Critics’ Picks

Fran Meana, The Immaterial Material #2, 2014, metal shelving units, plastic grid, concrete, 63 x 83 x 13”.


Fran Meana

Nogueras Blanchard | Madrid
Doctor Fourquet 4
February 1–March 29

In his first solo exhibition at the gallery’s new Madrid location, Fran Meana tackles memories of twentieth-century history while inquiring into the tension between form and image, tangibility and visibility. At the heart of this show is a quaint pedagogical program from the 1910s at a small school embedded within a mining complex in the northern region of Asturias, an area destined toward hardship due to the dismantling of old industrial compounds. The school’s masters created teaching methodologies informed by the use of stone reliefs in geometrical patterns: Meana reaches back to these reliefs and fights their obsolescence through the use of contemporary tools. In doing so, he also questions issues related to today’s artistic concerns, namely those involving process and presentation.

In the series “The Immaterial Material” (all works 2014), Meana creates the same geometrical patterns on cement plates through the use of a CNC milling machine. There is a strong sense of the fragmentary since the cement plates are only small pieces of a larger whole, evoking ancient stele with abstract pictograms as they lean on austere metal adjustable shelves. Some of these shelves may be removed from the structure so that the stele lie bare on the floor. In other works from the series, some of the shelves hang on the wall, becoming tableaux of old black-and-white photographs of the school and succinctly drawn floor plans.

By asserting this profoundly analogical pedagogical practice, the exhibition sheds light on the transition from craftsmanship to modern technologies, one that is echoed by the shift from the vaporous images that still strive to preserve the memory of the school to the tangible and truly corporeal tridimensional forms the artist creates. Deeply concerned by the conceptual and narrative potential of display, Meana’s current show is so far his best attempt at merging formalism and content.