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The work of Asier Mendizabal refers to multitudes, understanding them not so much as a unit, as the sum of many. This concept, that has a special relevance during the 19th century with the great European revolutions, is recuperated in the work of the Basque artist right in the midst of a social and political context where the masses have regained significance.
This second exhibition by Asier Mendizabal at the galería ProjecteSD, evidences that in his most recent work the artist has found a way to bring together the two disciplines, broadly speaking, that he moves within: abstract sculpture and cuttings of images of crowds. While previously his sculptures were placed directly on the floor and the images were framed and hung on the wall, the more sculptural pieces have now shifted to become the support on which the image is displayed. In this way sculpture and image become the parts of an installation, called “modular sculptures” in the exhibition that forms part of the series “Sin Título (trama)”.
In these new pieces the base material of the sculpture consists of a sheet of galvanised steel regularly perforated with round holes that easily relate to the dot matrix so typical of silkscreen that Mendizabal employs in some of his illustrations or appropriated photographs of crowds. What is more, by superimposing two of these metallic sheets, placing one at a different angle to another, the result is the moiré, effect, also characteristic of such images, that Mendizabal attaches to the steel structures with magnets.
Even though the most sculptural part of these installations, that is to say the steel pieces, could on its own end up being abstract sculpture, by placing it along with the images it acquires the function of supporting the image, acting as a sort of artificial wall, a prop. Even though they occupy a three dimensional space, this series of pieces is perceived as two dimensional for the fact that all the attention is focussed on the image easily leading the spectator to observe them from only one point of view.
Asier Mendizabal’s crowd images have been appropriated from prints from the 19th century that were published in illustrated magazines at that time. If in the series “Figures and Prefigurations” of 2009, the photographs of large crowds were cut into silhouetted forms of all types of figures, in these new works the formal resolution ends up placing a new piece of paper, with only at some point a rectangular hole, on top of the illustration, so that the empty part allows the image underneath to be seen.
On the other hand, in the exhibition there are also two framed pieces made up of compositions of four images. They are “Rotation (Moiré, Rome)” and “Rotation (Moiré, Egin)” and even though each one stems from the same image, in the final result they are four different ones. This occurs due to the modification of the dot matrix in the printing of each image. Here the same effect is produced as with the superposition of the metallic plates of the series “Sin Título (Trama)”, though he has used different materials and supports.
So while these two pieces, called “Rotation”, have some very clear and formal conceptual links to the modular sculptures, the same doesn´t occur with the two works placed in the corners of the gallery space. These are the projection “Das Unbekannte Spanien/España, tipos y trajes” and “Not all that moves is red (Tangram) #2”. The first consists of a double slide projection: with on the one hand photographs by the German Kurt Hielscher and on the other by the Spaniard José Ortiz Echagüe. The two of them photographed the Iberian territory and its inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century. The photographs of one, in browner tones, are projected at a slower rhythm than the photographs of the other, in bluer tones, with part of the photographs of one superimposing on the other. Even though they are photographs of the same historical context, the different viewpoints of the Spanish photographer and the German are clear: if while Ortíz Echagüe shows characters by what characterises them, in an almost anthropological desire to make a collection of stereotypes of the Spanish people; the gaze of Hielscher is distant, the vast majority being images of landscapes and architectures, with people appearing in only a few of them. With regard to Ortíz Echagüe, the photographs projected in the work of Mendizabal come from the series “España. Tipos y Trajes” (Spain. Types and Costumes); while in Hielscher’s case they belong to the work “Das unbekannte Spanien” (“The unknown Spain”). These two titles alone say a lot about the stance of each author in relation to the photographed subject.
Finally, “Not all that moves is red (Tangram) #2” is a sort of invented flag made up of red and black flags sliced in the middle, along the diagonal or the vertical, these cuttings then being elaborated into a new composition. With these “collages”, Mendizabal literally converts the flags, representative of a specific collective, into constructions that have lost all of their previous symbolism. He totally changes their values and transforms them into a game, into an invention with no more meaning than that of making it. By cutting up the flags of some, Mendizabal weaves them into flags of others or of nobody.