Orange light fills the main gallery of Julia Spínola’s exhibition ‘Lubricán’ – an arcane Spanish word that translates into English as the similarly outmoded ‘gloaming’ or twilight. Approximating the crepuscular glow of an increasingly obsolete sodium street lighting, the illumination infuses works made from cardboard and other unadorned materials with a feverish melancholy. Spínola’s work strives for the status of a gesture – something that captures meaning but is neither fully a word nor an image. Scale alone does not offer a clue to the significance of AlzaNoche (NightRise, 2018), an eight-metre-long structure of tapered chipboard sheets that slouches against the wall in a gallery of its own, or Figura.Frase (Figure. Phrase) (2012–18): barely discernible glyphs that might be taken for tyre marks silkscreened onto a curved wall. Spínola’s brinkmanship requires apparently simple forms and materials to stimulate introspective thought. In an interview in the accompanying publication, she draws on glimpses of linguistic and metaphysical reflections from philosophers Luce Irigaray and Lucretius, novelist Marguerite Yourcenar and poet Martín Gambarotta to cast a kind of indeterminate spell around her art.
Boca (Mouth) (2018) is made up of thousands of fragments of brown cardboard that are bound and compressed into an almost two-metre-high monolith. The work is both utterly mundane yet capable of speaking about something as pointed as Giorgio Agamben’s gruelling concept of ‘bare life’, outlined in his Homo Sacer (1995). It is as if the accumulation of cardboard scraps were a reticent extension of work on paper – drawing, writing or reading – then forced into something of roughly human dimensions. Similarly, the modest scraps of Brazos, chorros, mismo (Arms, Jets, Same), Comeu (Eaten) and Cor-pharmakon (plomo) (Cor-pharmakon, Lead) (all 2018) are either imperfectly bundled or skewered with metal rods, as if they were arte povera kebabs. The latter piece incorporates two dozen oranges on the floor – scattered citrus fruits, rather than shades of the colour. Yet, Spínola doubtlessly savours this visual-verbal elision, compounded by the realization that they are not, in fact, oranges at all, but resin casts covered with anti-corrosive paint.
Uno zurdo y uno diestro, y uno zurdo y uno diestro (Left-handed and Right-handed, and Left-handed and Right-handed, 2014) comprises 14 open, box-like forms constructed from raw fibreboard lined up along a wall. Wedges intersect each block in seven sinistral permutations and seven dextral equivalents, alluding to the artist’s extreme attention to the movement of her hips while walking along a steep street between her home and studio. The adjacent Zurdo-romo (Blunted-left-hand, 2018) restates this block-and-wedge form. Cast in resin and painted to simulate the material of the neighbouring work, its slightly divergent appearance belies a drastically different ontology.
Amid an exhibition that can come across as a highly constrained reflectionon quiddity or consciousness, Frase (objeto). BOCA (Phrase, Object. MOUTH, 2013–18) is almost spontaneous, comical even. Items including a woman’s leather shoe, a plant pot, a pair of men’s brogues, a glass jar and a mound of cooked white rice are stranded like words in a slurred sentence along a trail of spilled drink (aluminium, in fact). In the accompanying publication, Spínola makes reference to Henri Michaux, the esoteric writer whose dizzying ‘Mescaline Drawings’ (c.1960) were made under the influence of psychedelic peyote. Looking intently at worn footwear, while thinking about deep introspection and intoxication, novelist and addict William S. Burroughs comes to mind. Or, rather, a grim recollection of his that is often cited as the origin myth for the naming of the shoegazing genre of outer-limits guitar noise music. Burroughs once wrote that, in his opiated depths, he could look at the end of his shoe for eight hours on end. Pressed into the service of the incommunicable, Spínola’s half-lit world may just be a manifesto for a shoegazing art.
Julia Spínola: Lubricán runs at Centro de Arte Dos de mayo (CA2M), Móstoles until 27 May.
Main image: Julia Spínola, Comeu, 2018, cardboard, paint, and objects. Courtesy: the artist and CA2M, Móstoles
First published in Issue 195