Coming from a family of factory workers, Colombian-born artist Oscar Murillo investigates notions of work across different cultural contexts. The performative dimension of his practice can be grasped in his paintings, which are made from coarsely woven, stitched canvases that have been in the artist’s studio for a long time. The dirt and dust they gathered while lying around the studio are indexical of the process of their making, in which the works gradually emerge as repositories of Murillo’s time and labor. Hardly interested in formal ideas of painting, the artist conceives of his method as a “working-to-work” process—a term which reflects the transformation of labor into products as well as the artist’s almost obsessive inclination to work.
Murillo’s intense studio practice coexists with his location- based projects, which often seek to destabilize the social significance that a given culture accords to physical labor. His ongoing Frequencies project (2013–) is a collaboration between the artist, members of his family, and social scientist Clara Dublanc. They temporarily affix canvases to classroom desks of young students from different parts of the world—including Columbia, Israel, and Ethiopia—to register their everyday activities. The tables on which the works are presented in the exhibition evoke the learning environment of the classroom, encouraging close study of the students’ critical and creative learning processes.
The canvases Murillo has suspended on the facade of the Central Pavilion at the Giardini epitomize the diversity of his mark-making techniques and painterly gestures. (The display of his father’s employment certificate from 1982, framed and cast in copper next to the installation, is a significant clin d’oeil.) Subverting the stateliness of the neoclassical facade, Murillo’s canvases invite inspection from a perspective in which the building disappears from view.