Murillo’s recent work makes pointed reference to air travel, with airplanes having become an important site of production for the artist. In his own words, flight is "not just a means of travel but a sacred ‘other’ space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique ‘studio’ at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location."
Image: Oscar Murillo drawing in flight. Photo by Alfonso Calixtro
On the occasion of Manifestation, Oscar Murillo’s solo exhibition at David Zwirner in London, the artist was in discussion with his former teacher at the Royal College of Art, John Slyce, in the gallery. Their conversation explored the exhibition in the context of Murillo's wider practice and the present moment.
After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Westminster in London, Murillo earned his M.F.A. in 2012 from the city’s Royal College of Art. A Mercantile Novel, his first exhibition with the gallery, was held in New York the following year. He is one of four artists shortlisted to win the 2019 Turner Prize based on two exhibitions of his work: Violent Amnesia, on view at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge through June 23, 2019, and Oscar Murillo l Zhang Enli, presented recently at chi K11 art museum, in Shanghai, as well as for his participation in the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, We don’t need another hero, in 2018.
John Slyce is a writer and critic based in London. He has written extensively on the work of Sarah Sze, Gillian Wearing, Michael Landy, Carey Young, Cullinan Richards, Allen Ruppersberg, and Rodney Graham, among others, and is a regular contributor to art magazines and journals. Slyce has taught and lectured widely across the UK and Europe since the 1990s and is a Senior Tutor in Painting and Research at the Royal College of Art.
June 19–August 25, 2019
Oscar Murillo is showing newly commissioned works in Collision/Coalition, a two-person exhibition with Tony Cokes at The Shed in New York. Murillo’s presentation will make varied use of the large space devoted to his work, and will bring together paintings, drawings, and installations.
"What we are about to embark on for The Shed is engaging with the architecture of the space," Murillo says in a recent studio visit; "and also very much continuing an engagement with certain ideas that are much more socially connected." Collision/Coalition aims to explore "the role of art in the interaction of opposing social, cultural, and political forces." Murillo, who emigrated with his family from La Paila, Colombia, to London in the 1990s, uses his artistic practice to investigate notions of community as well as wider themes of globalization, production and consumption, and labor and migration. At The Shed, selected works from the artist’s Flight series, drawn during plane journeys, are born of his itinerant life and practice. As Murillo explains: "Flight becomes not just a means of travel but a sacred ‘other’ space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique ‘studio’ at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location."
As part of the installation at The Shed, suspended black canvas "flag" pieces similar to those shown at the Venice Biennale in 2015 continue The Institute of Reconciliation series initiated in 2014. As Anna Schneider writes in the publication accompanying Murillo’s 2017 solo exhibition at Haus der Kunst in Munich, "His artistic strategy is to create emptiness and energy through the depth of the black pigment. Black, here, is a total abstraction that nevertheless encompasses every part of the world … the black canvases suggest emptiness and hiatus, seeking openness—and perhaps, yes, a reconciliation process."
A number of works in the manifestation series connect Murillo’s presentation at The Shed with his current solo exhibition at David Zwirner in London. Begun in 2018, this new body of work shows a marked evolution in the artist’s process. Building on a technique Murillo developed for his catalyst series, started in 2011, the manifestation works treat canvas as a form of ink pad, transferring pigment from one surface to another which is laid on top; as with many of Murillo’s works, different pieces are sewn together and painted on to create a collaged effect, juxtaposing the different energies contained in the painted layers.
Murillo’s surge series, of which selected examples will be presented at The Shed, was also initiated in 2018. The artist embeds a range of signifiers into the surge compositions, some of which remain legible while others become completely obscured. Having built up layers of both found and invented imagery and phrases as well as gestural markings, Murillo applies a rush of undulating blues that conveys a sense of motion and depth across the surface of the canvas. This final layer references both the surge of energy used to make the works, as well as the ability of water to flow indiscriminately without regard to arbitrary constructs such as maps or borders. As such, these images conjure a utopian and cautionary vision of contemporary geopolitics.
Murillo discusses the manifestation works and the wider nature of his practice with Ben Luke in a recent edition of The Art Newspaper podcast.
Image: Installation view, Collision/Coalition, The Shed, New York, 2019
Oscar Murillo is one of four artists shortlisted to win the Turner Prize this year. Murillo has been nominated by an independent panel of judges based on two recent exhibitions of his work: violent amnesia, at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, and Oscar Murillo l Zhang Enli, at chi K11 art museum, in Shanghai, as well as for his participation in the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, We don’t need another hero, in 2018. The other shortlisted artists are Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, and Tai Shani.
This year’s Turner Prize exhibition will be held at Turner Contemporary in Margate, UK, from September 28, 2019 through January 12, 2020. Each artist will be given a dedicated space in which to show recent work.
Image: Oscar Murillo, 2016. Photo by Joo Yongsung
April 9–June 23, 2019
Central to this major solo exhibition by Oscar Murillo was the first public presentation of a new painting created over a period of four years, from 2014 to 2018. Titled violent amnesia and measuring almost ten feet in height, this work adapts the format of Murillo’s well-known "banner paintings," in which an unstretched canvas dangles loosely as though it were a flag—literally and metaphorically untethered from the traditional structures of painting. While previous banner paintings adhere to a palette of almost monochromatic black layered on in abstract shapes, violent amnesia incorporates recognizable imagery, including outlines of continents and pictures of birds. For Murillo, birds, which are able to migrate freely and without restriction, make for a significant contrast to the human experience; Murillo’s recent work has also made pointed reference to air travel, with airplanes having become an important site of production for the artist—in his own words, "not just a means of travel but a sacred ‘other’ space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique ‘studio’ at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location." The title "Violent Amnesia," applied to the exhibition as a whole, reflects the artist’s interest in collective forgetting; in the museum’s description, these works express a "precarious relationship between anxiety and inertia."
The characteristically dynamic and diverse installation at Kettle’s Yard made use not only of the galleries themselves, but also the window on Castle Street, the adjacent St. Peter’s Church, the lower floor of the Kettle’s Yard House, and the research space, as well as areas between the galleries. Among the works on view was a new group of paintings from Murillo’s "catalyst" series (ongoing since 2011), examples of which were shown at David Zwirner in London in 2015. Presented for the first time in the U.K. was My name is Belisario, an audio installation featuring the artist’s father describing his experience of migrating from Colombia to London. The original narrative in Spanish was also available for visitors to listen to in English, Bengali, Arabic, and French—all languages that are spoken in communities in Cambridge (for the presentation of this work at Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2017, this work was similarly available in languages including German and Hebrew). As the artist explains in an interview with curator Osei Bonsu, "The desire is to continue the translation process so that it somehow has an ambition for it to continue to expand and to give the opportunity for a diversity of cultures, societies to maybe be aware of this story, and in it potentially find a kind of familiarity—particularly in the context of individuals living in Europe, or coming from ‘otherness.’"
Violent Amnesia also included a performance linking the gallery spaces. This element of the exhibition used similar materials to the artist’s performance at the 10th Berlin Biennale in 2018, such as a black cape-like costume and rock-like baked sculptures. Titled through patches of wheat, corn and mud, the performance in Berlin featured industrial ovens that were used to produce loaves from a mixture of corn and clay, evoking notions of sustenance and consumption.
Violent Amnesia marked the reopening of Kettle’s Yard after two years of renovation and expansion. A unique house museum with its own collection, Kettle’s Yard was founded by Jim Ede (1895–1990), who converted four cottages in Cambridge into a place to display his art collection. In 1966, Ede, who would conduct personal tours of the collection as well as lend paintings to students to hang in their rooms during semester time, donated the house and collection to the University of Cambridge.
Cover Image: Oscar Murillo, violent amnesia, 2014–2018
March 22–May 31, 2019
Oscar Murillo | Zhang Enli at chi K11 art museum in Shanghai brought together recent works by Murillo alongside those of Chinese artist Zhang Enli. Born in Colombia and based in various locations, Murillo’s practice encompasses paintings, works on paper, sculptures, installations, actions, live events, collaborative projects, and videos. This exhibition in Shanghai—the artist’s first presentation in Mainland China—includes examples of his flight # works, which were first presented at David Zwirner in Hong Kong last year. An itinerant artist who is often on the move between locations, Murillo uses "these moments and spaces of transition," as he has called them, to draw. He considers international flights to be "not just a means of travel but a sacred 'other' space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique 'studio' at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location. Within this space, during the proscribed periods of time each journey affords, I engage in notation, mark making, recording, layering gestural marks onto surfaces."
Also among the works on view at chi K11 was Murillo’s room-sized installation The Institute of Reconciliation (2014–), an ongoing project that extends the artist’s engagement with the notion of belonging across different cultures. Prominently featuring hanging black canvases, iterations of this work have been shown at various locations, adapted by the artist each time to a specific site. In an interview with Sáez de Ibarra which is included in a major monograph about the artist, Murillo describes the intensive process of making the black canvases, which appear in various forms throughout his practice, and their significance: "It's like slow bleeding, clearing a passage by painting, ironing, folding, rubbing with a piece of black graphite. Those are all things you can do at home—tasks like sweeping or ironing—it's just that in this case they're done to black canvases, paying tribute to grief and mourning, but not to something specific. . . It's a manifestation of an attitude, which is larger than one’s own self . . . Right now it seems that in many parts of the world—or everywhere, even—there is a shroud of darkness . . . There is always a story under the surface, and those stories are often quite peculiar; they have a strange way of manifesting themselves." The artist’s acute awareness of community also informs collective conscience (2015–), a site-specific installation featuring human-scaled effigies in various states of degeneration and decay. These stuffed figures, which Murillo has recontextualized within various settings beginning in 2015, derive from a New Year's Eve ritual in his hometown in Colombia. On December 31, locally made effigies are burned in a bonfire as a cleansing ritual in anticipation of the new year. The work relates to the artist's ongoing reflection on the position of workers, implicated as both producers and consumers within a system that he sees as stagnating. As the press release for Oscar Murillo | Zhang Enli stated, such references "should be seen not as a call for localism, but a metaphor for the displacement and flow of objects and ideas in global capitalism."
Oscar Murillo participated in two biennials in summer 2018: The 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, and the 2nd Industrial Art Biennial in Croatia.
10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
June 9–September 9, 2018
Titled We don’t need another hero (after a Tina Turner song) and curated by Gabi Ngcobo, the tenth edition of the biennale was "a conversation with artists and contributors who think and act beyond art as they confront the incessant anxieties perpetuated by a willful disregard for complex subjectivities." In the courtyard of the Akademie der Künste, Murillo created an installation involving the industrial process of baking bread, evoking ideas around consumption and the basic sustenance of life.
2nd Industrial Art Biennial
July 21–October 28, 2018
The 2nd Industrial Art Biennial in Croatia, titled On the Shoulders of Fallen Giants, included Murillo’s The Institute of Reconciliation (2018). This work, based on previous installations, included twenty hanging black canvases and a group of twenty effigies on plastic chairs at the Temple of Augustus in Pula, Croatia.
In its various iterations, The Institute of Reconciliation pays tribute to "grief and mourning, but not to something specific," the artist has said, as "a manifestation of an attitude, which is larger than one’s own self."
Image: Oscar Murillo, The Institute of Reconciliation, 2018, (detail), at the Temple of Augustus, Pula, as part of the 2nd Industrial Art Biennial.
On view in 2017 and continuing into 2018, international exhibitions of Oscar Murillo's work prominently featured hanging black canvases that are part of The Institute of Reconciliation, an ongoing project which profoundly extends the artist's engagement with the notion of belonging across different cultures.
Black canvases were hung around the outside walls of The Showroom in London in 2017, and were integral to Capsule 07, a major survey of new work by Murillo at Haus der Kunst in Munich through April 15, 2018 which was also accompanied by a major publication. At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland until January 28, A Poet*hical Wager featured black canvas works suspended from the rafters of the exhibition space. Murillo’s work was presented in a solo booth at Untitled San Francisco in January 2018. An installation by the artist featured in Actions. The image of the world can be different, a group exhibition marking the opening of the refurbished Kettle’s Yard gallery in Cambridge, England. A preview of the exhibition in The Financial Times highlighted the inclusion of Murillo's work.
The most acute context for these works to date, however, is Ras al-Amud, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem where a new iteration of the project was on view at the Silwan Club. Black canvases the size of bedsheets were hung from multiple washing lines in the small outdoor space of this former community center, close to the security fences around Ma’ale ha-Zeitim and Ma’ale David—Jewish settlements which have taken root in the Arab area in the last 20 years. This installation was part of Jerusalem Lives, the inaugural program at the Palestinian Museum organized by Reem Fadda, who also selected Murillo's project for the 2017 Sharjah Biennial.
In an interview with Sáez de Ibarra which is included in a major new monograph about the artist, Murillo describes the process of making the black canvases and their significance:
"It's like slow bleeding, clearing a passage by painting, ironing, folding, rubbing with a piece of black graphite. Those are all things you can do at home—tasks like sweeping or ironing—it's just that in this case they're done to black canvases, paying tribute to grief and mourning, but not to something specific. . . It's a manifestation of an attitude, which is larger than one’s own self . . . Right now it seems that in many parts of the world—or everywhere, even—there is a shroud of darkness . . . There is always a story under the surface, and those stories are often quite peculiar; they have a strange way of manifesting themselves."
In Jerusalem, as Mary Pelletier writes in Hyperallergic, the conflicted location took the work in a new direction: "As plans for Jerusalem Lives got under way, Murillo's approach to his black canvas work was changing. What had begun as a desire for intensity, rendered through experimentation with repetition and the possibilities of black paint, developed into a more site-specific practice."
In the artist's own words at the opening of the exhibition, "I thought it should not continue, that same kind of rhythm of existence in the studio, because something greater had happened. To just simply go back to the studio and to continue to make that work would just be to deny that experience. I don’t want the work to become transfixed into one singular kind of context."
Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 5:30–7 PM
Contemporary Art Talks: Oscar Murillo
Goldsmiths University, London
Installation view, Jerusalem Lives, Jerusalem, Israel, 2017. Photo: © The Palestinian Museum
Installation view: Oscar Murillo: Capsule 07, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2017. Photo by Maximilian Geuter
Installation view, Everything we see could also be otherwise (My sweet little lamb), The Showroom, London, 2017. Photo by Daniel Brooke, image courtesy of The Showroom
Installation view, Jerusalem Lives, Jerusalem, Israel, 2017. Photo: © The Palestinian Museum
September 15, 2017–April 15, 2018
Capsule 07 was a major survey of new work by Oscar Murillo that was created specifically for Haus der Kunst.
Synthesizing ideas Murillo had been developing over the previous four years, the exhibition featured whole room installations, integrating video, painting, drawing, sculpture, and performative elements. Also included was a presentation of Murillo's ongoing Frequencies project—a collaboration between the artist and his family, the sociologist Clara Dublanc, and schools in different countries where children are encouraged to leave their marks on canvases that have been stretched over their desks.
A publication accompanying the exhibition features a foreword by the Director of Haus der Kunst, Okwui Enwezor, texts by Emma Enderby and Anna Schneider, and an interview with Murillo by Maria Belen Saez de Ibarra. Published by Haus der Kunst.
Published on the occasion of a major solo exhibition at Haus der Kunst in Munich, Oscar Murillo is the first dedicated overview of the artist's career to date, presenting his multifaceted practice from every angle. The book features an introduction by Okwui Enwezor and new scholarship by Emma Enderby and Anna Schneider, as well as a conversation with Murillo by María Belén Sáez de Ibarra. Published by Haus der Kunst.
Photo: Kyle Knodell
Frequencies is a long-term project conceived in collaboration with members of Oscar Murillo's family and political scientist Clara Dublanc. Begun in 2013, the project sends pieces of raw canvas to schools around the globe with the sole requirement that they be affixed to desks for a year and illustrated by students. After that year, Murillo re-collects the canvases. To date, hundreds of students aged primarily 10 to 16 in schools on five continents have participated.
In 2015, David Zwirner Books published a book designed by Olu Odukoya documenting the first year of this ongoing project. The publication details the participating students and the many steps of the project, including the arrival of the canvases at schools, affixing the fabric to desks, the students working, and the final illustrations.
For Printed Matter's 2016 New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, Oscar Murillo presented Room Services in collaboration with Yutaka Sone and Mandy El-Sayegh. The live multi-day drawing and printing performance centered around three workstations where the artists created graphic works, editions, books, and zines.
Posters from the project are available from David Zwirner Books.
Oscar Murillo's presentation at the 56th Venice Biennale: All the World's Futures debuted a large installation of canvases from his ongoing Frequencies project. Murillo also presented signalling devices in now bastard territory, a series of 20 black canvases each hung from a single hook and extending 30 feet from the floor to the ceiling of the Central Pavilion in the Giardini.
For Performa 15, Oscar Murillo presented lucky dip, an installation and live work at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at Bowling Green in New York, located at the southern edge of lower Manhattan.
On the building's exterior, Murillo installed a banner with the logo of Mighty White, a South African corn brand. Inside, performers ground and re-packaged corn, acknowledging the building's history as a hub for international trade and distribution. Throughout the week-long performance and installation, workers sang Spanish ballads and read from passages about town criers in London's markets, drawing further connections between the space and artistic and industrial production.
June 9–September 9, 2018
Oscar Murillo’s work was part of the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Titled We don’t need another hero and curated by Gabi Ngcobo, this edition of the biennale was "a conversation with artists and contributors who think and act beyond art as they confront the incessant anxieties perpetuated by a willful disregard for complex subjectivities."