One of this summer’s must-see exhibitions in Paris is We Don’t Work Sundays at Marian Goodman Gallery, the third major solo exhibition of Oscar Murillo (born in La Paila, Colombia in 1986). This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in France: it continues with the same thematic as his previous shows at the South London Gallery and the Mistake Room in Los Angeles: the aesthetics of shared labor. The exhibition features also some of his new work, proposing thus a wide spectrum of the artist’s production: paintings, drawings on paper, sculptures and video projections.
The exhibition creates a strong relationship with leisure activities of working-class Colombians: Murillo has collaborated with several, distant social groups: a combination that has ended up in a strong encounter between social hierarchies, thus questioning the prevailing social codes and limits when it comes to creating and appropriating art and artistic practices.
The artist was recently interviewed by Cesar Garcia on this topic: “My life itself has been about labour and physicality, and manipulating materials in a physical way. Those experiences definitely inform my relationship to [art].… Regardless of the idea of segregated societies, via economic status or social class, we are segregated individuals by default. I think a lot about this and how art fits into it…Any opportunity of artistic achievement comes with an opportunity to infiltrate a social class that is closely linked to art–art making, art appreciating, etc. I personally entered foreign territory with these opportunities. Since then I’ve wanted other individuals to be part of this experience…”(L’Officiel Art, March 2014.)
This theme of labor and physicality is closely inherent to Murillo’s working method: his work is fundamentally linked to the gallery space, where he produces his work. For him, it’s not so much about leaving traces, but rather letting the work to mature on their own, at the same time being influenced by the workspace. In We Don’t Work Sundays, the first floor of the exhibition space is a strange, yet powerful mixture of physical playground and artist’s atelier. Coarse, harsh materials, works that doesn’t seem completely finished – yet a coherent, harmonious ensemble. In his collages and installations Murillo often integrates recycled materials, such as labels from food cans, and his paintings are realized with rich layers, signed by scrapes and stains – creating thus a wholly physical experience of making art.
When going downstairs, we are enfolded by a completely different world: several simultaneous projections are casting videos of Columbian people with their carnival festivities and music. A strong contrast is created in the middle of the exhibition space, which is occupied by traditional, regional Salsa dresses. This juxtaposition creates a strong dialogue with the initial theme: where do we draw the line between object-making purely for artistic practices, and the ones produced for leisure activities? This is also where the question on achievement and penetrating another social class become actual. Of course, these questions already came up with art brut, where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere, thus retracing artistic work, which is created from pure and authentic creative impulses.
Oscar Murillo was born in La Paila, Colombia in 1986 before moving to London with his family aged 10. He graduated from Westminster University, obtained an MFA from the Royal College of Art, and currently lives and works in London. In 2012 he organized the event The Cleaner’s Late Summer Party with Comme des Garçons at the Serpentine Gallery to which he invited people from the art world and members of London’s Colombian community. The same year Murillo was invited by the Rubell Family Collection in Miami to create a series of paintings entitled Work. Murillo has taken part in various international group exhibitions, the most recent of which was the first International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, 2014.
We Don’t Work Sundays at Marian Goodman Gallery until July 18th.