A detail of a painting by Oscar Murillo.
A detail of a painting by Oscar Murillo.
A detail of a painting by Oscar Murillo.
Oscar Murillo | Zhang Enli
chi K11 art museum, Shanghai
March 22–May 31, 2019

Oscar Murillo | Zhang Enli at chi K11 art museum in Shanghai brings 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 the 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." As the curator Legacy Russell writes in the introduction to her BOMB magazine interview with Murillo, "The canonized archetype of an artist alone in his studio—quickly expiring as we wade further into the tides of a global culture—is one that this artist, refreshingly, does not seem to have much of an allegiance to. For Murillo, the act of making holds as much potential for liberation and functionality within the confines of one’s studio as it does in one’s home, on the street, or within one’s community. In his work, actions and words, paint and parties, all speak at the same volume. The objects made by his hand float buoyantly within the realm of the liminal, always here and there, inside and out, home and abroad, all at once very familiar, and yet, somehow, entirely untranslatable." 

Also among the works to be presented at chi K11 is 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 states, 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." 

Image: Oscar Murillo, flight #15, 2018 (detail)