Travels
28 March 2009

ARCO

In February I had the opportunity to attend ARCO, the international contemporary art fair that occurs every year in Madrid. I’d been curious to attend the fair, which has strong representation from galleries in Spain and Latin America, but I had no idea beforehand of the size and national prominence of the event. ARCO takes place in an enormous convention center (the entire complex has over 200,000 square meters of exhibition space) near the airport. The metro train from central Madrid was packed — at first I thought there was a soccer game on, but everyone was heading to ARCO, including hordes of high school kids who were about to pay 32 euros each to look at contemporary art.

The experience was overwhelming and exhausting. I spent one very long day at the fair and really only saw a fraction of the work on display. I sought out photography in particular, and I passed up many stalls that didn’t catch my interest.

Across town, the smaller alternative fair Art Madrid was going on at the same time. After the crowds at ARCO, I enjoyed strolling through the smaller fair and talking with artists and gallery owners.

I’m a little late in posting this, but now, with some distance, I can pick out the artwork that stuck with me. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pablo Cardoso: DPM gallery, based in Miami and Guayaquil, was highlighting work by this Ecuadorian artist. Cardoso’s work is, as he describes it, something between painting and photography, and between documentary and fiction. In his series titled Nowhere, he traced remote roads in Ecuador, both through his own photographs and through satellite images from Google Earth. He then reproduced these images in acrylic paint on small tablets and assembled them into larger constructions that run the length of a wall, winding to follow the contours of some seemingly inaccessible mountain road. The final work engages the viewer to trace the same path that the artist traveled. He also has a series of colorful paintings based on satellite images of Afghanistan. A pdf brochure of Cardoso’s ARCO display can be downloaded here.

Kyungwoo Chun: Chun is a Korean artist based in Germany famous for his blurred long-exposure portraits. Galería Raquel Ponce in Madrid had an exhibition of Chun’s photographs from his project and book Thousands. Chun’s surname, which means “thousand”, originally came from China. Four hundred years ago, the story goes, a Chinese general by the name of Chun arrived in Korea on a military campaign and decided to stay. Chun the photographer traveled back to the general’s birthplace in China to photograph one thousand people with the name Chun. In one of the images on display, the subject appears dressed in antique armor, his face blurred, making him seem closer to the ancient general.

Guy Limone: Limone is a French artist who is known for his clever use of color, miniature figurines and statistics to make observations about contemporary society (as in his installation “1 Out of 420 Americans is a Doctor,” which consists of a long shelf crowded with miniature human figures of all shapes and sizes). The series of work on display at ARCO consisted of flourescent light tubes covered with dozens of small color photographs printed on transparent plastic. The images showed people in various cities around the world and were organized by color, so that each tube had a different glow. It seemed like just a gimick at first, but I found myself examining the small images in detail. Limone’s work was at the Galería de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga GACMA stall.

Esther Ferrer: Gallery Angels Barcelona was showing work by the legendary Basque performance artist. I was particularly intrigued by her surreal photo-collage self-portraits from the series “El Libro de las Cabezas.” An example can be seen here.

Ximo Lizana: At the Arte Inversion stall at Art Madrid, Lizana’s digitally altered photographs add plastic wrapping and amorphous shapes out of science fiction to photographic portraits.

Marcos Lopez: The argentinian photographer’s work was on display at Galería El Museo (Bogotá). If you don’t already know his Pop Latino images, take a look at his website.

India: Each year ARCO selects an “invited country” to highlight. This year it was India. I thought this was some of the most interesting and innovative work at ARCO this year. In particular, graphic works by Jitish Kallat (from a series titled The Cry of the Gland) and Ashim Purkayashta, mixed media work by Riyas Komu and TV Santhosh, and photography by Nikhil Chopra and Anay Mann. Santhosh’s project Living with a Wound, based on the terrorist attacks last year in Mumbai, includes several large paintings, based on media images, which are presented in neon colors that look like they are drawn from a photo negative. At ARCO 2010 the invited “country” will be Los Angeles.


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