BARRICADE / BERLIN: Angela de la Cruz

  • Introduction

    Incorporating paintings and furniture in pictorial installations that reshape and punctuate the space, Barricade / Berlin presentsa recent body of work by Angela de la Cruz. In the exhibition at Galerie Thomas Schulte, de la Cruz continues to draw on the languages of minimalist painting and found objects in corporeal, emotionally weighted works that reveal processes of destruction and transformation. Here, they are characterized by defensive postures, unrelenting and firmly grounded, yet fragmentary and vulnerable – suggesting an exertion of power that could produce a shift at any moment.


    The space is charged with a tense stillness – perhaps it’s an aftermath, or the unsettling calm that precedes a confrontation. The works, as well as the exhibition, are united under the title of Barricade. This, along with further commonalities and the relationships between them, emphasizes repetitions while acknowledging what makes each distinct: added in parentheses, individual titles include the specific colors, materials, or objects they’re made of. Referring to structures that block passage, shielding or redirecting bodies in an act of defense, protection or fortification, the works bear a makeshift and precarious manner, while appearing meticulous and balanced, even elegant. They may suggest disassembled, worn-out furniture discarded and piled haphazardly on a street corner, or carefully composed arrangements, full of intent.


    In the series Barricade, four works denoted and differentiated by their colors (luscious reds, muddy browns, and contrasting black and white), are neatly assembled in a row. Their position in the space obstructs it, disrupting the flow and prompting us to think twice about transgressing the line that has been drawn. In their bearing, they resemble bodies seated upright on the ground, perhaps a sit-in demonstration.


    Each work in the series consists of four shredded canvases on fragmented stretchers that are placed vertically, side by side, like paintings in storage. These are attached with metal brackets across one edge – visible joints that hold them together and reveal their construction – even as their partial stretchers leave them unclosed or incomplete. The canvases have been precisely cut into strips of apparently equal width, wrapped around three stretcher bars and hanging loosely from the last on one end, as though coming undone. Three of the works, as noted in their individual titles, feature a subtle variation of two colors — producing a sort of gradient, while underscoring color as a primary characteristic that in turn reinforces their presence as paintings.


    These are geometric, almost monochrome blocks of color, but they are also freed from their frames – in tension with the idea of setting a barrier. Opened up to expose their insides, they are like rib cages from which the paintings’ innards have been spilled. Achieved through layers of oil and acrylic paint, their slick and shiny appearance is similar to patent leather: they could otherwise be glossy new items in a shop, lined up to display an assortment of variations. The metal brackets in parallel lines that hold them together add a further reflective element, recalling the stripes on high-visibility objects and accessories used for safety.


    With some of their stretcher bars missing, the works in the Barricade series also echo the form of tables turned on their sides – an image that is made more concrete in individual works that include parts of tables, chairs and other materials piled up in intricate formations. In such works, fabric strips woven into a mesh across the frames of chairs and sofas are another repeat occurrence, resembling the shredded canvases. In Barricade (Chairs), for example, an upright sofa buckles under the weight of chairs that have been broken, turned over and tangled up, full of fraying fabrics and jagged wooden edges. A layer of abstraction is imparted to familiar domestic forms.


    This is similar in Barricade (Sofa), where the lines of arms, legs and backs intersect in an expression of silent exclamation. Its spiky appearance reminds of hostile architecture installed in cities to guide and restrict the behaviors of bodies that occupy public spaces. There is a sense of inhospitality and discomfort. As opposed to an invitation to rest, it seems a state of vigilance and alertness is called for.


    The structures and landscape of the city – specifically Berlin – are brought directly into the exhibition space through its title: Barricade / Berlin. The location is established as the narrative setting and starting point, designating a site-specific installation, while bringing us into a direct confrontation in the here and now.  Whereas the works themselves include parentheses in their titles, the exhibition title uses a slash: indicating both, or maybe one or the other – a sort of equivalence, as well as a mark of division. We find ourselves having to negotiate space within a polarized field; a barricade can be used to force the flow of movement in a specific direction, but it may also open up possibilities for a change in course.


    Text by Julianne Cordray

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