Altares del suelo se animan con fuego


On the land

Not that I am forcing

my son

to do hard labor on the land;

I am only

teaching him

to caress his mother

from a young age


Hugo Jamioy



An altar can be understood as an intermediate space between the sacred and the earthly in which diverse objects of great symbolic value and connection to ourselves and the divinity are arranged on a horizontal surface to configure an integral whole; there are performed offerings and rituals supported by an intention. Altars From the Ground are Animated With Firethe first solo exhibition by artist Carlos Alfonso at Casas Riegner, redefines and expands the notion of altar by granting divine quality to everything that comes from the earthly plane: plant and animal species, human beings, and invisible entities. By elevating to a divine plane everything that is alive and bears fruit, he not only reiterates their enormous value but also forcefully points out that we are “relational and interconnected beings.”[1] The writer Charles Eisenstein explains that conceiving ourselves as individuals separated from our environment, family, community, and nature has serious consequences, as it leads us to adopt a mentality of control since everything else is presented to us as an Other, a threat. Through this exhibition—a product of a deep call to inquire downwards, just like roots—Alfonso continues his never-ending search to understand our indissoluble bond with Mother Earth that nurtures and sustains us, to contribute to a collective awakening.


Alfonso unfolds a mise-en-scène before the visitor in which the saffron color of the exhibition space or the one evoking the color of scorched earth—associated with processes of emergence, growth, heat, and fire[2]—embraces and sustains a series of reinterpretations of still lives or “pictorial situations” in which objects harmoniously coexist associated with the culinary, the domestic environment, and the ethereal. The writing—of equal value to the constellation of represented elements—operates as a sort of story, recipe, myth, or social critique woven from diverse sources of knowledge, such as conversations, personal experiences, botanical texts, herbal and ancestral medicine, which promote the healing of the body based on the power of the natural world. Many of Alfonso’s reflections are articulated around hunger, a state of the body that the artist defines as “a place of encounters and misencounters, of abundance and scarcity, of access and inaccess” that serves to reveal socio-political problems that determine the sovereignty and food security of our society.


The seed is this potential entity that requires all the natural elements to germinate and bear fruit. In addition to paying homage to it in his paintings, Carlos Alfonso arranges a selection of them on clay tiles from different corners of Colombia to configure a sort of ritual, or circle of words in which the seeds rest, exchanging knowledge and forming a powerful collective fabric. Thus, the artist emphasizes the importance of seeds, not only as the origin of life but also as a source of memory and spirit that connects us with the complex ancestral world.


Fire, an element that transmutes and purifies, allowed human beings to evolve and create the kitchen. The act of animating with fire, present in multiple altars that make up the exhibition, seeks to kindle a light, to enliven and thank the earth. In the installation Kitchen of clays, Alfonso builds a meeting space based on the transmutation of two natural elements: earth and fire. Numerous tiles made of compressed clay are elevated to form a kind of semi-circular benches that will receive visitors and guests. Flat pedestals support a variety of utensils such as mortars, jars, clay pots, plates, and earthenware jugs, which, in their initial phase, were clay manipulated by potters. Some of the utensils are seed containers, and others contain clays that will be used for cooking with fire in an earthen oven or altar dedicated to fire that will gradually be built on the facade of the gallery, to ignite another place of exchange and co-creation.


Altars From the Ground are Animated With Fire gathers a series of instants, gestures, and actions that arise from inhabiting a state of corporal and spiritual rootedness with firmness and conviction. This alignment is what allows Carlos Alfonso to connect with reality so that others, through him, are sensitized and awakened. In addition to displaying subtle activism, his altars from the ground remind us that the earth and all that springs from it is sacred, that we must inhabit our bodies and that of Mother Earth with love and full consciousness, and that thought aligned with heart and action is equivalent to this fire that illuminates, purifies, and transcends.



Paula Bossa




[1] Eisenstein, Charles [@charles_eisenstein]. “All of the Crises Today are Linked.” Instagram, November 3, 2023,¡gshid=MTc4MmM1Yml2Ng==

[2] Martin, K., & Ronnberg, A. (eds). (2010). The book of symbols: Reflections on archetypal images.  London: Taschen, p. 654.