through patches of corn, wheat and mud
David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Oscar Murillo. On view at 525 and 533 West 19th Street in New York will be paintings, drawings, sculptural elements, and film.
Murillo addresses the conditions of display in the contemporary art world by engaging with a series of dichotomies—including work and play, production and consumption, and originality and appropriation. His practice is closely tied to notions of community and migration stemming from his cross-cultural ties to London, where he currently lives, and Colombia, where he was born.
The exhibition marks a significant moment in Murillo’s career in which he consolidates his early emphasis on personal cultural experiences with a broader exploration of the different roles and possibilities of artists within an increasingly global world. It takes its point of departure in his recent travels and exhibitions, allowing for an at once introspective and radical look at his practice to date.
In a futile mercantile disposition, a maze-like room-sized installation of several hundred black paintings and steel structures inspired by morgue tables, the idea of a finished work becomes inseparable from process and materials. Each of the canvases has been covered with two coats of paint on both sides and is displayed draped across metal wires, folded, or casually scattered. Not two are alike: some have been cut into strips and sewn together in a unique pattern, while others bear evidence of previous use as oil pads in the studio, with marks left behind by other works, or of having moved around with the artist on his travels. Alternating sheer and opaque surfaces distinguish newer canvases from older ones, and the lingering smell of paint offers a sense of their ongoing production.
Ten black, torn paintings arranged in a grid in the adjacent gallery include characteristic motifs from Murillo’s oeuvre at large, yet their black on black printing makes it difficult to discern the individual layers. The artist cut into the canvases as an act of drawing, and then stitched the loose ends together to add volume to the compositions. Each of the canvases in the installation, titled Black Monday/Tuesday in a reference to the stock market crash of 1987, accompanied Murillo on a recent trip to Southeast Asia, where they were part of ritualistic performances with local spiritual guides.
The element of patchwork, along with actual motifs, are more clearly visible in another group of paintings on view, which represent a continuation of the vibrant and visually complex works for which Murillo first became known. Again including multiple layers of marks from repeated brushwork and printing, they contain recognizable, if jumbled, imagery drawn from such sources as a Jamaican two dollar bill, playing cards, coconut water packaging, and a diagram of a pig. In contrast, through patches of corn, wheat and mud, a large-scale and partially torn painting that shares its title with the exhibition, is devoid of figuration, focusing attention fully on its intricate pattern of canvas fragments that are covered with natural latex and minutely stitched together. Installed with a metal armature similar to the sculptural arrangements in a futile mercantile disposition, it offers the impression of a sturdy landscape to be traversed.
Also on view is the prototype of Them, an intimate travel journal and unique artist book that Murillo released last year. With a large selection of family photographs and drawings, it provides a practical illustration of some of the layering techniques used for his paintings, as well as the overall centrality of mark-making within his work: carbon paper between the pages means that traces of one drawing become part of several others, and continuous retouching confuses the idea of a negative and positive image.
The exhibition coincides with Murillo’s participation in Printed Matter’s 2016 New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 (September 15-18). In collaboration with Mandy El-Sayegh, an artist based in London, and Yutaka Sone, who is also represented by David Zwirner, Murillo will stage Room Services, a live, multi-day drawing and printing performance, creating unique books, zines, and editions.
Oscar Murillo earned his B.F.A. in 2007 from the University of Westminster, London, followed by his M.F.A. in 2012 from the Royal College of Art, London. He joined David Zwirner in 2013 and had his inaugural exhibition, titled A Mercantile Novel, at the gallery in New York the following year. Binary function marked his first solo presentation at David Zwirner, London in 2015.
An upcoming solo show of his work is planned for the fall of 2016 at the Yarat Contemporary Art Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan. Also in 2016, the artist will participate in the 2nd Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art 2016 in China; the 3rd Aichi Triennial. Homo Faber: A Rainbow Caravan in Japan; and the 5th Anyang Public Art Project (APAP) in Korea.
Earlier this year, Murillo participated in numerous international group exhibitions, including the 6th Marrakech Biennale: Not New Now; the 20th Biennale of Sydney: The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed; and Towards a Larger World at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Previous group exhibitions include those held in 2014 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp.
For Murillo’s ongoing long-term project Frequencies, created in collaboration with members of his family and political scientist Clara Dublanc, canvases are temporarily affixed to classroom desks in selected schools across the globe, encouraging students aged ten to sixteen to create any kind of mark making—drawing, writing, doodling. He recently debuted the Frequencies project with a large-scale installation of canvases as part of the 56th Venice Biennale: All the World’s Futures in 2015, for which he also exhibited signalling devices in now bastard territory, twenty black canvases each hung from a single hook and extending thirty feet from the floor to the ceiling of the Central Pavilion in the Giardini.
Murillo’s works and projects have been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide. Most recently, presentations were held in 2015 at the Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá; Centro Cultural Daoíz y Velarde, Madrid (part of ArcoColombia 2015); and Artpace, San Antonio, Texas. Also in 2015, as part of Performa 15 in New York, Murillo presented Lucky dip, a series of performances and installations that took place over the course of one week at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, an important historical site in downtown Manhattan. In 2014, Murillo’s paintings, sculptures, and video works were presented at 40mcube in Rennes, France, organized as part of the 4th Les Ateliers de Rennes – Biennale d’art contemporain. Also in 2014 a body of work was presented at The Mistake Room in Los Angeles on the occasion of the venue’s inaugural exhibition. In 2013, the South London Gallery hosted the artist’s first major solo show in the United Kingdom. In 2012, he created paintings on site during a five-week summer residency at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, which were shown later that year marking his first solo exhibition in the United States. Other venues that have exhibited his works and projects include the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2016), Showroom MAMA, Rotterdam (2013) and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2012).