José Luis Brea

  • Bleda and Rosa

    Better than any of Bleda and Rosa’s other endeavors, the “Origin” series (2003–) realizes the project underpinning their work as a whole. Interested in neither landscape nor ornament, this project is characterized by an impulse toward historiographical interrogation close in spirit to Walter Benjamin’s “absolute materialism.” As in Benjamin’s meditations on Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, 1920, María Bleda and José María Rosa (who have been working together since 1992) take an approach to historical objects marked by the basic will to recover a lost or suppressed history in those objects. The “act

  • Mar García Ranedo

    In industrialized nations—those German sociologist Ulrich Beck describes as risk societies—the construction of the self is becoming the central challenge, one their citizens are obliged to confront every day. The old regimes of the self, which guaranteed the construction of the individual through the constant exchange of fixed designations—relative to social dictates, religious beliefs, culture, gender, and so on—are yielding little by little to a situation in which to construct oneself is an arduous, always unfinished task. Subject to all kinds of mobilities—biological,

  • Dora García

    Dora Garcia’s work represents a subtle, self-reflective approach to photography’s connection with transience. The title of her show, taken from an inscription found on some of Atget’s photographs, emphasizes this: “Va a desaparecer” (It will disappear) can be taken, in effect, to be the dictum of all photography. It is in the nature of the medium to announce that something that once existed was destined to fade into nothingness—and that becomes more patent the more it distances itself from any artistic pretension. When, as in this case, the effort is to photograph the very nature of the

  • Txomin Badiola

    In Txomin Badiola’s new show, he abandons the formalist spirit of his earlier pieces, which were created in a constructive orbit close to Minimalism (and even to Jorge Oteiza), and throws his work smack into a critical deconstruction of contemporary narratives. Here, in addition to three large-scale photographs, he presented three installations that combine all sorts of things—video monitors, chairs, photographs, movie posters, books, sculptural-constructive elements, found objects—in an entropic mixture of materials and themes. In LM & SP (Un Hombre de Poca Moral y Algo de Persuasión) (LM & SP

  • José Maldonado

    The focus of this exhibition, “Desifinado” (Slightly out of tune), was a life-size photograph of the artist, foreshortened—a reminder of Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. Maldonado isn’t dead, but he pretends to be; meanwhile, he listens to music through a pair of headphones. Maldonado has been playing for some time with this idea of a private, secretive act of listening that occurs “inside the picture” yet remains absent because, in the realm of visual representation, music “appears” only in absence.

    It is as if the artist is depicting some ultimate asylum for the world of

  • Transgeneric@s

    In Spanish, the @ symbol is used to avoid ascribing a specific gender to masculine or feminine nouns. Curators Mar Villaespesa and Juan Vicente Aliaga make use of such intentional ambiguity in this show of work dealing with gender values, sex roles, and notions of sexuality by twenty-odd Spanish artists. The approaches and languages range from the militancy of LSD (Lesbianas sin duda, or “lesbians without a doubt”) and rawness of Jesús Martínez Oliva to the subtlety of Eulalia Valldosera and the soothing user-friendliness of Carles Congost. In general, though, the work that will be on view is

  • En la piel de toro

    What best justifies a group show—its thesis, or the relationship between the works exhibited? This is a difficult question, but in general Spanish art institutions seem to favor exhibitions that are not built around a specific argument. “En la piel de toro” (In the skin of the bull) is one example. Though this show’s title, which alludes to the shape of the Iberian Peninsula, appeared to promote a “geopolitics of sensibility,” in fact the exhibition did not reflect on the possibility of a single Iberian soul. The six Spanish and six Portuguese artists whose work was assembled here inhabit the

  • Manuel Saiz

    The reflexive structure of Manuel Saiz’s installation Interfaz (Interface, 1997) perhaps recalled Dan Graham’s pavilions, but while Graham’s installations pressure the viewer into recognizing that reality invades the representational arena, with Interfaz the viewer never entered a space that was recognizable as “real.” Instead, the viewer penetrated a virtual reality, a realm based on synthetic, computer-generated forms, and thus entirely artificial.

    The dimensions and proportions of the room were familiar—a phone on a pedestal added to the sense of normalcy—but the viewer’s first impression was

  • Vito Acconci

    Some of the most exciting discussions in contemporary art that arose during the ’80s and ’90s, especially on the American scene, involved the relationship between art and public life. It has become almost a given that art must be continually reconceived if it is to generate real dialogue. Vito Acconci is one of the few artists who have consistently striven to achieve this effect. Both his discrete pieces, which often solicit the viewer’s participation, and his site-specific urban projects, which are intended to produce new perspectives by altering urban spaces, constitute some of the best

  • Alberto Peral

    Some of the most interesting theoretical work that has developed in the ’90s has been centered on the body as a social construct whose boundaries are permeable. The body is no longer perceived as a discrete physical entity but as the product of an intense relationship with the other—with memory, with objects, and with culture. The relationship between body and subject is denaturalized: the body is defined, in part, by its interaction with objects, which become prostheticlike extensions that endow it with a certain artificiality.

    Alberto Peral’s work presents the body’s relationship with cultural

  • “Threshold”

    Without a doubt, the artistic genre that has undergone the most radical transformations in recent decades is sculpture. In the ’60s and ’70s, these metamorphoses were formal in nature and they contributed to what became known as the “expansion of the sculptural field.” In the ’80s and early ’90s, on the other hand, it was sculpture’s role as public art, its relation to social spaces, and to everyday life that was the object of debate.

    Because the revolutionary and utopian visions of the avant-garde have yet to be fulfilled, it is necessary to raise the question of sculpture’s place once again.

  • Ana Laura Aláez

    Even before this exhibition, Ana Laura Aláez’s first solo show in Madrid, it was clear that this artist possessed her own, unmistakable language. Working in various media, Aláez examines how subjectivity is constructed in relation to objects as well as to the body (and even to other subjects). On one level her work is an attempt to suggest “alternative engineerings of the self.” For example, Aláez enters into a dialogue with the world of fashion, but for her it is not simply a question of verifying how such a system of signs reinforces preexisting constructions of subjectivity, but of examining

  • José Luis Carrascosa

    On a surface level, José Luis Carrascosa’s paintings are about sex and seduction. The pinups painted on Carrascosa’s canvases, ironically titled “Ninfas” (Nymphs), are doubtless entries in a certain contemporary dictionary of erotica, something soft-core like Penthouse. What is truly interesting about them is the degree to which they express tedium. Sex, Carrascosa tells us, is a discourse—one that is extremely various but ultimately always limited.

    The same is true of painting. It, too, is a language of possibilities and multiple combinations, but a limited one, and therefore it, too, must play

  • José Maldonado

    José Maldonado’s exhibition cast itself as a “version” of the famous play by Calderón de la Barca, El Gran Teatro del Mundo (The great world theater, ca. 1640) which inspired both Walter Benjamin and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Like Jorge Luis Borges’ Pierre Menard, Maldonado copied the manuscript in his own hand and included it as part of the installation.

    The rest of the pieces in the show represented the characters. As is well known, they are allegorical characters, ranging from representative figures of the social order—the king, the child, the rich man—to more abstract figures such as discretion

  • Bruce Nauman

    In terms of the works selected, the installation, and the careful production of certain pieces, this retrospective (the first truly comprehensive exhibition of Bruce Nauman’s work since the Whitney Museum show in 1972) is excellent. Of course, one could always point to missing pieces—Anthro/Socio, 1991, his work at Documenta IX, for example—but what is certain is that in its entirety the selection of works reconstructs the artist’s complete creative trajectory to date with undeniable balance. Since the contents of the catalogue are as informative as they are explanatory, there is nothing

  • José Manuel Broto

    These days, when the “survival” of painting seems to be the hot topic, José Manuel Broto’s perseverance in pictorial practice proves to be exemplary, on account of the brilliance with which he combines continuity and change. His trajectory began around the French movement of the ’70s, support-surface, which Broto was instrumental in importing to Spain—as much through texts and theoretical publications as through actual “teaching.” The legacy of that movement has been very poorly evaluated. It presented the possibility of a sensitive reorganization of thinking about the pictorial field. The

  • Pedro Cabrita Reis

    Pedro Cabrita Reis’ recent installation is part of his latest series, which began with the magnificent Scala Coeli (Stairway to heaven, 1992) presented in the group exhibition “Los Ultimos dias” (The last days, 1992). It is a series with a strongly allegorical content in which Cabrita Reis’ classic melancholy austerity is placed in the service of a ceremonial idea of art’s role. In Scala Coeli this reference was nearly explicit: the piece functioned as a banquet table for a secularized last supper without any promise of resurrection or paradise, but it still alluded to an ascending path.

    There

  • Salomé Cuesta

    Salomé Cuesta’s strategy is one of representational suspension. Her installations present us with mute, almost empty spaces, barely punctuated by a series of elements with so little material presence and objective character that it becomes difficult for us to categorize them as sculpture. In fact, the elements that make up the vocabulary of her research, and which we somehow recognize as the “works,” are really nothing but mechanisms that work with light—the true, although volatile, inapprehensible, material element of her work.

    Somewhat in the tradition of James Turrell’s ’80s series, “Dark

  • Aureli Ruis

    There was a tremendously enigmatic piece in this exhibition that, perhaps, is the key to all of Aureli Ruiz’s recent work: to his resistance to making concessions, to the difficulty of the viewer’s reading. This untitled work from 1991 is a small bust, a life-size head, barely outlined and almost undefined. Its face is covered by a piece of canvas supported by two rods that elevate the cloth as if it were a tent in the desert. At the same time, those rods seem like frozen gazes, beams of light uselessly emitted from the place where the eyes of this faceless phantom should be. But nothing flows

  • Jordi Colomer

    The title of the exhibit “Como en casa” (Like home) resounds with the echo of the bourgeois value of hominess, expressing a certain contemporary nostalgia for a “safe” place. “Como en casa,” in effect, parodies the familiar advertising slogan “todo en cast: sabe mejor” (everything tastes better at home). Indeed, it immediately becomes apparent that Jordi Colomer’s work is situated light-years away from that order of values. It deplores that hypocrisy of comfort, of a supposed wellbeing; Colomer builds, on the contrary, houses that, viewed through such a nostalgia, return nothing but a feeling