Joiri Minaya’s work focuses on the construction of the female subject in relation to nature and landscape in a “tropical” context, shaped by a foreign gaze that demands leisure and pleasure. Like nature, the feminine has been imagined throughout history as tamed, idealized, and exoticized. Minaya revises existing objects that engage in this form of representation, thus provoking questions.

The Dominican-American artist transforms the lobby of Miller Theatre with a new installation from her series, Tropical Surfaces, in which she specifically deconstructs and re-imagines tropical design, pointing to it as an invention of the Global North's imaginary.

For Miller Theatre’s Redecode II: La Dorada, Minaya departs from a monumental work held by the Cooper Hewitt, El Dorado, a twenty-four panel scenic wallpaper designed in 1848 for the oldest continuously-operating wallpaper company, Zuber et Cie (est. 1787, France). El Dorado depicts the idealized natural and manmade riches of the four continents from a European, and colonial perspective. The transformation of this vision into such an elaborate wallpaper was necessarily for the delectation of those who could afford it; its production required the hand-printing of 1,554 distinct woodblocks in 210 various colors over the entire 42-foot-long span.

Joiri Minaya. Redecode II: La Dorada, 2018.

Zuber’s original wallpaper positions Europe at the center of the design, representing it as the only continent with steps in the foreground, which seems to invite the viewer to a terrace overlooking the rest of the world. The other continents’ architecture is depicted far in the background, with wild, exquisitely detailed depictions of nature covering their foreground, suggesting an adventurous, exploratory invitation to enter the landscape. Minaya uses pixilation to sabotage these design choices, posing questions of visibility and refusal, while flattening and mixing the planes of foreground and background equally. In addition, Europe has been isolated in its own separate wall on one side of the lobby, while the other continents band together on the other side. Not only does Minaya select and reorganize the continents, but she embeds interactive QR codes in the design, camouflaged among the pixels. They contain links that can be scanned with smartphones, revealing found text, images, and videos from the internet, as well as content uploaded by the artist, carefully curated and specifically placed within the wallpaper as part of the piece's commentary.

Minaya’s work is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, on view at the Wallach Art Gallery and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling through September 23, 2018.

Miller Theatre will host a creative conversation and reception with Joiri Minaya and Deborah Cullen on September 20, 2018, co-sponsored by the Columbia University Arts Initiative.

Joiri Minaya. Redecode II: La Dorada, 2018.

Joiri Minaya. Redecode II: La Dorada, 2018.

Joiri Minaya. La Dorada, 2018.

Past Exhibition

Curated By

Deborah Cullen, Director and Curator of the Wallach Art Gallery

Exhibition Dates
August 20, 2018–June 28, 2019


Miller Theatre is located north of the Columbia University's main campus gate at 116th St. and Broadway on the ground floor of Dodge Hall. The theatre lobby is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and beginning two hours before each scheduled performance.

Joiri Minaya (b. 1990) is a Dominican-American multi-disciplinary artist whose work deals with identity, otherness, self-consciousness and displacement. Her work generally navigates binaries in search of in-betweenness, investigating the female body within constructions of identity, multi-cultural social spaces and hierarchies. Recent works focus on destabilizing historic and contemporary representations of an imagined tropical identity. Born in New York, she grew up in the Dominican Republic. She graduated from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Visuales (Santo Domingo), the Altos de Chavón School of Design (La Romana) and Parsons the New School for Design (New York). She has participated in residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Guttenberg Arts, Smack Mellon, BronxArtSpace, Bronx Museum’s AIM Program, the NYFA Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists, Red Bull House of Art (Detroit) and Transmedia Lab at MA Scène Nationale (Montbéliard, France). She is currently a Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Artist and a Socrates Sculpture Park Emerging Artist Fellow. Minaya has exhibited across the Caribbean and in the U.S. Her work has been awarded a Rema Hort Mann Grant, Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, and, in the Dominican Republic, the Audience Award at the XXV Concurso de Arte Eduardo León Jimenes, the Exhibition Prize of Centro de la Imagen, and the Great Prize of the XXVII Biennial at the Museo de Arte Moderno.