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