artist / participant
Ester Partegàs (La Garriga, Barcelona, 1972) studied Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona and the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, and currently works and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her artistic career began to take shape with a positive critical reception outside the country, a push that allowed her to present her work in Spain. Since her first public appearances in the late 1990s, Ester Partegàs has developed themes that explore urban landscapes in consumerist society—a landscape we inhabit and recognize, one that we interact with physically and emotionally. “It’s in the fissures and imperfections of contemporary urban space, being so homogenous and aseptic, where I’m interested in finding and weaving narratives of a personal bent. They coexist, mix together and are built parallel to totalitarian structures.”
As a multidisciplinary artist, she easily traverses through the worlds of drawing, painting, sculpture and installation art, even though volumetric and spatial features persist in the formal development of her art, which come to define the artist as a sculptor. Her work’s language involves the viewer as an active agent. We cannot remain indifferent when faced with our own mirrored reflection as an accomplice seduced by a cultural model that homogenizes our lives, making them more banal. Partegàs perverts advertising messages, proposing an unsettling reading of advert fences for our gaze (Sí quiero, 2000); she covers the heads of passers-by with handbags from recognized labels, canceling their identity (Shopping Heads, 1998); she takes us to a waiting room at any airport—all of them are the same—and makes us awestruck, representing a while spent waiting for nothing to happen in “no place” (to from from at across to in from. The centerless feeling, 2001). In The most important things are not things (2004), a scrolling phrase in pink neon, the artist advises us on the keys elements in her work, as well as demonstrates her interest for the power of words and their confrontation with the domain of images, evident in many of her works.
Barricades (2004), a direct antecedent to her project Invaders (2007), presented here, was formed by images of overflowing trash bins, authentic urban barricades made from the remains of the “use and throw away culture” that identifies our existence. Barricades not only alludes to the walls that prohibit entry, but it also asks us from a political viewpoint on which side of it do we stand. Likewise, our image remains trapped—reflected—on the acrylic panels, turning us into any another waste product.
Invaders, a project created specifically for the “Producciones” program at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, broadens this initial idea. Under the guise of an insinuating film title, halfway between science fiction and horror, Ester Partegàs subverts the expected plotline: the invaders are not the others, foreign to our world, but we, the producers of debris that invades our environment. These brilliant images painted on color acrylic sheets are not the other side of “seductive” pop icons, but something more troubling; they bear a sense of loss, of contempt for something important that we have thrown away in any corner of the city, and which, layer by layer, constructs the landscape we inhabit.
The exhibition Invaders welcomes us with Eclipse (2007), the sculpted image of a shrub, a reference used previously by the artist on other occasions, though in a more geometric and constructivist fashion. In this work, the tree is shown in a more realist manner, inflecting the idea of landscape proposed by the installation. It furthermore stresses how our use and invasion of the environment projects a mood. The tree suggests decadence: it is naked and dirty. This is a mutant tree, nearly android, overtaken by something invading it. A poignant image of the “overrated civilization” that is the artist’s field of exploration.
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