Fuentesal Arenillas, Untitled (Familia), 2022, iroko wood, sapele, pine, mahogany, iron, vinegar, chipboard, canvas, cardboard. 47 1⁄4 × 110 1⁄4 × 18 1⁄2". Photo: David Zarzoso.

Fuentesal Arenillas, Untitled (Familia), 2022, iroko wood, sapele, pine, mahogany, iron, vinegar, chipboard, canvas, cardboard. 47 1⁄4 × 110 1⁄4 × 18 1⁄2". Photo: David Zarzoso.

Fuentesal Arenillas

In southern Spain, old houses have two doors. The first one opens onto the street; the second, located a few feet farther back, opens into the house interior. The vestibule between the two, which is both public and private, is known as a casapuerta—literally, house door. It is an interstitial space, a place of transition but also of shelter, where acquaintances (visitors) and strangers (passersby taking shelter from the rain, perhaps) wait. It is not inconsequential that this small place, which is and is not home, is named with a hybrid, almost contradictory word.

Casapuerta” was the title that artist duo Fuentesal Arenillas (Julia Fuentesal and Pablo M. Arenillas) chose for their latest exhibition. Both artists hail from Andalucía and have been working for years on a “genealogy of Andalusian sculpture” rooted both in art and in crafts. Again in their new works, they referred formally and thematically to that region and evoked the practices of traditional trades. Some pieces incorporated, for instance, hat blocks (Julia y Pablo, all works 2022), volumes made from tailoring patterns (Aparejo I and II [Gear I and II]), or the strange silhouette of a dismantled glove (Viña III [Vineyard III]) that seemed to smile. Guardacantón I and II (Guard Stone I and II), mimicked the forms of the forged metal pieces that were placed on the corners of buildings to withstand the impact of horse-drawn carriages.

All in all, these works pointed to artifacts designed to provide refuge and protection. The show also included large wide-brimmed hats, such as galeros—Oye lo que traigo (Listen to What I Bring) and Corre, vé y dile (Hurry, Go and Tell Her)—which, attached to the wall on projecting beams or atop an abstracted rendition of a street-vending cart, were at once headgear, parasols, and umbrellas. Moreover, the curious viewer could have discovered tucked under these pieces a hidden ensemble of small personal objects—some finger cymbals, family photographs—or painted dots. Domesticity guards memory.

Many of the works in this show were ambiguous in their implications. For example, the silhouettes of the guard stones, made of canvas sewn on cardboard patterns, were also reminiscent of hoods or straitjackets. Perhaps for this reason, they were installed in different ways: freestanding, leaning against the wall; or inside a pedestal, as in the installation Untitled (Familia) made of carved and polished wooden hat blocks that looked like votive offerings or idols. The works’ titles also implied resignification games, as in La mesa es el suelo de las manos VII (The Table Is the Floor of the Hands VII)—its title a beautiful phrase that echoes something philosopher Gustavo Bueno once wrote—which comprised two large round glass panes and a beamlike wooden structure, evoking a traditional Andalusian table under which a brazier is placed. Expanding on this mechanism of borrowing and exchange, the framed pages from the artists’ notebook in Un collar de ventanas (A Necklace of Windows) were also significant. Its first sheets are filled with clippings about art-historical figures ranging from David Medalla to Sophie Taeuber-Arp, as well as ancient Iberian and Egyptian art, while those that follow feature contributions from colleagues, who filled the blank spaces with their offerings, as if it were a sticker book.

In previous exhibitions, Fuentesal Arenillas sometimes undermined themselves with crude or clumsy execution. In “Casapuerta,” they demonstrated a new formal and conceptual maturity, balancing rustic simplicity with delicacy of detail to offer a personal take on vernacular forms.

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.