Critics’ Picks

Oier Iruretagoiena, Cold ears, 2018, papier-mâché, wood, staples, screws, varnish, 27 1/2 x 19 5/8 x 4''.

Bilbao

Oier Iruretagoiena

Carreras Mugica
Calle Heros 2
June 6–July 30, 2019

It seems the quaint rural scene has lost its palliative effect in the age of climate disaster. Four of the seven works in Oier Iruretagoiena’s exhibition “Hezur berriak” (New Bones) are pieced together from discarded amateur landscape paintings the artist collected over two years. He dissected and rearranged these canvases into irregularly layered quilt-like banners, sutured by the visible runs of a sewing machine. What comes through most clearly is the latent charge in these generic and sentimental subjects—craning treetops, mazelike groves, a distant seaside village—as they index the ambiguous desires of the hobbyists who painted them.

In the center of the gallery, two low-lying sculptures, Bird & Bone I and Bird & Bone II (all worked cited, 2018), resemble unearthed artifacts set aside for examination. Composed of wooden construction stakes encrusted with off-white globular molds of femur bones and bird parts, these forms register somewhere between religious and sci-fi, like mutant holy relics or Cronenbergian artillery propped on their stands in defensive formation.

The show’s most interesting and unsettling piece, Cold ears, hangs on the far wall. It has the appearance of an ancient stone or clay tablet and is riddled with staples and rusted screws and treated with an amber varnish. Five papier-mâché human ears press through the relief’s surface, conjuring images of desecrated burial grounds. But when taken as a sum of its details, this outwardly morbid work also resembles a map, with little ear-islands adrift among mountain ranges and shifting geologic plates. It is consistent with the odd sense that runs throughout Iruretagoiena’s show, that these decomposing objects harbor a secret utility, if only we remembered how to use them.