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Art Reviews, Cultural Bric a Brac, Jargon Free

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I am an independent writer living in Los Angeles. I write Visual Art Reviews, General Cultural Essays, and Book Reviews.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Inigo Manglano Ovalle


Inigo Manglano Ovalle
Focus: The Art Institute of Chicago
February 17, 2005 to May 14, 2005

A new Inigo Manglano Ovalle sculpture is buoyantly suspended in space at the Art Institute, circumscribed by the spiral staircase of the museum’s contemporary wing. Taking the form of the famously capricious icebergs of the North Sea, this computer modeled lattice of tent-poles and plastic joints sends an oxymoronic message on one hand, creating a formal disjoint between random nature and artifice; on the other hand, the lattice, supported by black aluminum rods in its center, becomes a sort of floating membrane which easily dissolves in the metal glass world of the room’s modernist interior. Literally, the iceberg presents a world of joints, transparent solidity, and the idea of sculpture permeating space.

The work is a sculptural hodgepodge constructed with spaceage materials. If one takes the advice of critics like Hal Foster or Rosalind Krauss, Ovalle’s iceberg seems to combine the entire history of sculpture from the imposing quality of the monument, to the transparent, visible armature of constructivism, to the site specific quality of the earthworks and minimalism. Adding to this formalist progression, however, Ovalle’s hopes to present a more globally conscious metaphor, rendering a story conjuring water crises, melting borders, and global warming. The iceberg is to become a wide open symbol which Ovalle hopes to reign in through the economical vocabulary of minimalism.

However, the sculpture, as Ovalle’s has us believe from his artist statement, does not speak in very coherent fashion of social or political boundaries, its strength lies in the literal boundaries of form and surface dissolving into landscape. The jump between Ovalle’s formal conjectures and the metaphoric quality that he seeks is impossible without supporting material, a disease of contemporary art that is not easily remedied. Emily Jacir’s work on the Palestinian situation or James Luna’s installations addressing racial, ethnic identity seem to offer better examples of artists dealing with social and political issues while formally articulating borders. Ovalle is formally very proficient and confident, and he needs to continue in these areas rather than venturing into a kind of idealism which seems to lie outside of his own boundaries.