From the start, the pandemic - and the restrictions that went with it - were unexplored territory: something we hadn't been through before; democratic governments entered uncharted waters, implementing measures conceivable only under a state of emergency; frontiers (between towns, provinces and countries...) were closed; and boundaries (between home and work, virtual and real...) became blurry. Last spring's lockdown sparked a chain reaction of constraints (ranging from face masks to social distancing and capacity limitations). What next? Will the events I'm about to highlight be open to the public, when this review appears, and, if so... at what times?
Just the thing
How do artists do it? They always seem to zero in on what's bugging us, and to jazz it up, turning it into a point of reflection, relevant to the present.
Whether cogitating in their studios - or even more obviously so... - when setting up installations in situ, or if into street art, they mark their territory, defining their own codes, within self-imposed limits; their 'work conditions' are a metaphor for what we miss most now: the illusion of doing what we want, when we want, on our own ground.
Scheduled at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC Málaga) till mid-March, Portuguese artist Pedro "Cabrita" Reis's curiosity cabinet-like display is a celebration of inspirational serendipity, a jazz funeral for "The Way We Were" and "Where We Once Belonged". In the coronavirus-free world, our senses were exposed to a constant stream of stimuli, at all hours... Spoilt for choice, so to speak.
Little Goat - Cabinet d'Amateur is CAC's current show-within-a-show, nestled within a major exhibition spotlighting Sevilla-born mainstreamer, Miki Leal. My tip? See Cabrita's potpourri first. This happy-go-lucky tutti-frutti of paintings, drawings and sculpture - incorporating recycled objects and materials (discarded lids of industrial paint, salvaged window frames...) - is just the thing for art-starved museumgoers in need of a receptivity-booster.
City as Labyrinth
Throughout January, a string of toned-down (no hugs, no drinks) openings attended by a handful of masked party faithfuls had (to a degree) lifted the spirits of Malaga's gallery circuit... - desperate to get back into the swing of things.
The invitation to the relatively well-frequented private view of Rafael Alvarado's La Ciudad Laberinto show - at the Ateneo (on Calle Compañía, just off the Plaza de la Constitución), until 26 February - evoked a hip Covid-era 'vanitas'; featuring self-balancing scooter riders circling past a human skull, it achieved maximum impact in a few pencil strokes.
Alvarado belongs to a current of thought that has gained momentum amongst the arty glitterati. His Ciudad Laberinto concept revolves around the idea that massive tourism -surfing on 'brand Picasso' - is ruining the 'flâneurial' atmosphere of the town, and that it's time to react.
Given the circumstances, this politico-artistic topic could have been a total turn-off. Who wants to "re-think the urban and cultural model" of their city, in the midst of a sanitary crisis? The hordes of sightseers and airline passengers Rafael Alvarado depicts are nowhere to be seen. The historic centre is eerily empty, even before the evening curfew starts; forced closures have brought the tourist sector to a standstill...
Fortunately, Alvarado has a lot going for him; a powerful draughtsman, he injects his highly contemporary expressionistic paintings - which also allude to more universal issues, such as the plight of migrant workers - with 'uncommon force'. Well worth the detour.
When in Rome
My most recent crowd-less thrills...? Two diametrically distinct offerings, each emblematic of the "Málaga Ciudad Genial" ethos, although at opposite extremes of the visual arts market. Miquel ("Best Artist Alive") Barceló is easy to find; his mega "Metamorphosis" is the Museo Picasso's star attraction - as ever, an injection of unbridled, organic... multi-pronged energy, à la Pablo.
Galicia-raised, Malaga-based Maria Maquieira, on the other hand, proffers an unabashedly intimate, small-scale vision of something we can all identify with at the moment: a place we miss. Rome, in her case. Presented 24/24 in the shop window of the Casa Amarilla art space (Calle Santos, 7), her freehand sketches and self-portraits executed on various personal mementoes of the capital she lived in for six years were a chance discovery, landed upon during an afternoon walk.
It is my view that a top-ranking international artist like Barceló and an emerging talent like María are equally essential.