Sculptures, artworks, and installations exhibited in different outdoor spaces in the former La Cartuja monastery, headquarters of the Andalusian Centre for Contemporary Art (CAAC).
Ever since creating her first pieces in Los Angeles in the 1970s, artist Maura Sheehan has striven to give the spaces she works in new meanings by examining their economic, political and social context and how this context has influenced architectural forms.
Lagunas (2000) was part of a series of five interventions grouped under the title Veladuras [Glazes] that the artist produced at the CAAC in the year 2000. In this work, consisting of a geometric arrangement of pieces of marble discarded during roofing renovations on a CAAC building, Sheehan brings the concepts of both ruin and colour into play.
The idea of ruin is tied to the abandonment and deterioration of the Island of La Cartuja after it hosted Expo '92 Seville. And the colour is the same bold blue found on the ceramic ornaments that grace the facade of the former monastery - a hue used in many Mediterranean countries to paint terraces, balconies and walls - reminding us that this building was once an Almohad pottery.
Thus, building and facade provide us with the clues to interpreting Lagunas, a collaborative effort in which architecture, history and vision converge.
Pedro de Mora (Seville, 1961) is able to derive sustenance from the societies he inhabits and develop his language around them. His work moves rapidly from one theme to the next, creating an oeuvre that defies classification. However, on this fast-paced journey he never sacrifices the visual component of his ideas, maintaining a clearly defined style.
In Bus Stop, the artist attempts to cross the dividing line between art and the everyday by removing his work from the restricted space of the museum and taking it into the public urban arena. In doing so, he inverts Duchamp's strategy of bringing objects into the museum that seemingly have no place there. Mora divests the museum of art, reinserting it in a living fabric of ordinary experiences in order to develop a 21st-century aesthetic in the sphere of the civic and the everyday.
This work alters the traditional concept of the monument; by using premium materials typically reserved for sculptures, the artist has created a singular prototype of street furniture that can be used as a place of social relaxation or interaction, making users an active part of the sculpture.
The work of López Cuenca (Nerja, Málaga, 1959) reflects his social engagement, which he expresses through word games and the ironic juxtaposition of images.
The work was chosen by an international jury to be exhibited as part of the Current Art in Public Spaces project at Expo '92 Seville. Decret nº 1 takes its title from "Decree No. 1 on the Democratization of Art" (1918), published in the Moscow-based Futurist Gazette, which proclaimed the principle of "all art for all the people" and stated that artistic activity should be dissolved and blended into daily life.
The 24 elements of this piece, identical in shape and colour to the information panels installed at Expo '92, were set up on the fairgrounds and camouflaged as official signage. López Cuenca tried to sneak his own message into the official discourse by using texts in different languages and incomprehensible icons that confused and disoriented visitors. The project was vetoed and taken down the day before the fair opened.
Cristina Lucas (Jaén, 1973) started out in the field of action art and happenings and later went on to produce installations, photographs, videos and drawings.
Focusing on critiques related to gender issues and cultural and power structures, she uses metaphor and satire to inspire ambiguous feelings in her viewers, always from an apparently innocent feminist point of view.
Alicia is a gigantic figure whose face and right arm protrude from the open windows of a room in which she seems to have been trapped. The artist's inspiration for this piece was her reinterpretation of the passage in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland where the main character, driven by curiosity, eats a cake with the words "EAT ME" written across it and begins to grown uncontrollably, in this case to the point that she no longer fits in the room and is forced to stick one arm out the window.
In this way, Cristina brings the famous book's unsettling fantasy into the real-world setting of La Cartuja, and uses it as a metaphor for the physical and mental imprisonment of women, trapped within the confines of their homes, as a form of oppression.
Wearing the guise of a conventional sculptural work and offering an ironic commentary on the controversy that has surrounded the notion of the artist since the days of Romanticism, Curro González (Seville, 1960) has devised an installation with audio and visual elements that interact with the audience. In it he offers a paradoxical version of the artist who, depicted as a one-man band, stands before the "Gate of Fame", a metaphorical threshold which conveys the idea that the artist's ultimate aim is to achieve a success that will guarantee his legacy's survival.
However, the initial situation changes when the audience passes through the gate and is startled by the sound of a fanfare, a role-reversal in that game of recognition. In addition, the same audience is captured by a camera perched among the one-man band's instruments, and they can see themselves in an adjacent space, thus becoming part of the work for a split second. In this way, González crosses the concepts and visions of spectator and artist.
Reflections on identity are one of the central themes around which the work of the Rosado brothers (San Fernando, Cádiz, 1971) orbits. We find them in installations, sculptures and, most abundantly, in photographs and drawings, though this is actually the least-known facet of their oeuvre.
Inspired by the recurring question posed by Roberto Arlt in Etchings from Buenos Aires, "Have you not seen the illuminated windows at three in the morning?", this work delves into the contemporary urban idiosyncrasy - into the stories lurking in the corners, the experience of the multitude, or the daily solitude of the city's inhabitants.
This is a site-specific installation designed for the walkway at the entrance to the Carthusian Monastery of La Cartuja. To construct these house fragments, MP&MP Rosado used neutral materials (primarily paper and wood) and very simple forms that allow for a greater degree of evocativeness, imagination and fantasy.
The artists' intention was to create a fluctuating mise-en-scène that transforms with each passing hour, representing a seemingly deserted world that is actually teeming with invisible presences.
Maria Thereza Alves’s (São Paulo, Brazil, 1961) latest works speak directly to the context of the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo. Both sculptures were fashioned from the seeds of a common fruit in Brazil, the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus, a close cousin to the breadfruit tree, known as jaca in Portuguese), after having been cleaned and “sculpted” in the artist’s own mouth.
The jackfruit originated on the Malay Peninsula in Asia and was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese with the intention of cultivating it as a cheap, nourishing food source (its flavour is halfway between a mango and an orange) to sustain the growing African slave population. Over time, the jackfruit tree has spread across vast areas of Brazil, and in some forests it has even displaced the native flora.
In Seville, Maria Thereza Alves chose to install these two works in a very specific place. She situated them in the garden, at the foot of the centuries-old ombu tree which, according to legend, was planted by, Hernando Colón, son of the famous explorer Cristóbal Colón and one of the first to traffic in African slaves bound for the Americas. The full symbolic significance of this location becomes apparent if we consider the entire corpus of Alves’s work. Few places like the Island of La Cartuja are capable of establishing such a close and stimulating bond with her artwork, which is largely based on the interaction between colonialism and ecology.
What Is Real? is a small wall made of miniature ceramic bricks, assembled with painstaking care and running straight across the orchard. The author deliberately placed the wall opposite a mulberry tree standing in the middle of the courtyard in order to create a disconcerting contrast of scales.
This contrast, as the title clearly suggests, is the artist's attempt to challenge our perception of reality. The wall is only as high as a book and one could easily hop over it, but it is a barrier nonetheless. At times these diminutive bricks suddenly strike us as huge, gargantuan even, and at others they look so tiny that we almost feel we should get down on all fours like a child playing in the dirt in order to have the right perspective. Yet however large or small it may appear, the wall is only as disproportionate as our sensitive-corporeal relationship to it.
The multidisciplinary artists Libia Castro (Madrid, 1970) and Ólafur Ólafsson (Reykjavik, 1973) have been working together since 1997 addressing issues that concern us as citizens: identity, work, the economy, illegal immigration, or the way our cities are built up and torn down.
Through the power of images and the suggestive possibilities of sound, they prod viewers to develop new interests and preoccupations, to venture into the realm of thoughtful reflection and question certain truths which have been universally accepted as absolute and never once challenged.
¿Quién tiene miedo del rojo, del amarillo y de ti? is a site-specific work that was created for the exhibition Your Country Doesn't Exist (2011), held at the CAAC that same year. The piece's modified title is an ironic twist on the name of Barnett Newman's famous series produced between 1966 and 1970, Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, in which the American painter experimented with large colour fields and the impact that his oversized canvases had on viewers as they tried and failed to fit it into their field of vision.
Federico Guzmán (Seville, 1964) has always shown himself to be an engaged artist. This personal commitment to society and nature became more pronounced following his sojourns in Colombia and the Sahara, where he refined his conception of the intimate bond between nature and art.
His work overflows with optimism, vitality, tenderness and colour, always looking to the benchmark of contemporary society. The extraordinarily diverse objects featured in his artwork take on a novel plastic identity that distances them from the constrained customary systems, thus leading to an immersion in a much more vibrant, dynamic system which inspires a brighter existential hope that is somehow more alive.
The outdoor work Reloj estacional is conceived as a living plant clock that measures the passage of time by a dozen different plant species chosen for their suitability to the geographic location of the CAAC orchard, climate and seasons, whose blossoms open and close each day throughout their growing season. However, Guzmán's intention was not for nature to operate as a clock, but to build a clock whose operation depends on the annual cycle of nature's seasons.
OUTDOOR WORKS on the Grounds of the CAAC
Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo
Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía
Photography: Guillermo Mendo y Pablo Ballesteros
Translation: Deirdre B. Jerry