Erlea Maneros Zabala, Temporal Arrangements. Series I, 2018, gouache on photographic print, 36 1⁄4 × 48".

Erlea Maneros Zabala, Temporal Arrangements. Series I, 2018, gouache on photographic print, 36 1⁄4 × 48".

Erlea Maneros Zabala

Carreras Mugica

Erlea Maneros Zabala, Temporal Arrangements. Series I, 2018, gouache on photographic print, 36 1⁄4 × 48".

In her recent show “Works 2017–2018,” Erlea Maneros Zabala continued to pursue the topics that have so far shaped her career. Born in the Basque Country in Spain and trained in Glasgow and California, where she is currently based, Maneros Zabala crystallized her approach to artmaking around the time of the 9/11 attacks, an event that drew her attention to the ways in which newspapers handled their visual material. Media images became her main concern, and since then she has put together an immense archive of such pictures, which has become her most valuable tool. Her time in California also led her to critically explore some of the grand narratives of American art, namely those related to Abstract Expressionism, especially with regard to the tension between authorship and chance. As a consequence, an interest in the way images form and change in response to particular situations has become a constant in her work, as was evident in many of the pieces seen in Bilbao.

In the series “Exercises on Abstraction,” 2007–, Maneros Zabala employs analytical procedures to investigate the discursive possibilities of chance. Earlier entries in the series turned to strategies that flirted with of photography, such as placing offset paper (chosen for its resemblance to newsprint) in a vat of water and ink. The results suggested rhythms of light and shade. For the work in this show, she let the sun do the job. She folded newsprint so that those parts exposed to the light yellowed in reaction to the UV rays, while the concealed sections kept their original whitish tone.

Maneros Zabala created her “Temporal Arrangements,” 2018, via a complex, layered process. Part of her procedure involved projecting media images (drawn from a set of fifty) onto a photographic print of a grid and tracing fragments of these projections in gouache by hand. The resulting compositions—which consist of dense, abstract accumulations of filament-like marks—combine the mechanical qualities of photography with serendipitous gesture. The works also form a sort of palimpsest, revealing the various steps in her process and the archival nature of her work.

In this show, as in her “exercises,” Maneros Zabala’s work takes the form of meticulous sculptural arrangements, thus extending her dissection of images into three dimensions. The exhibition’s layout disrupted the clean and silent rhythms of the gallery space with two architectural structures that stressed the gallery’s condition as a space in process. One of them, a temporary wall, stood upright and served as a support for three “Temporal Arrangements” works. On its reverse, a projected video represented, from a fixed point of view, the artist at work, accompanied by the recording of an ultra-conservative radio broadcast from a local station in California. This most disheartening audio functioned as an immaterial counterpart to the artist’s more physical handling of media images. The other architectural module was a section of steel-stud wall frame laid flat on the floor. Hanging from the walls, a number of rubber casts of picture frames took on soft and distended organic shapes, losing the rigid geometry they must have once had and evoking the organic filaments seen in the “Temporal Arrangements.” These frames stand as telling examples of Maneros Zabala’s effort to disempower cultural and aesthetic conventions.