Adrià Julià

Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona

In 1919, it was discovered that the 12th-century frescos of Santa Maria de Mur monastery, in the shadow of the Catalan Pyrenees, had been taken by Italian restorers in cahoots with an American antiquarian, sold off by the municipal rector then bought by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, where they are displayed to this day. Powerless to stop this brazen looting, the Board of Museums of Barcelona embarked on a drastic project of pre-emptive conservation in order to stop further plunder. For the next five years, it negotiated the purchase and planned the removal of a further ten surviving frescos from religious buildings across Catalonia. These paintings are now among the highlights of Barcelona’s Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).

Adrià Julià’s exhibition ‘Hot Iron’ set up counterpoints to this asset stripping and image transfer through film, video, and a display of an archive of 24 photographic albums documenting Romanesque churches, Archives of Ramon Julià Alemany (reading number 1) (c. 1950–2017). The precarious technique of removing frescoes involves tearing off the pictorial layer from the plaster before it is reapplied to a new support. Julià’s conceptual cinematic strategy likewise evokes hazardous rippings-out. There is an unavowed biographical element at play here, too: Julià was born in Barcelona but relocated to Los Angeles more than a decade ago; the albums, that catalogue more than 500 churches, were put together by his grandfather. 

adria_julia._hot_iron._espai_13_2016-17_fundacio_joan_miro_1.jpg

Adrià Julià, ‘Hot Iron’, 2016-17, installation view, Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró. Courtesy: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; photograph: Pere Pratdesaba

Adrià Julià, ‘Hot Iron’, 2016-17, installation view, Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró. Courtesy: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; photograph: Pere Pratdesaba

The two-part Rocky's Ghost Ascending the Staircase (MNAC) (2017), comprises a 16mm colour film loop of a young woman running up the stone steps that lead up to the MNAC. It is a remake of the demonstration reel for the Steadicam, the camera stabilization invention that found fame via the sequence in the 1976 movie Rocky in which Sylvester Stallone’s boxer character triumphantly scales the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The fact that the latter museum is home to Marcel Duchamp’s own technical breakthrough, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912), is more than just a neat echo. It is also the site of Duchamp’s own Catalan-American transfer – the wooden door of Étant donnés (1946–66) was brought to the U.S. from the town of La Bisbal.

The second element of Julià’s moving image work is projected on a suspended screen. It shows an array of black-and-white enlargements, website print-outs, photocopies and texts pertaining to all of the above and more – a field of salvaged testimony and fractured evidence. The video is a close-up of a digital photograph of a wall surface covered with documents and prints, a screencast whose gliding movements were made by the analogous exploratory scrolls and gestures of a hand and computer mouse.

adria_julia._hot_iron._espai_13_2016-17_fundacio_joan_miro_11.jpg

Adrià Julià, ‘Hot Iron’, 2016-17, installation view, Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró. Courtesy: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; photograph: Pere Pratdesaba

Adrià Julià, ‘Hot Iron’, 2016-17, installation view, Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró. Courtesy: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; photograph: Pere Pratdesaba

Conspicuous among this visual interface are sports memorabilia webpages and archival images corresponding to the importation of American football to Barcelona. The Barcelona Dragons was a professional American football franchise founded in 1991 whose home ground until the team’s dissolution in 2003 was the Olympic stadium on the same hill as the MNAC, as well as Fundació Joan Miró. In the video, shots of stadium lighting rigs and team kit on eBay are on the same image playing field as fresco details, fused to their new substrate like scabs. At one moment, a mural motif of Christ’s hand seems to double-tap the screen. As the viewpoint moves across excerpts from guide books, aerial photographs, museum correspondence from the 1920s, and so on, we can simultaneously observe a territory as if from a low-altitude drone and browse a marketplace of historical content. It is common to hear reservations about research-based art that does not transcend its sources. Yet here, Julià’s evocation of both a Steadicam-smooth perspective on the past, as well as a history that is torn-out and displaced, takes place in spite of the suspicion that although the bigger picture might exist, it is simply not available.

Main image: Adrià Julià, ‘Hot Iron’, 2016-17, installation view, Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró. Courtesy: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; photograph: Pere Pratdesaba

Max Andrews is a writer, curator and co-founder of Latitudes, Barcelona.  He is a contributing editor of frieze

Issue 189

First published in Issue 189

September 2017

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018