Title : Asier Mendizabal: Untitled (Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic), installation view
Website : www.anthonyreynolds.com/
Credit : Copyright the artist, courtesy Anthony Reynolds gallery, London
Asier Mendizabal, ‘Untitled (Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic)’
Anthony Reynolds, 31 May – 14 July 2012
Review by Paula Barriobero
Asier Mendizabal’s first exhibition at Anthony Reynolds is an exploration of the same subjects that have accompanied the artist throughout these years; the political subject and the exploration of symbols. These themes are not unfamiliar to Londoners because of his recent exhibition at Raven Row last year and his presence at Venice Biennale.
Mendizabal’s work is related to the exploration of symbols, and in particular with the symbols of the Basque Country due to his upbringing there. His works combine a formalist approach and abstract forms explored in a variety of media, from film to silkscreens, engravings and sculpture. His work is a conscientious attempt to research the connections between abstraction and political representation.
This show comprises new works around the denial of the individual subject due to the political analysis of the subject as part of the mass. Throughout the exhibition Mendizabal juxtaposes abstract sculpture against political prints hung on the walls, as he did before at Raven Row or Reina Sofía Museum.
The exhibition is titled ‘Untitled’ after Mendizabal´s wood sculpture ‘Untitled (syntagmatic and paradigmatic)’ (2012). This sculpture is a display of skill, of the craftsmanship required to carve a chain and its separate links out of one piece of a chestnut trunk. This work is accompanied by silkscreens and newsprints reproducing photographic representations of multitudes taken from the illustrated press of early twentieth century.
One can ask what the relationship is between these prints and this particular sculpture. In this case, the answer will be the link between the different rings in the trunk and the gathering of individuals to form part of the mass as a political symbol. These photographic images are always shot from above determining the point of view of the visitor. With the images reproduced in this particular form, individuals acquire an awareness of their political views as being part of a group of people and not those of an isolated person fighting alone.
The representation of unified population as part of a mass is not new in Mendizabal´s work; it calls to mind his collage series representing crowd scenes using techniques from early modern photomontage. These works reference earlier examples such as Nicolás de Lekuona´s collages produced just before the Spanish Civil War, one of the most political moments in the recent history of Spain. This subject can be related to the exploration of nationalism through symbols such as flags, which are also explored by the artist.
Mendizabal’s aim in representing a group of people as collectives is to make visible how ideology is given form. Whether this is achieved through an abstract sculptural form or from the representation of multitudes, it is more than necessary today to form part of a group and feel political together.