Art in the rural environment: from Villanueva del Rosario to Genalguacil

Art in the rural environment: from Villanueva del Rosario to Genalguacil

Contemporary art off the beaten track is defended in an exhibition in the 'museum village' in the Genal valley, featuring works created at Rara Residencia

Regina Sotorrío

Monday, 25 March 2024, 18:57


They are 157 kilometres apart and it would take over two hours by car to get from one to another. Although on opposite sides of Malaga province, more things unite them than separate them: these two projects have turned contemporary art into a driving force for change in the rural environment. One is in Genalguacil, the other in Villanueva del Rosario.

Both villages are now building a connection through 'Rara, un Paseo Por lo Rural' (Rara, a Walk Through the Rural Environment), an exhibition in Genalguacil - the Ronda village known for its street art - containing a few of the cultural offers produced in Rara Art Residency, an initiative established four years ago by Verónica Ruth Frías and Cyro García in the northeast of Malaga province.

Alliance is a natural step. "It would be foolish not to join forces. If we don't look at each other and work together, we would be doing the same thing that big cities do to us: leave us out," says Cyro García. Both projects have shown that placing contemporary art in the centre combats depopulation, revives town life and inspires creativity.

While Genalguacil prepares the 30th anniversary of its Encounters with Art festival in August (when invited artists work in the village streets and leave their pieces on display), Rara Art Residency moves to the Genal valley with a selection of works based on its village, Villanueva del Rosario, and its residents.

To begin with, the exhibition space in Genalguacil recreates the atmosphere of Rara Art Residency, where artists go to live and work. One work features the blue Elizabethan sofa, which has become an icon of Rara, as well as a mural of pink clouds, created just for this exhibition. The over 30 exhibitions that have taken place in this space are also on display, shown on more than 30 magazine covers.

The first part includes a piece by Encarna Cortés, who made one of Rara's magazines using a 3D pencil technique; and, Vanessa Morata's painting, which combines elements of the house in her millennial universe. Moreover, some rooms take the form of mockups by Isabel Rosado: structures that she photographed as her final work, but which here are shown to be part of the artist's creative process.

Villanueva's landscape is represented by the ecoprints of Pilar Bandrés, Rara's first member. The artist uses natural pigments from local plants to create enigmatic images on overlapping fabrics. And the most unique corners of the town appear in Sara Gema's installation, a sort of scrapbook about her honeymoon in Villanueva del Rosario: she married art there.

There is the work of Alejando Benito, now a resident of Villanueva del Rosario and a creator of sculptures using objects, ceramics and other materials collected from bins or donated by residents. The exhibition also features the art of Judas Arrieta, who left his mark on the Sierra Norte district of Malaga province in the form of a mural, painted in a children's park with the collaboration of the locals, the style of which is tied to the iconography of manga and Japanese anime. An explosion of colour that it shares with the exhibition's wildest project yet: a video of Villanueva del Rosario's first fashion week, made by Aleksandar Todorovic, exploring a mix of aesthetics from the bullfighter and the gym, with fluorescent colours and reminiscences of kitsch, which took over the town hall square.

Judith Borobio contributes a piece to the Genalguacil exhibition which is similar to the one she created for the market in Villanueva; it is a mural that appeals to collective memory through the imprint of textures and shapes that residents themselves have made along with the artist. These same residents will also be able to leave their most intimate secrets in writing in Violeta Niebla's letterbox, the same one in which the poet collected the confessions of the people of Villanueva del Rosario.

As a testament to the visit of creator and activist Quan Zhou, her last graphic essay 'La agriDolce vita' is on display, a work she began writing during her time at Rara. A multidisciplinary centre where all art has its place, live art included. The exhibition opened with a performance by Niche Ramírez.

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