Mariela Scafati: Pushing the Boundaries

Familia (Daniel, Kinga y Maite), 2019
Acrylic con canvas, rope, iron, clothes, puppet

In the work of Mariela Scafati, one can be disconcerted by the use of multiple mediums. Rather than traditional painting and sculpture, the Argentinean artist limits of the pictorial mediums by placing her work unframed work hanging in ways that often obstruct or jut out of the wall, similarly to an item of clothing or piece of furniture. Scafati enjoys questioning the subject of these objects and plays with the way they can be moulded, representing people and even family members. This performativity of identities and representation is the framework behind the body of Scafati’s work, allowing the spectator to burrow deep into her story.

Originally trained as a graphic designer, Scafati became interested in colour theory and the history of Modernism. Based in her studies, she has been able to push the boundaries of these disciplines in her installations. Adrastus Collection’s recent acquisition Familia (Daniel, Kinga y Maite) (2019) features a green canvas of a child silhouette, sitting against the wall and playing with a green puppet –Kermit the Frog from Sesame Street–, while its red-and-black-canvas parents appear to be engaged in kinbaku, a form of Japanese bondage. One parent hangs above the ground; its legs tied up above its head, while the other lies on the carpet, with his face towards the floor. Each piece is made up of monochromatic canvases of varying sizes that are attached to create these figures and the individual canvases are attached to form thighs, faces, hands, and torsos. This reference of kinbaku directly focuses on the idea of suspension and restriction and the artist relates this under the title of family. With the child’s arms outstretched and rising up, one can assume that it is crying and the reference of suspension links to the idea of the amount of support needed to uphold a family.

Installation view of Isla Flotante’s booth at Frieze New York, 2019. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze.

The work presented by Scafati was considered as one of the most provocative artworks in the art fair, Familia (Daniel, Kinga y Maite) was included in the 10 Best Booths at Frieze New York by Artsy[1]. This was taking into account not only the general concept of the installation, its message and dialogue with the spectator during the show, but also the originality of the materials used.[2] For her site-specific installation, Scafati proposed that a painting is not only an image but can be used as a visual punctuation in space. Arranging them into representations of the human figure, she transforms the two-dimensional paintings into a three-dimensional figure, and allows it to become a more interactive experience. This experimentation with colour and form allows not only the spectator, but also other artists, to be educated on the limits of the pictorial.

Mariela Scafati is a contemporary Argentine artist who experiments with geometric abstraction, modern design, performance, and alternative media. She is active with the movements Serigrafistas Queer and Cromoactivismo. She completed her studies in graphic design at the Escuela Superior des Artes Visuales in Bahía Blanca. In 1997 she took part in the painting workshops led by Tulio de Sagastizabal and Pablo Suarez at La Cárcova, and from 1997 to 2001 she participated in Guillermo Kuitca’s program for young artists. She has been a fellow at the Centro de Investigaciones Artísticas in Buenos Aires since 2010. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘¡Teléfono! En diálogo con Lidy Prati’ at the Centro Cultural Borges, Buenos Aires (2009); ‘Windows’ at Abate Galería, Buenos Aires (2011); ‘Pinturas donde estoy 1998-2013’ at the Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires (2014); ‘Las cosas amantes; at Galería Isla Flotante, Buenos Aires (2015); and ‘Handcuff Secrets’ presented by Isla Flotante in Positions at Art Basel Miami (2017).

[1] Cohen, Alina. “The 10 Best Booths at Frieze New York.” Artsy, 2 May 2019,

[2] “Mariela Scafati Entre Las 10 Artistas Reconocidas En Frieze New York – El Rosalenio Digital – Punta Alta.” Elrosalenio,