In 1983, Ana Mendieta won the Prix de Rome for sculpture and began working in her first studio. Her shift from ephemeral to more permanent, gallery appropriate works of art was in the process of being realized. Her legacy is skewed in this direction of “What was next for Ana Mendieta?” given her violent and unexpected death. On September 5, 1985 Mendieta fell from the 34th floor of her apartment in New York. The only person with her in the apartment was her husband, Minimalist artist Carl Andre. The art world was immediately divided between those who saw Andre as a murderer and those who reasoned it was an horrific accident. Andre was initially charged with second degree murder, but was acquitted in 1988 of all charges.
Subsequently, Carl Andre’s museum and gallery shows have faced staunch criticism from feminist artists and activists who maintain he is responsible for Mendieta’s death. His retrospectives typically draw protesters, questioning the absence of Mendieta’s art in institutions. The most recent statement was made in March 2015 at Dia:Beacon in New York during a showing of Andre’s work, in which protesters staged a “cry in.” Protesters walked around Andre’s minimalist art, weeping, before culminating at the entrance of the gallery for an unrestrained finale of loud wails.
Although difficult to shy away from the controversy of her death, Mendieta’s art is still shown in exhibitions and mirrored in the works of other artists. In Where is Ana Mendieta? art historian Jane Blocker uses the famous slogan of a 1992 protest held outside of the Guggenheim as the title of her book about the artist’s identity and unique relationship to the world of art.
Cuban artist Tania Bruguera created Tribute to Ana Mendieta from 1985 to 1996, in which she recontextualized some of Mendieta’s ideas to fit current Cuban cultural and political climates.