Press Releases


Mariana Castillo Deball: Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances

SAN FRANCISCO ART INSTITUTE AND KADIST ART FOUNDATION INAUGURATE inaugurate joint fellowship program with exhibition by artist-in-residence Mariana Castillo Deball. On view April 14–July 30, 2016.

(San Francisco, CA, March 14, 2016) Berlin-based artist Mariana Castillo Deball (b. Mexico City, 1975) reveals gaps in the often unquestioned narratives of museology and archaeology in a new exhibition at San Francisco Art Institute’s (SFAI) Walter and McBean Galleries this spring. The installation brings together new work by Deball inspired by the archaeological archives of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) and the chance­driven visual art of composer John Cage.

Deball is developing this exhibition while in San Francisco for five weeks as the artist­in­residence of the SFAI + Kadist Fellowship, an annual partnership inaugurated to support artist­curated projects as well as young curators in the transition between graduate education and a professional career. Deball is being assisted by recent SFAI graduate and Fellow Christopher Squier (MFA 2015).

Deball is well known for her explorations of the role that objects play in our understanding of identity and history. The neglected objects of the archive—fragments, plaster casts, false or dubious ephemera, and even forgeries—comprise the heart of her installations. Working with conservators, museum professionals, and archaeologists in the fields of Mayan and pre-Columbian artifacts, Deball follows the narratives of archaeology beyond the artifacts themselves to reveal the convoluted timeline of culture and the complexities of material history. Deball’s work connects the gaps of known history with chance discoveries to imagine archaeological narratives that embrace randomness, speculation, and a love of mystery.

For this exhibition, Deball is creating rubbings, sculpture, and pottery as a set of studies on the sometimes haphazard dispersal, recombination, and interpretation of artifacts over  time. A series of sculptures reflect on the history of the excavation, mysterious removal, and dissemination of the Teotihuacan murals. Existing fragments from this site are often illegible and sometimes too small to contribute useful information, but nevertheless dutifully archived. Deball’s sculptures play with this ambiguity of the existing mural fragments, recombining their geometry, color, and linear representation in new ways. These alterations recall the processes of fragmentation and decay from looting, weather, and natural damage which riddle the archaeological field with voids of information.

In addition, Deball is producing a series of ceramic pieces that bring attention to the principal of “kill holes” in Mimbres pottery, perforations created at the end of a pot’s utilitarian life to enter into ritual, funereal use. These were often “repaired” by early collectors or made more perfectly round by others, complicating the study of these artifacts.

She is also making a set of rubbings of architectural elements based on the transfer technique of Merle Greene Robertson, a pioneering San Francisco archaeologist who worked throughout the Maya region to capture images of stone reliefs. These rubbings captured images from pieces that often were later destroyed, but inevitably redefined their dimensionality and objecthood by transferring them to   paper.

Threaded around and through all of the works in the gallery, Deball has created a continuous path of intersecting rope and  cylinders.

For Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances, Deball’s artifact interventions also take inspiration from John Cage’s philosophy of chance. From 1951 onward, Cage turned to the I Ching as an art-making oracle, allowing it to generate randomized compositions in his stead. He applied this same technique to the etchings he was invited to produce at Crown Point Press in San Francisco from 1978 until his death. Deball includes Cage's etching Changes and Disappearances #27 (1979-1982) in the exhibition alongside the print’s original    score and maps, applying Cage’s randomized process to the manufacture and placement of the works within the exhibition.

“Can we read an archaeological site through chance operations?” asks Deball. “Probably a different idea of time would evolve from this methodology. This project is about the confrontation of opposites. On one hand, there is an attempt to record traces from the past in order to build up a coherent picture. On the other, we have a more schizophrenic way of dealing with memory, acknowledging ghosts, double visions, and multiple versions of history.”

“Mariana Castillo Deball’s practice has earned wide international acclaim for staging new and critical intersections of archaeology, cultural history, and artistic production,” says   Hesse McGraw, Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs, SFAI. “We are honored to have her inaugurate our partnership with Kadist Art Foundation that establishes a unique platform to extend the education and public engagement missions of our    institutions.”


About Mariana Castillo Deball

Mariana Castillo Deball uses installation, sculpture, photography, and drawing to explore the role objects play in our understanding of identity and history. Engaging in prolonged periods of research and fieldwork, she takes on the role of the archaeologist compiling found  materials in a way that reveals new connections and meanings.

Deball has participated in major international survey exhibitions including the 8th Berlin Biennale, dOCUMENTA (13), the 54th Venice Biennale, the 29th Bienal de São Paulo, and Manifesta 7. She is the recipient of the Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst, the Zürich Art Prize, the Ars Viva Prize, and the Prix de Rome. Deball lives and works in Berlin, Germany.



Public Event
Mariana Castillo Deball 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 6 PM
Free and open to all

Kadist Art Foundation, 3295 20th  St., San Francisco,  CA


Exhibition Opening Reception
Thursday, April 14, 2016, 7-9 PM
FREE and Open to All
Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA
RSVP online



SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs provide direct access to artists and ideas that advance our culture. The Walter and McBean Galleries, established in 1969, present exhibitions at the forefront of contemporary art practice. The galleries serve as a laboratory for innovative and adventurous projects and commission new work from emerging and established artists.



Founded in 1871, SFAI is one of the country's oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education in the practice and study of contemporary art. As a diverse community of working artists and scholars, SFAI provides students with a rigorous education in the arts and preparation for a life in the arts through an immersive studio environment, an integrated liberal arts and art history curriculum, and critical engagement with the world. Committed to educating artists who will shape the future of art, culture, and society, SFAI fosters creativity and original thinking in an open, experimental, and interdisciplinary  context.



Kadist Art Foundation is a non-profit arts organization that believes the arts make a fundamental contribution to a progressive society. Its programs actively encourage the engagement of artists, often represented in its collection, with the important issues of today to promote their role as cultural agents. Kadist's collections and productions reflect the  global scope of contemporary art, and its programs develop collaborations with artists, curators and many art organizations around the world. Local programs in Kadist's hubs of Paris and San Francisco, including exhibitions, public events, residencies, and educational initiatives, aim at creating vibrant conversations about contemporary art and   ideas.



SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries are open to the public Tuesday 11 AM – 7 PM and Wednesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM and are free to the public. For general information, the public may visit or call (415) 749-4563. SFAI is located at 800 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA.