Amaya González Reyes

Can a work of art participate in that which it sets out to criticize without losing legitimacy? In “Una idea brillante y otras historias adorables” (A Brilliant Idea and Other Adorable Stories), Amaya González Reyes takes up this quixotic question, exhibiting a group of pieces that satirically treats certain aspects of contemporary art from a position surprisingly close to the object of her mockery. Almost all these works are made in materials treated to look like gold: a polished bronze pedestal for a sculpture on which its title, Valgo mi peso en oro (I Am Worth My Weight in Gold; all works 2009) is inscribed; a row of screws of varying lengths that form a skyline (Estrategias formales [Formal Strategies]); gold-tape stars placed on a wall (Constelación [Constellation]). Many also make reference to iconic pieces by other artists. One wall piece, for instance, Curiosidad, evokes Lucio Fontana’s “Spatial Concepts”: González Reyes’s version is a lined canvas box with a zipper around a hole through which we see gold-plated steel. Others invoke Piero Manzoni and Cildo Meireles. And of course the gold that tints each piece recalls Yves Klein.

Through these allusions to postwar icons, González Reyes emphasizes the rhetorical devices that serve to uphold much current art, which has one foot in presumed aesthetic values and the other in a luxury market. This concern is clear in Una idea brillante y otras historias adorables, the work after which the exhibition is named. Perhaps in reference to Meret Oppenheim, Jasper Johns, or Alicia Martin, in this piece a single lightbulb hanging from a fixture on the ceiling casts a golden light; it is charged with a surplus value that quite obviously has nothing to do with its material value. As if to exacerbate this already tense relation, the artist’s stance on her own work is often ironic. This is evident not only in the pieces themselves but also in the texts on the gallery walls, phrases (in Spanish) like FASCINATED BY THE SHINE OF MY PRECIOUS STONES, SURRENDERED TO FORMAL STRATEGIES.

In the end, González Reyes is speaking about herself—as an artist who exhibits these demystifying works in the context of a gallery and sells them for high art-market prices. She emphasizes this contradiction in Yo (I), where that word is formed out of stickers that say “Espero que te guste” (I hope you like it). With its multiple meanings, this work speaks of the possible rhetoric underlying contemporary art (extreme self-involvement at the price of gold) while also dealing with the artist’s contradictory position. If it is bad for others, it is also bad for her. Or is this, rather, an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it,
too—a gambit so common in contemporary art?

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.