BY Max Andrews in Critic's Guides | 06 MAR 24

What to See During This Year’s ARCOmadrid

From a sprawling exhibition dedicated to the influence of Indigenous art of the Americas to Stephanie Comilang’s first solo show in Spain

BY Max Andrews in Critic's Guides | 06 MAR 24

‘A Special Stage in Perpetual Metamorphosis II’ | Gaviota | 5 – 30 March

Antonio Menchen, Untitled, 2023, stainless steel, spotlight, dimensions variable. Courtesy: © the artist and Galería Marta Cervera

Part of a former textile warehouse in Madrid’s Carabanchel district – an area that has transformed from industrial zone to cultural hub over the past decade – Gaviota is an independent art space run by the architecture collective Burr Studio. ‘A Special Stage in Perpetual Metamorphosis II’ is the second in a series of guest-curated exhibitions whose title cites Gordon Matta-Clark’s 1976 characterization of his work in Arts Magazine as a ceaseless theatre of urbanistic and structural modification. This year’s edition takes the notion of adaptation towards a poetics of temporal and emotional strangeness. Described to me by the ever-thoughtful Jesús Alcaide as ‘a methodology of barely there gestures’, the show sees Núria Fuster García’s Geological Dreams (2022) – a five-metre-wide translucent hoop containing swirling Madrid dust – in the company of an Antonio Menchen installation featuring a powerful spotlight (Untitled, 2023), as well as works by Christian Lagata, Manuel M. Romero and María Salgado. Throughout, the half-said, the indeterminate and the disregarded are illuminated.

Alejandra Riera | Galería La Oficina | 10 February – 4 May

Alejandra Riera, EL CINE. Desde dentro. Instantes anteriores a las imágenes del 19 de marzo del 1895 (CINEMA. From Inside. Moments Before the Images of 19 March 1895), 2022–24. Courtesy: the artist and Galería La Oficina

Also in Carabanchel, and a short walk from the galleries of Sabrina Amrani and Belmonte, is the recently opened La Oficina. Only its second show, ‘Partial Views’ is the result of the gallery’s invitation to the French Argentine artist Alejandra Riera. Characteristic of Riera’s practice of the last three decades, the exhibition is a collective proposition, made in collaboration with seven colleagues and friends, that draws on influences as diverse as documentary cinema, institutional psychotherapy and community gardening. The contributors include Qulla muralist Mario Barrios, who presents a drawing of a cactus landscape in Argentina’s Jujuy province (Nuestros Runas, los cactus, Our Runes, Cacti, 2002), and photographer Monique Deregibus, whose works relate to Galisteo Equivalences (2023), a publication that gathers her research around petroglyphs and the legacy of atomic bomb-testing in New Mexico.

‘Before América’ | Fundación Juan March | 6 October 2023 – 10 March 2024

‘Before América’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy:  Fundación Juan March, Madrid; photograph: © Dolores Iglesias, Fundación Juan March

In recent years, the Fundación Juan March has accrued a formidable record of enthusiastic and scholarly exhibitions at its headquarters in Madrid’s upscale Salamanca neighbourhood, including a delightful Bruno Munari retrospective in 2022 and the ambitious ‘Genealogies of Art’ in 2019–20. The shows are impeccably designed and typically so full that a visit can feel like walking into a treasure trove. ‘Before América’ explores how the ancient Indigenous art of the Americas, especially its powerful geometry, changed modern culture. It includes more than 600 works, largely spanning the 18th century to the present day, and ranging across sculpture and painting, theatre and cinema, architecture and fashion. A dizzying compilation of studious quotation and indebtedness, exotica and eccentric kitsch, the exhibition includes highlights such as architect Robert Stacy-Judd’s sketches for his Californian Mayan-Revival Aztec Hotel from 1924, jewellery by Anni Albers from c.1940 and Chavis Mármol’s Neo tameme (Neo Porter, 2021), a food delivery backpack in the form of an Olmec colossal head.

Marta de Gonzalo & Publio Pérez Prieto | Galería Formato Cómodo | 3 February – 13 April 2024

Marta de Gonzalo and Publio Pérez Prieto, El Sueño (The Dream), 2023, engraving and acrylic inks on laminated board, 180 × 80 cm. Courtesy the artists and Galería Formato Cómodo

Artists and secondary-school teachers Marta de Gonzalo and Publio Pérez Prieto have a long history of developing critical curricula and running experimental, inclusive education projects with art centres, notably as part of the Las Lindes working group, which launched in 2009 at the Museo Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo. This exhibition, however, is born from the frustration that the duo’s aspirations for young people have largely been hampered within the state-school system. A series of panels made from gouged and painted desks depict scenes derived from several ‘disobedient’ classroom performances realized with their students. The accompanying video Una Mañana (One Morning, 2024) wryly pictures the artists’ hope for an emancipated educational space as a school desk and chair set up in different outdoor locations, such as a beach or a field. Shot in six 50-minute sequences, its structure mirrors the timetable of a school day in Spain.

Stephanie Comilang | TBA21 at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza | 5 March – 26 May

Stephanie Comilang, Search for Life Diptych, 2024–25, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Stephanie Comilang’s work draws on her experiences as a child of parents who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in the 1970s, and it explores the conditions of diaspora and limbo, while delving into how migrants, both human and non-human, practice a form of world-building. Her films frequently seem to drift between hallucination and reportage – she referred to them, in a 2020 interview with NGC Magazine, as ‘science-fiction documentaries’ – and Search for Life, Diptych (2024–25), the new work at the centre of her TBA21 exhibition, curated by Chus Martínez, is no exception. It intertwines footage of monarch butterflies, travelling from their breeding grounds in Canada to winter in Mexico, with the experiences of Filipino mariners, the predominant labour force of global merchant shipping, and evocations of the colonial Spanish galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco, a route by which a myriad goods were exchanged between 1565 and 1815.

Also noteworthy

Ibon Aranberri / Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia / 29 November 2023 – 11 March 2024

‘Y si Madrid fuera mi casa’, Sabrina Amrani (Sallaberry) / 17 February – 20 April

Asunción Molinos Gordo / CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo / 17 February – 9 June

Precious Okoyomon / Fundación Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Madrid at the Montaña Artificial del Retiro / 22 February – 3 April

Sergio Prego / ethall at The Goma /  20 January – 22 March

Max Andrews is a writer, curator and co-founder of Latitudes, Barcelona, Spain.