|Dario Urzay, Lego en la Materia, 2013|
Adequate and restraint is how you would tag the 32th edition of Arco, Madrid's international art fair. Very few jaw-dropping moments but admirable efforts by galleries and management to keep up the show.
The 2013 Arco edition starts with a lot of tension: a skyrocketed VAT on works of art and a disappearing budget from Spanish institutions, once serious acquisitors. Nevertheless, plenty of aspects for lauding this edition: the highest international participation ever, many invited private collectors and professional buyers, an online service to purchase artwork up to 5,000 € and Turkey as a focus country. Arco's director Carlos Urroz continues his good work. However, and as I already suggested last year, it would be great if Arco offered a different value proposition. Something that would turn it to a unique and extraordinary event...
Back to the art, Solo Objects, a new section for large artworks, has been striking. Big objects in a vast space, suggestively lit.... Quite dramatic.
|Alice Aycock, Spin-the-Spin. Background, Guillermo Mora, Entre tu y yo. 2012|
|Clara Montoya, 2 (x,y,z), 2012|
|Susy Gómez, Lejos de expresiones completamente automáticas, 2012|
Else, there were few installations or sculptures at this Arco edition. One of those few was the series "men & bricks" by Portuguese artists Baltazar Torres at the Mario Sequeira Gallery. Torres's little men on, around and under bricks managed extremely well to convey the construction-bubble-burst anxiety. Another interesting installation, We Are One Body, by Eulalia Valldosera on show at Studio Trisorio, shows footage of recent riots in Athens on an ancient-looking amphora.
|Eulalia Valldosera, We Are One Body, 2012|
Wonderful textures by Mexican artist Bosco Sodi at the Galeria Carles Tache.
|Bosco Sodi, Untitled, 2012|
The Infra series by Richard Mosse, on show at the Leyendecker Gallery, has been around for a couples of years, however, it is always great to see. Mosse's project is impressive. Shot in Eastern Congo with a colour infrared film (Kodak's Aerochrome), he portraits the conflict in a way where beauty transcends the pain or horror. Romantic, but grotesquely so, rather surreal. All together a different approach to war photography. In Mosse's words:
"I feel strongly that something that is 'just made up' can speak more powerfully and more clearly than a work of journalism"
|Richard Mosse, Infra|
Incredibly powerful was Guy Tillim's shot of the South Pacific sea at the German Gallery Kuckei+Kuckei. The photograph, called Haapiti, Moorea, is a landscape of the sea with rather dull colours and an equally so composition. Despite this, or rather because of it, the shot is amazing. In a talk at the Lannan Foundation on July 2011 Guy gives away his take on landscape photography when he says:
"Perhaps the scene is only beautiful when all the elements are palpably part of the whole. [...] There are obvious ways to convey the components of the scene, either through detail or monumentally. But what of that which lies in between? The indeterminate space that conveys the texture, its feeling, its sensation, its quotidian elements alongside the spectacular. I think there isn't an answer because each scene is a place of meditation, of emptiness. It provides its own context because in a certain way of looking it cannot be anywhere else. What is photographed? Nothing and everything, when you have no desire to leave the frame".
Guy Tillim is a South African award-winning photographer who has worked as a news photographer for Reuters and Agence France Press. Similar to Richard Mosse (mentioned above), Guy has documented the conflict in the DR Congo focusing on the details of everyday life rather than on the bloodshed. Congo Democratic is a fascinating series shot in Kinshasa during the 2006 general elections and Soldiers (2002), a series of black-and-white portrays of child soldiers in Eastern Congo.
|Guy Tillim, Haapiti, Moorea, 2011|
Back-lit photograph by Raffaela Mariniello at the Studio Trisorio, Naples, at Arco for the first time.
Surprisingly, there seemed to be no 3D printed objects at this Arco edition. Watch the space for next one. For a moment I thought that Photo-topography by Carlos Garaicoa at Galeria Elba Benitez was 3D printed but it turned to be a photograph transferred to polyspan. Good work still.
|Carlos Garaicoa, Photo-topography, 2012|
A video projection on suspended water bottles was the great installation by Daniel Canogar at the Madrid based gallery Max Estrella, which also showed an intriguing rained mirror by Jorge Perianes.
Aglaia Conrad, featured last year, presented Carrara Cuts at the Nadja Vilenne Gallery; a series of aluminium mounted, black-and-white pictures of the Carrara marble quarries.
|Aglaia Konrad, Carrara Cuts, 2013|
Broken Line is a wonderful collection of colourful object cuts by Isidora Correa at Die Ecke Arte Contemporaneo (Santiago de Chile).
|Isidora Correa, Broken Line, 2011|
Neon lights and mirrors in Hopelessness, a work by Chilean artist Iván Navarro brought by Distrito 4. The Madrid based gallery has at this edition predominantly exhibited young artist's work, strongly betting for Rafael Macarrón (Madrid 1981), an award-winning artist who was allocated nearly half of the booth. His sculptures are hilarious. The three on show here were raised plywood boxes containing a detailed room filled with surreal beings of all sizes and colours.
|Iván Navarro, Hopelessness, 2011|
|Rafa Macarrón, House Garden, 2013|
Another artist to follow is certainly Ruth Gómez on show at the Mario Sequeira Gallery. Her work Spray is a graffiti progressively painted.
|Ruth Gómez, Spray / Starting Over #1, 2013|
Undoubtedly the most interesting introduction was to Mexican artist Teresa Margollés, winner of the 2012 Artes Mundis prize. Teresa's work is fascinating. It explores death and our relationship with it. Her work includes 32 años. Levantamiento y traslado donde cayó el cuerpo asesinado del artista Luis Miguel Suro, a piece that uses the bloody floor tiles on which the artist was murdered in Mexico. What Else Could We Talk About?, her contribution to the 2009 Venice Biennale, had the floor of the exhibition space continuously mopped with water used to wash bodies in a morgue in Mexico.
Fiscal Canvas by Karmelo Bermejo is a great piece to close with. The artist suggests with this work a way forward in the art market. He challenges the buyer and the gallery not to declare the acquisition / sell of the piece. And he even goes further: the canvas, since it is left unpainted, can be used to support another artwork... which would consequently be undeclared as well. Realistic or less so, it is surely a proposal with a dose of future thinking.
|Karmelo Bermejo, Fiscal Canvas, 2013|
ARCO International Contemporary Art Fair, Madrid 13 - 17 February 2013