Alicia Martín

Galería Oliva Arauna

With one of her first works—a book covered with pins (which has become something of a Rosetta stone for anyone trying to come to terms with young Spanish art)—Alicia Martin set out on the path she has followed as an artist ever since. Her works re-create an inner world at odds with its surroundings. She seems to have learned from Meret Oppenheim and Lucas Samaras, among others, how to use expressive materials metaphorically, to capture something of her difficult relation to reality. Adopting the spirit and iconography of the Surrealist object, Martin has constructed some powerful pieces, which are often filled with paradoxes and a sense of fearfulness. Her work ranges from a black lightbulb to a disturbing piece titled Biblioteca (Library), 1997, in which books appear to be consumed by the wall to which they are pinned.

More recently, there has been a notable reduction in the violence that marked her earlier efforts (although always subtly), as her work has begun to lean toward a lighter treatment of the disassociation between her inner and outer worlds. In Spain she is known primarily for her ongoing “Bibliotecas” series, but for several years now she has been making installations using furniture, skillfully altering these everyday objects by leaving them only partly intact. The resulting works, teeming with unexpected juxtapositions, play with the irreconcilable tensions between reality and appearance: Closets go into the walls, magnified silhouettes are cast by invisible chairs, disturbing shadows appear out of nowhere. In her most recent exhibition, Martín presented a series entitled “Sordos, Mudos, Ciegos” (The deaf, the dumb, the blind), 1999, emphasizing, with her title, the imitations of the senses. Here focusing specifically on chairs, she presented two sculptural installations—both in the form of half-chairs embedded in the walls—as well as photographs of these kinds of works, which heightened the sense of disjunction already evident in the originals. In one of the untitled color photos, the top half of a sumptuously red, tufted love seat hovers over a gray floor; for the sofa's base. the artist drew on cardboard that she then covered in plastic and attached to the wall, creating an effect in which the bottom half of the seat seems to merge with the whitewashed background. Juxtaposing different surfaces and highlighting the eloquent darkness that surrounds the chair, Martín makes it clear that ambiguity is still at the center of her work.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Vincent Martin.