Monday, November 8, 2010

Guillermo Kutica @ The Hirshorn

The current series of works in various media by Guillermo Kutica at the Hirshorn is one of the best shows I have seen this year. Filling the entire second floor and running through January 16th, the show deals with a number of ideas and a masterful array of mediums but the overriding theme seems to be how to represent space, especially the spaces that humans create and occupy, in a two dimensional manner.

A number of series and styles appear throughout the show. One of the larger spaces in the middle of the exhibit is dedicated to maps painted or printed intricately onto mattresses and cushions. Roads connecting to cities come together at well placed buttons the sizes of the cities on the map. The eye is immediately drawn to these divots in the mattress/maps. Later on he prints a huge black wall of maps with disorienting white text showing cities often connecting to themselelves. Stepping back, this artificial landscape becomes an abstract plane of black and white.

Another series features extremely intricate grids showing the layouts of graveyards and prisons. It's a beautiful and rather frightening how the immense size of canvas and the tiny size of the boxes show the dehumanizing of the tiny spaces carved out for each dead or incarcerated human. Later in the show we see extremely intricate collages of theaters that seem to explode or combust from one side of the canvas to the other, perhaps projecting the inevitable decay of all buildings, even/especially those that are created to bring people together.

The least interesting pieces were a number of paintings showing either human-less or sparsely occupied canvases where furniture (especially beds) floated in huge mono-chromatic spaces. Despite the dark feelings to these works, they still felt less charged than the architectural diagrams and theater collages.

Taken together though, a loose narrative about the geography we create emerges throughout the exhibit, even without any humans to occupy it. The exhibit opens and closes with photorealistic paintings of empty airport luggage carousels which suggest both a beauty in the mechanical form and a sadness in these machines when they are stripped of their context.

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