Exhibition: La sortie des usines
Barcelona, 30 May 2005
What is it that we do not see? How do we look? These are questions that Rogelio López Cuenca (Nerja, Málaga, 1959) constantly poses in his work. An explorer of icons and signs, López Cuenca bases his production on an able rereading of the images that form part of our everyday world, our history and culture. Paradox and humour are the weapons this artist wields in breaking down images, discourses and messages and building up new semantic structures that invite us to consider other readings of reality and its representations. Under the title La sortie des usines (Leaving the Factory), a clear allusion to the first film in cinema history, made by the Lumière brothers in 1885, López Cuenca reviews the eventful life of the CaixaForum building from its beginnings as a textile factory in 1912 to its present role as the centre of cultural activities organised by ”la Caixa” Community Projects in Barcelona. Image after image, as if this were a silent movie, López Cuenca overlays and alters archive documents, a variety of photographs and other iconographic elements, inviting the public to attach their own meaning to the successive social changes that have transformed the building. In a decision by no means ingenuous, López Cuenca has chosen a space for his intervention where the passer-by becomes art spectator: the winding passage that joins the car park with the entrance courtyard to CaixaForum. La sortie des usines forms part of Open Spaces, a series of interventions by contemporary artists at CaixaForum whose participants so far have been Chema Alvargonzalez, Soledad Sevilla, Jeppe Hein, Javier Peñafiel and Botto & Bruno.
The intervention La sortie des usines, by Rogelio López Cuenca, will be installed in the passage communicating the car park with CaixaForum (Av. del Marquès de Comillas, 6-8) from 30 May to 31 October 2005.
From Casaramona to CaixaForum: in La sortie des usines Rogelio López Cuenca tells an original, highly personal story of the building, a story whose characters include workers and tourists, quarries and art, barricades and the police, horses galloping and horses turning on a merry-go-round. The story is based on the different purposes this iron and brick building has served over its eventful life since it first opened its doors as a textile factory in 1912. The factory closed seven years after entering into service and was used as a storage warehouse during the 1929 Universal Exhibition in Barcelona. In 1940 it was converted into stables and a vehicle depot for the Armed Police. Finally, in 1993, ”la Caixa”, which had acquired the building in 1963, began its restoration and rehabilitation. In 2002, it became CaixaForum, the social and cultural centre of ”la Caixa” Foundation in Barcelona.
López Cuenca chose an entrance area to CaixaForum to reconstruct this story: the winding passage that communicates the building with the car park, a kind of halfway house between the public way and the building itself. Here there is a flow of pedestrians entering and leaving the multi-purpose social centre, where they become spectators and participants in cultural, sociological and educational activities. The artist expresses the history of the building in images, forming a journey inspired by the sequential form of a series of film stills.
Image after image, the history of the building is seen from different viewpoints, illustrating the changes that the concepts of work, culture and leisure have undergone over the period. López Cuenca combines reproductions from early-20th-century archives with photographs of the building past and present, colourful artworks and images that he alters and shapes to establish surprising associations. In this way, he builds up an alternative visual and poetic logic of the social changes that have transformed the building. In these images, the spectator is confronted by retaining walls and incidents of social repression that the artist rescues from oblivion, in this way charging the scenes of placid groups of tourists and culture consumers that now frequent the old factory with social and political significance.
Rogelio López Cuenca became known in the 1980s when he was a founder member of the Málaga-based group Agustín Parejo School, whose activities had a great influence on a whole generation in the late-1980s and early-1990s. The group’s forms of expression ranged from actions, post art, cassettes, graffiti and publications to many other different manifestations more difficult to classify. The concern of Agustín Parejo School to focus on specifically local issues (Málaga, Andalusia, the Maghreb) generated critical readings of the capacity of artistic discourse to respond to the challenges of day to day politics if it does not truly connect with the spectator’s own reality. In the actions of Agustín Parejo School and, later, in Rogelio López Cuenca’s solo work, the ideas of periphery and difference are catalysts for permanent social action.
Since the late-1980s, López Cuenca’s work has focused on formulating a semiotic discourse “appropriate to a low culture” that enables him to fuse his critique of the iconisation of public information, the poetic sign and the found object with reflection on the spaces for significance in Western visual culture, slave as it is to schematisation and the dictatorship of meaning. His production ranges from graphic interventions in public and institutional places to publications, videos and two-dimensional and graphic works in which he uses linguistics, visual poetry and allegorical play on images and words to encourage the spectator to discover new interpretations of the language of power and the power of language.
López Cuenca’s work has featured in a huge number of projects and exhibitions both in Spain and abroad, and he has also worked on many individual and collective initiatives, including a large proportion of one-off actions.
Rogelio López Cuenca’s work can well be defined as an allegorical process, that is to say, the attempt to subvert the closed meaning of signs once they have been established as symbols. If the symbol is a closed-off, imprisoned structure subject to the dictatorship of a single interpretation, allegory seeks to break this monopoly, fragmenting it, confusing it and attaching new meaning according to the context in which it is expressed. It is no coincidence, then, that Rogelio López Cuenca works, essentially, with materials that already exist, with found objects that enable him to undermine the established regimes of meaning.
Works by this artist in ”la Caixa” Foundation’s Contemporary Art Collection: Poetry, 1988; Poezie Proletarska, 1988, and Kommendes Paradise, 1991.
La sortie des usines
From 30 May to 31 October 2005
Place: The passage communicating CaixaForum with the car park
Av. Marquès de Comillas, 6-8
From Monday to Sunday and holidays, from 10 am to 8 pm
Mondays, except holidays, closed
”la Caixa” Foundation Information Service
Tel.: 902 22 30 40
More information: www.fundacio.lacaixa.es