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CAC Málaga Looks at Issues of Authorship, Authenticity and Identity
British artist Gavin Turk poses during the opening of his exhibit 'En Face' at the Center of Contemporary Art in Malaga, Spain, 25 June 2010.

MALAGA.- En Face, presented by the Contemporary Art Center of Málaga, is the first individual exhibition of the work of Gavin Turk to be held in Spain. The exhibition consists of a group of 72 clay busts resulting from an interactive performance in which a group of participants manipulated the still wet clay in order to transform it into a Surrealist “Exquisite Corpse.” The exhibition highlights Turk’s interest in questioning the role of the contemporary artist and of art in general and its viewers.

Gavin Turk’s work consists in analysing and questioning the concepts of fame, authorship and originality that continue to affect our understanding of art and of artists’ activities. Using a degree of playful irony, he reveals how an artist can transform the value of an object to the point of giving it the status of a work of art. Well known within his oeuvre are the sculptures of famous people such as Pop of 1993, a wax depiction of the punk singer Sid Vicious with the face of the artist and the pose of Elvis Presley from Andy Warhol’s depiction of that star. Other notable works by Turk are the everyday objects such as Pile of 2004, a polychrome bronze sculpture of a huge mound of rubbish. Through such works Turk looks at the issue of how something can come to be considered art when it occupies an institutional space intended for such a purpose.

En Face is the title of Gavin Turk’s exhibition at the CAC Málaga. For the first time it exhibits the 72 busts deriving from his installation, created in an interactive performance that took place last April in the artist’s London studio. For The Bust Party, as it was known, Turk invited a group of people who manipulated the wet clay of the 72 busts depicting the artist. The public thus became part of the creative process through being given the chance to add their own mark to a work in process. Turk’s intention was to suggest the idea of art as authorless, the result of a collaborative effort by a group of people whose involvement was not just limited to the interpretative task of looking at the work but who could also touch it and put themselves in the artist’s place.

The result was En Face, a title derived from the French word enface, which Turk used to create a play on words in order to describe a situation in which the viewer is confronted with the work of art and is capable of extracting and re-printing his or her own personal mark directly onto it. Also notable are the titles that Turk has given to each of the busts and which are anagrams of his own name, again emphasising his interest in questioning the value of authorship and identity. These titles include Raving Kut, 2010, Gavring Tuk, 2010, and Gun Irk Vat, 2010. All use the letters of his name but rearranged to the extent that they barely relate to the original.

In addition, the CAC Málaga’s Space 5 will be showing a documentary video that recounts the creative process behind En Face, starting with The Bust Party and concluding with the final result as seen in the present exhibition.

Gavin Turk (Guildford, UK, 1967) studied at the Royal College of Art in London, where he failed to obtain his degree after submitting a controversial work that consisted of installing a plaque with the inscription “Borough of Kensington/GAVIN TURK/Sculptor/Worked Here 1989-1991” in an empty room. His association with the Young British Artists movement and his consequent participation in the influential Royal Academy exhibition Sensation of works from Charles Saatchi’s collection, in which Turk appeared dressed as a tramp, led to him becoming one of the most promising figures within the art world of the day. Gavin Turk still remains loyal to many of the principles that he defended during those years, primarily using sculpture, but also drawing, printmaking, installation and photography, to express his ideas on the art world and on artists.

For Fernando Francés, director of the CAC Málaga and curator of the exhibition, “En face, this first solo exhibition in Spain of the work of Gavin Turk, focuses precisely on one of the issues that ceased to be taboo from Pop Art onwards but which in Turk’s work reaches a much more coherent and less aesthetic level of real and conceptual commitment: the role of the contemporary artist, of art itself and above all of its viewers. This is a theme that runs through the work of many other artists of his generation such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Jonathan Meese, as well as those with different artistic origins such as Gilbert & George.”

The present exhibition is not the first at the CAC Málaga to focus on the work of the Young British Artists, as others have already been devoted to Rachael Whiteread, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, the Chapman brothers, Jason Martin and Tracey Emin.

The CAC Málaga has also focused on contemporary British art in its exhibitions on Gilbert & George, Liam Gillick, Art & Language, Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg and Runa Islam. Gavin Turk now adds to this wide-ranging list of artists with the worldwide premiere of the present exhibition.

Contemporary Art Center of Málaga | Gavin Turk | Málaga |

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