This article examines Chilean poet and artist Cecilia Vicuña’s aesthetic practices from the 1970s to today. The recent republication of Vicuña’s Saboramí by Chainlinks Press (2011) permits a new generation of readers to experience her paintings from the 1970s and to read Vicuña’s own explanations behind her ongoing sculpture work, the precarios. The paintings reveal an intersection of multiple philosophical and theoretical footholds; but more important, they show Vicuña the artist searching through concepts and practices to give form to the eruption of experiences that describe the West during the late twentieth century, particularly those that erupt from Salvador Allende’s brief presidency in Chile and the many confrontations between neoliberalism, indigenism, and political activism. Following the movement of visual representation to sculpture, I trace how Vicuña explores the concept of collectivization through aesthetic form and material extension during the 1980s and 1990s, in the precarios. I then map how Vicuña uses form to disclose the interplay of etymology and materiality in Palabrarmás (1992) and Instan (2002), giving plural voice to collectivized expression. The open-endedness of this interplay conducts our readerly attention to the way in which Vicuña stages critical and philosophical engagements with twentieth-century and pre-Columbian aesthetics to reveal a more complex sense of the “present” in the West. A more inclusive temporality, the present in Vicuña’s poetic lyric unlocks ways of building community from the various acts of expressing rights, self, and being.

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