Iohan Figueroa: A Different Kind of Zoo

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Elephants, giraffes, giant pandas, zebras, a whale — A Different Kind of Zoo is a ceramic menagerie to tease the imagination and honor the animal kingdom. Oaxaca artist Iohan Figueroa gives new life and expression to extinct animals like the dinosaurs, and spotlights species that are struggling, creating empathy for the living creatures with whom we share this planet.

“A ceramic zoo is a way to invite you to use your imagination like I did when I was little, imagining different worlds and fantastic creatures,” Figueroa says.

Born in Oaxaca, Figueroa was first captivated by the world of ceramics at the age of six during a primary school art program. His interest in art melded with a profound fascination with, and respect for, forms and figures found in nature. At 25 he returned to the medium at the Rufino Tamayo School of Fine Arts in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Figueroa’s work suspends the ephemeral in clay, capturing nature’s queries without exploitation. His ceramic work mirrors the organic processes of the natural world he emulates; the forms are almost spontaneous, guiding his hands as much as he guides them. His creatures’ subtly expressive faces and postures create a sense of motion, growth and play even in stasis. The shapes and colors are simple, childlike — reminiscent of toy animals — but with an evolved significance.

A Different Kind of Zoo was born from the artist’s curiosity about animals facing extinction, and his desire to illustrate how human actions and decisions affect the way creatures live in nature. Intrusions like planes, mass consumption, deforestation and climate change affect their lives as much as ours. Figueroa’s is a syntax of consonance between beings.

“With this work I intend to bring a safari home, a different kind of zoo — one where the beauty is not captive, endangered, mistreated, or simply for human amazement and entertainment. I hope these pieces invite you to learn and investigate more about the critical situation animals are facing today. Animals belong in the wild.”

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