Max Protetch Gallery is pleased to announce Happiness is a state of inertia, an exhibition of new work by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle. The artist will be in attendance at the opening reception on Friday, February 5; the exhibition will be on view until March 27.
For his fifth solo exhibition at Max Protetch, Manglano-Ovalle will present a major new sculpture.
Inspired by the materials and design of Mies van der Rohe's unbuilt House with Four Columns (or 50x50 House, 1951), the sculpture functions as a working fish tank. Both elegant and menacing, the work demonstrates the artist's continuing interest in producing objects whose physical intensity is capable of posing probing critical questions about the times in which we live.
By using House with Four Columns as a starting point, Manglano-Ovalle mines this canonical Modernist design for an array of philosophical, sociological, art historical, and even ecological references. Manglano-Ovalle's sculpture is a model of an absence, a description of the outer limits of the seen. In this sense it recalls other contemporary renderings of austere, yet luminous, form: the sculpture of Sol LeWitt, the paintings of Robert Irwin and Robert Ryman, and the performances of Robert Barry come to mind. It functions as the architectural equivalent of an empty vessel, a repository for formal and conceptual ideas about shelter, enclosure, and transparency. It represents a modern, glass-and-steel version of the simplest of dwellings: the cave.
The fish tank, built with glass and white aluminum, lit with white light and lined on the bottom with white gravel, will be filled with Astyanax fasciatus mexicanus, commonly known as the Blind Mexican Cave Fish; these fish are indeed blind and make their way via smell and touch. The object itself is profoundly transparent, but because it has been installed below eye level, and its inhabitants are blind fish, it inverts the notion of transparency, calling into question what true visibility looks like. In order to look inside the tank, a viewer would have to prostrate himself, offering a gesture of submission in exchange for verification of the seemingly transparent scene inside.
Happiness is a state of inertia also relates to the artist's series of investigations of naturally occurring phenomena like storms and icebergs as metaphors for contemporary cultural conditions. Included in the exhibition are a series of mandala-like black-and-white images. Based on aerial photographs of a section of Antarctica (referred to as Iceberg Series B15) taken by NASA between 2001 and 2005, the source material is in fact the tracing of an event, the dissolution of an ice cap. By treating these traces of ominous environmental import like Rorschach inkblots, Manglano-Ovalle conflates the escapism inherent in their surface beauty with a critique of psycho-political flaws in society's relationship to the visual: the inability to fully trust what we see, despite our intense reliance on what we see.