose non-conformist impulse shaped her significant artistic output. She channeled her radical ideas most notably through ceramics, though she was also an adept draftswoman, a metalsmith, and a prolific writer. Tofano’s work revealed the cracks in a volatile sociopolitical system in Venezuela, her home of over forty years. Her visual language stood in direct opposition to a refined non referential geometric abstraction and kinetic and Op Art that became the signature art of her adopted country. Tofano shifted from throwing utilitarian objects on the wheel to hand-sculpting glazed ceramics of body parts as well as domestic items ranging from food and books to totemic figures, flora, and fauna. She embedded her work with social commentary to disclose issues of class, gender construction and sexism. 


Towards the end of the 1970s, she felt that she had exhausted the expressive possibilities of clay and refocused her creative energy and activist rhetoric on writing. Her corporeal ruminations across ceramics, drawings, journalism, fiction, and poetry underscore a life commitment to vocalizing the unspoken paradoxes of womanhood, and to rendering visible what was once considered socially taboo.


The gallery’s November 2023 exhibition, Tecla Tofano: This Body of Mine, was the artist’s first solo presentation in the United States and was accompanied by a comprehensive artist monograph. It was curated by Gabriela Rangel and Audrée Anid, with the collaboration of Luis Felipe Farías. 


In Rangel’s words, “...the feminist impulse empowered [Tofano] to examine, in both her art and writing, the female body as a tactical space of confrontation.” 


Tecla Tofano was born in Naples, Italy, on March 5, 1927. In 1952, she moved to Caracas, Venezuela, where she studied ceramics at the School of Plastic and Applied Arts. Tofano was an outspoken public intellectual and influential activist who taught at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas from 1959 to 1980. Beginning in the 1960s, she wrote for the newspaper El Nacional and authored several books of fiction and poetry including Quien inventó la silla (Who Invented The Chair?), 1968 and Yo misma me presento (I Introduce Myself), 1974. Tofano presented her work in exhibitions at numerous galleries and institutions in Caracas including the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Galería de Arte Nacional. She was awarded the Premio Oficial de Artes Aplicadas at the 19th Salón Oficial, Museo de Bellas Artes (Caracas, 1958); gold medal at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Ceramics (Prague, 1961); and silver medal at the Exposición Internacional de Cerámica (Buenos Aires, 1962). 


In recent years, Tofano’s work has been featured in group exhibitions including the 2015-2016 exhibition, MODERNO, Design for living in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela, 1940-1978 at the Americas Society, New York and the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas and the pivotal 2017 exhibition, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, which traveled from Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and Pinacoteca de São Paulo, Brazil. Her ceramics were included in Cecilia Alemani’s exhibition, The Milk of Dreams at the 2022 Venice Biennale. She is represented in the collections of Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. Tecla Tofano died in Caracas on October 20, 1995.

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