Carlos Bunga

Three years after his first exhibition at this gallery, Carlos Bunga once again surprised the viewer with the works presented in “Yuxtaposiciones” (Juxtapositions). In 2005, the Elba Benítez Project developed the installations that the Portuguese artist had begun in 2003, with which he startled visitors at group shows such as the 2004 Manifesta 5 in Donostia–San Sebastián, Spain. These were large-scale architectural structures made of cardboard and adhesive tape, painted white on the exterior and in various tones in the interior, which Bunga then demolished through cuts at the base and top and by crushing the walls with his own body. (Later, he began to leave his constructions intact.) At Manifesta 5, the demolition of the piece took place as a performance during the inaugural event; at the gallery, his destruction performance occurred before the opening, leaving subsequent viewers nothing but the possibility of wandering inside that mazelike structure in ruins, encountering the fields of color he had created (although he did document his process in photographs displayed in a light box).

Just as in the foundational references of his oeuvre—devastated urban space, the house as a basic living unit, the monochrome pictorial tradition, Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau, the incisions of Lucio Fontana, the actions of the Gutaï group, and the “anarchitecture” of Gordon Matta-Clark—so in Bunga’s “Yuxtaposiciones,” memory in general and citation in particular play a fundamental role. The works on view surveyed Bunga’s recent output, calling attention to his studio practice, less familiar to the public than his installations. For example, in Azul Oscuro AV (Dark Blue AV) (all works 2008), he shows pigment of this color, displayed on a pedestal and under an acrylic cover; in Cadmium Yellow Light Hue, he paints a cardboard box in this tone, exploring matter and surface as fundamentals of painting. His fascination with the architectonic is glimpsed in The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, a transparent acrylic box full of strips of paper, the pages of the aforementioned book shredded by a machine. Lacerating this publication, a compendium of buildings designed by star architects during the last decade, indicates the artist’s disbelief in the postmodern celebration of the contemporary condition.

Also in the main room of the gallery was Between, a corridor-like installation that recalls the one seen here in 2005, but on a smaller scale; it was flanked by several pieces based on strategies of appropriation. For example, Untitled, Model #34 consists of an IKEA table with its legs leaning against the wall. This is part of an ongoing sequence of works that reflect on the significance of objects in daily life. A similar logic marks Soy un nómada 1 (I’m a Nomad 1). In this case, Bunga painted with acrylic on a photograph of himself in lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero, covering his face with buildings and other architectural structures in a screen of primary colors—another set of transient identities and objects in a globalized world.

Miguel Amado

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.