View of “Gabriel Pericàs,” 2014–15. Photo: Mirari Echavarri.

View of “Gabriel Pericàs,” 2014–15. Photo: Mirari Echavarri.

Gabriel Pericàs

View of “Gabriel Pericàs,” 2014–15. Photo: Mirari Echavarri.

Gabriel Pericàs was born in Palma de Mallorca in 1988 and, in spite of his youth, is widely regarded as one of the true talents of the Spanish art scene. He was already exhibiting widely even when he was still a student at the University of Barcelona, and his career seems only to have accelerated after his recent move to New York, thanks to a Fulbright grant. Throughout his career, he has manifested a strong interest in the field of design; a good part of his work has evolved around the alternative and often mordant readings of its modern and recent history that support the irrefutably post-Conceptual stance that has become his artistic signature.

Indeed, his work turns on citation and paradox. Early in his career, Pericàs took as points of reference certain works by Marcel Duchamp, Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, and John Baldessari, among others, subverting their meaning by subjecting it to a further degree of irony. He then took up lectures as a medium, one in which he has produced some of his finest achievements. In the wake of his distinguished mockery, his ruminations on such designers as Michael Thonet and Marcel Breuer merged with his own life stories, and many of these anecdotes flirted uninhibitedly with the banal.

Since the objects Pericàs employs in his performances can hardly be considered autonomous artworks, the concept of “exhibition,” the presentation of static objects within a given space, became an issue to be dealt with. This show, “Elastische Luftsäulen” (Elastic Air Column), seemed to attest to the artist’s determination to tackle this problem head-on. Although time still existed as a narrative thread, a sort of specificity was ultimately introduced in this exhibition, as the works included in it were now given a clear connection with the architecture of the gallery.

The space was populated with decontextualized objects, scattered around to form a complex landscape. Some were parts of electronic devices, while others were pieces of quotidian objects, typically furniture, that had been reworked and transformed. A ramp led the way into the gallery. To make Untitled (Obstruction), 2014, Pericàs placed small magnets under the ramp, then released little balls that once belonged to a computer mouse. The balls ought to have rolled down the ramp but instead were tidily lined up, thanks to the hidden magnets. In this way, the spheres appeared to ignore the basic laws of gravity and inertia. Another ramp, Ramp Becoming a Stage, 2012–14, was an exact replica of Nauman’s 1966 Device to Stand In. But by putting two small steel legs beneath one side of the ramp, Pericàs has turned it into a horizontal plane and thus eliminated the absurd “functionality” of Nauman’s object.

Displacements of meaning are always at stake in this artist’s work. In Efficiency & Abyss, 2014, a set of small, slightly rotated photographs of stacks of chairs evokes the depth of a tunnel. As the title suggests, a sense of precision and dry functionality leads to a speculative void by way of an illusion. These two ideas—functionality and illusion—turn out to be the key subjects of Pericàs’s recent work, as also becomes clear in The invisible chair (Prototype #4), 2014, a work that evokes the trick in which a magician appears to sit floating in the air. Pericás spoils the fancy (and all speculation) by rendering visible the apparatus that was supposed remain hidden.

Javier Hontoria