Diosa, 2005


While better known for his work in wood and metals, Hernández met the Moreno León family of Extremadura in 2002 and, immediately struck by the monumentality and elegance of their ceramic forms, returned several times to work with them in their studio. While early American innovators in ceramic sculpture were acclaimed for expanding the scale of their work in order to provide a more substantial structure on which to base their expressionist and deconstructivist explorations, Hernández, in contrast, wanted to work with the elegant vessel forms, altering them to express his own imagery, but not so much that the basic vessel shapes and their sense of balance were obscured in the process.

The very monumentality of these functional containers requires a team approach. Hernández altered the forms as the Moreno León masters alternately threw and coiled them up, and after the single bisque firing, he sanded and smoothed the vessel surfaces with varying grades of wet/dry sandpaper in preparation for a wax and light oil pigment treatment. This process, almost as labor-intensive as the original fabrication of the piece, results in a sensuous tactile finish.

Hernández approached this collaboration with admiration for the elegance of the traditional tinaja and respect for the masterful craftsmanship of the Moreno León potters. But the innovation in superimposing his own images—drawn from popular culture, historic art forms, and motifs of other cultures and traditions—has resulted in a completely new set of sculptures, which, while linked to his earlier oeuvre, are markedly different from it. Recontextualizing the tinaja into a contemporary narrative through the overlay of his chosen subject matter, Hernández moved this collaboration into a new domain, as it simultaneously honored the labor and persistence of these enduring tinajeros.