View of “Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangranè,” 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

View of “Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangranè,” 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangranè

Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangranè’s response to an invitation by Alessandra and Francesca Minini to exhibit together in their Milan space was a show whose title, “Voler leggere la schiuma” (Wanting to Read the Foam), alludes to a line by Peruvian poet César Vallejo, whose poem “Intensity and Height” (1937) opens, “I want to write, but froth comes out.” The two artists, who share an interest in natural morphologies and their connection to artistic creation, set up a series of relationships, between one work and another and between the works and the space, arriving at what can be called a single piece of environmental art. Steegmann Mangranè subdivided the first large room of the gallery into three different environments, installing two large transparent tents, or veiled areas, whose respective titles were mathematical symbols, (all works 2021). The tents were composed of long aluminum chains like those installed as screens in front of shop doors and residences in Catalonia, where the artist was born. These wide airy structures spread a subtle rosy halo in the room. The first had an irregularly shaped opening with a steel edge, allowing visitors to pass into the second space. The second tent, however, had just one opening, a high, impassable window, and one could only access it by opening a gap between the chains, thus also producing a sound, indicating one’s presence and “activating” the work.

Hanging from the ceiling in the first and second spaces were three different versions of Andrade Tudela’s Thin Nut’s Skin: a short cylindrical steel bar fastened to shapeless pieces of the same material, as if the order had an appendage in which it had collapsed into disorder. But the disorder was only apparent, for the forms attached to the bar are, in reality, precise and magnified molds of the skin that covers the kernels of a walnut. Presented in pairs, these forms are tied to each other and to the bar in different ways. As re-creations of an organic microstructure, they are no less orderly and functional than the industrially produced bar.

Morphogenesis is a recurrent subtext in Steegmann Mangranè’s works. Here it was apparent in the two exhibited versions of Metamorphing Map, each a wall-mounted sheet of marble divided into rough triangles with curvilinear sides and then recomposed, their reconfiguration resulting in empty interstices and detached fragments and changes in the direction of the colored veining. The artistic act echoes the natural evolution of marble, a stone defined as metamorphic because it is formed by a mutation of its internal structure due to pressure and heat over time. But it was not just a reference to natural processes that motivated the work in this surprising show. Andrade Tudela’s Strange arrangement of a skilled worker #2, a green-metal parallelepiped, was affixed to a wall and open to the viewer, who could glimpse a pair of worker’s overalls forcefully jammed inside, almost crushed. Another, larger version—a freestanding column in yellow, Strange arrangement of a skilled worker #1—was also on display: Here, the half-hidden garment inserted into the tight metal structure suggested the strain of oppressive labor, the social cost that lies behind the production of perfect objects. Alongside this work, Steegmann Mangranè’s geometric nature / biology imparted a very different type of comparison, not without lyricism. Three elastic cords running between the ceiling and the floor expanded at their midpoint to make room for a small branch that had been sliced into two lengthwise. The prismatic form of a nearly immaterial column was thus created by the gentle push of the frail organic element, emphasizing that the sculpture is about the fragile coexistence of different principles, this time a harmonious and metaphorically redemptive relationship, starkly different from the one alluded to in the peremptory yellow column by Andrade Tudela that stood beside it.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.