Using drawing – either on blank sheets or reused paper – the artist invents an extraordinary universe populated by a variety of creatures and symbols inspired by history, stories, literature, movies, folklore, esoterism and psychoanalysis. She restricts her colour palette to grey tones, using mostly graphite – sometimes spilling bright watercolour or gouache onto the sheet. Uncanny, erotic or comical, her drawings are then soaked in beeswax, which when dry not only seal in the composition, but also help to soften the lines whilst adding a creamy yellow layer that gives an antique feeling to the work.
A cat smoking a pipe, blowing swirly clouds that turn into devil faces (‘Las Apariciones’, 2019); a female painter colouring the rainbow that springs from her crotch (‘El Nacimiento de la esperanza’, 2019); a hybrid creature changing into a tree (‘Back to the Roots’, 2007), are some of the characters we encounter in Vásquez de la Horra’s wonderful bestiary. Her use of words and short sentences allows the artist poetry. Fluent in several languages, her drawings are often punctuated by humorous thoughts in Spanish, English or German that offer a potential key to deciphering the meaning of the work. More than titles or hints, she borrows from concrete poetry and graphic design to embed the letters into her compositions.
Often in an exhibition context, the unframed drawings are simply nailed to the wall, juxtaposed edge-to-edge in a cloud-like shape. Such presentations mark the starting point of endless stories, each work building a conversation with the surrounding works and offering limitless scenarios. Vásquez de la Horra’s venture into three dimensions translates into leporellos and paper sculptures in shapes that can evoke scale-model houses or theatre sets.
Sandra Vásquez de la Horra’s works can be seen in numerous institutional collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Art Institute, Chicago; Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht; KAI 10 Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo de Artes Visuales, Santiago de Chile; Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin; and Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. In 2009, she was awarded the Drawing Prize of the Contemporary Art Foundation Daniel and Florence Guerlain. In 2021, she received the Hans Theo Richter Prize by the Saxon Academy of Arts, Dresden. Major solo exhibitions have been held at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Étienne Métropole (2011) and the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht (2010). In 2012, the artist participated in the São Paulo Biennial.