Thu 20 September – Sat 10 November, 2012. Madrid
NoguerasBlanchard opens its new space in Madrid with an exhibition of new work by Rubén Grilo (Lugo, 1981), the artist’s first exhibition in the gallery. An installation by the artist will simultaneously be on view at the gallery in Barcelona.
The title of the show was borrowed from the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who refers to laughter as an act of sublimation of the ‘self’. Grilo uses humour here in a Duchampian sense to articulate the different elements present in the exhibition, not as something that is necessarily funny, but as a legitimate model to understand the practice of making art. Recurring themes in his work such as immediacy, informational pollution, and the obsession over conceptual art’s objectivity appear reflected in the show through various configurations.
The two galleries have been approached using opposite, but complementary strategies: the space in Barcelona has been left completely empty and the floor and walls have been sprayed with a product that simulates the smell of a new car. For his exhibition in Madrid, on the contrary, the artist has decided to select objects that are characterised by their meticulous execution. With certain irony, Grilo thus appropriates the conventions associated with the quality of materials and the work’s finish in order to illustrate the rift between the idea of art as intangible production, and its necessary formal execution.
The series titled Instant Shapes (2012) is a collection of car bonnets taken from vehicles involved in traffic accidents. The pieces have been partially repaired, as the surfaces have been polished and painted in their original colour, but retaining the distortion caused by the crash. Instead of being presented as an artistic decision, the pieces display the result of chance, creating a caricature of both ‘epic creative force’, and the idea of an ‘art without artifice’.
Literally adjoined to these are other pieces made with laser animation, in which technical devices such as projectors, cables, and other equipment become part of the work. The animations are made up of freehand abstract doodles which are all similar yet distinct, grouped and processed for the laser to project. The image sequence is then projected at a speed far superior to what our brain can process, which, along with the precision and intensity of the laser, is somehow juxtaposed next to the underlying unintentional and random gesture of the drawings. Installed together, the works point to the difficulty of getting rid of the artist’s subjectivity, and the reception of work by an audience as an exercise in reverse-engineering, swayed by subjectivity and other cognitive processes. According to the same logic, both car accidents and the feeling of movement experienced in cinema, for instance, could be explained by the limitations of human perception in processing images at a high speed.
Another group of works from the series Screen Alphabet (2011-12) also proposes a materialist take on human abilities for information processing. In this case, references to the cinematic are made by the use of projection screens tightly stretched and folded over metal structures that then imitate the shape of letters from the alphabet. The installation of these works is accompanied by a series of rules to avoid them becoming words or acronyms with specific meanings, to ensure each letter only informs about itself. The extravagance and bulkiness of the sculptures together with this manner of presentation obscures the recognition of the letter, creating at the same time a sense of strangeness and a feeling of familiarity in the shape they depict.
Finally, as a background sound for the exhibition in Madrid, Grilo has made an audio work using fragments taken from an argument between the comedians Joe Rogan and Carlos Mencia, which took place onstage in a comedy club in Los Angeles in 2007 and rapidly became popular on the Internet. In the tape, Rogan publically accuses Mencia to have stolen jokes from other comedians for his own show. The piece itself could be seen as an act of wrongful appropriation, but also frames the exhibition conceptually, showing the clash between the myth of immateriality and the world of objects.
Rubén Grilo lives in Amsterdam, where he is currently a resident artist at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (2011-12). Recent exhibitions include: Bioscope, Wilfried Lentz (Rotterdam, 2012); They’re Not All Funny but They Are in a Row, 1646 (The Hague, 2012); PowerPoint Karaoke, MARCO (Vigo, 2011); The Action of Things, CSS Bard (New York, 2011); El beneficio de la ignorancia, EspaiZer01 (Olot, 2010); Antes que todo, CA2M (Mostoles, 2010) and Here, There, Backward, Forward, Mirror, Hole, Through, Against, Maribel López (Berlin, 2010). His work has also been included in the performance programme of Liste17 (Basel, 2012) and En Casa, La Casa Encendida (Madrid, 2010).
This exhibition was produced with the collaboration of the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam.