Gema Intxausti. Among the crowd, watching the arrest

Gema Intxausti. Among the crowd, watching the arrest Image: Fotomatones series, 2002-2016

From: Saturday, 08 February 2020

To: Sunday, 15 November 2020

Place: A1 gallery

The work of Gema Intxausti during its initial phase is linked to the new grammar of sculpture being developed in the Basque Country in the 1990s, during which she produced pieces that used materials associated with the domestic environment.

By the end of this decade, Gema Intxausti (Guernica, 1966) began to take an ongoing interest in the use of texts, drawings and photos and she moved to the United Kingdom to study film and video. This period corresponds to the set of works she produced by using photo booths located in public spaces in cities such as Bilbao and London. Adopting this technology, which establishes strict limits of movement and time, led to set of narratives constructed through a reduced number of images and usually containing nods to the histories of cinema and art. It is therefore common to find in her works recurring quotations and appropriations that shift the narrative meaning of the original materials towards spaces in which any possible interpretations of text and image are altered and multiplied, thereby underlining the political nature of all language. Suggestive operations in which fragmentation, repetition or omission are presented as key strategies in constructing her pieces.

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The first major solo show of work by Gema Intxausti opened a year and a half after she was awarded the Gure Artea prize in recognition of her career as an artist. Ever since the early 1990s, Intxausti has been known—as the feminist Lourdes Méndez reminded us at the award ceremony—“to exhibit when she has something to say and tell, to make us feel and intuit. This resolve to develop a slow, measured artistic career, an extremely daring decision in an era when the quantifiable obscures the qualitative, has left its mark on her career.” A slow pace that is opposed to the contemporary obsession with simplifying complex realities, mindful of the disastrous political consequences often entailed by eliminating conceptual and/or social determining factors.

Intxausti is an artist who practises art in order to see, in keeping with the tradition noted by María Zambrano in Algunos lugares de la pintura: “art that is seen as art is not art that makes us see”. Intxausti is one of the long line of artists who regard the artist as an art worker, as someone who understands art as a discipline for learning to look further, as a method of producing knowledge. ‘Tirar del hilo’ (literally ‘pulling on a thread’, meaning disentangling an issue to get at the truth) and ‘hilando fino’ (‘spinning finely’ but meaning treading carefully) are expressions common in the vocabulary used by Intxausti, who, in the last 30 years, has pursued a method of artistic work that involves dwelling on small signs, loose threads in the cracks in monolithic discourses. A method capable of invoking a series of elements—objects, images, characters, stories, etc.—which, when they interact together, produce sufficient tension to go beyond the conventional postulates of the sign/signifier and generate new meanings (signifieds). To this end, the artist often resorts to drawing up lists of elements that she will bring into play on the resignification board. “I realised that by selecting parts of that list, I was building a narrative that attested to the everyday beyond its surface, its appearance”, the artist stated in a recent conversation-cum-text.

This exhibition sidesteps Intxausti’s early sculptural works made using household materials such as cloth wipes and sellotape and instead focuses on pieces produced in the last 20 years based on drawing, photography and writing. Pieces profoundly influenced by film. Intxausti trained as a sculptor at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country and is one of ‘the last generation of cinema’ who, in the 1980s, enjoyed a context in which ‘the seventh art’ was widely disseminated through film clubs, film forums, specialist programmes broadcast on television and countless magazines and books. A generation which, after decades of auteur, experimental and classic films and the various theories attached to each of them, has had the opportunity to access these works and knowledge even in university classrooms. In addition, this generation has established a close connection between film and contemporary art.

Intxausti was looking for a tool to structure her discursive output when she ended up, while living in London years later, studying film screenplay writing at the same time as working as a security guard in exhibition rooms in museums and art institutions. Those were years when, as she herself puts it, she spent her days “looking at how others look”.

The title of this exhibition, Entre la multitud, observando el arresto, comes from the series of drawings that make up Unframed Jane (2015-2019), one of the works shown in the exhibition, in which the artist, after drawing up a list of Alfred Hitchcock’s appearances in his films, turns the director’s cameos into text, a text that she draws on paper in two languages, English and Spanish, and in two colours, red and black. The phrase of the title describes Hitchcock’s appearance in the film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), a story inspired by Jack the Ripper about a serial killer who murders women, which was translated into Spanish as nothing other than El enemigo de las rubias (The Enemy of Blondes). A prophetic title bearing in mind the director’s life and his cinematographic work as seen in the light of Laura Mulvey’s famous essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975), in which she analyses the sadistic misogyny of Hitchcock’s films.

In keeping with the method employed by Intxausti, a film clip goes on to become a text that forms part of a list, then a drawing and at last the title of the exhibition, in which it goes so far as to connote the name of the artist and even, perhaps, to define her artistic practice as well as to allude to the film director’s voyeurism.

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Curators: Xabier Arakistain, Beatriz Herráez

Opening: 2020 february 7, friday, 7:30 pm

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