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Cuban-American artist Jorge Pardo opens exhibition in the Augustins Museum in Toulouse
Visitors look at an installation by Cuban-American artist Jorge Pardo in the Augustins Museum in Toulouse, southern France, incorporating the museum's collection of Norman column tops, as part of Toulouse's International Art Festival, on June 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA.

TOULOUSE.- The unique collection of 12th-century Romanesque capitals held at the Musée des Augustins is one of the great cultural treasures of Toulouse. Internationally renowned for his work at the frontiers of art, design and architecture, Jorge Pardo has been invited to rethink the display of this exceptional collection. His installation will remain in place until the 2016 festival.

By turns a painter, designer, architect and display specialist, Jorge Pardo made just about everything he lives with – the furniture, the lamps, his studio, his house. His intensely colourful work seems to flow continuously from one founding impulsion. For going on twenty years he has tirelessly rethought and questioned aesthetic categories and hierarchies, drawing on the ambiguity of a system in which art is constantly undermined and the functional nearly always de-habilitated.

With the collections of Romanesque art at the Musée des Augustins, as, earlier, with the pre-Columbian collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the minimalist collections of the Fundació Caixa in Barcelona, what Pardo’s display highlights is the impossible neutrality of the museum setting. It reveals both what he defines as a “framing device” and the complex tissue of interactions tying it to the works. This reflection on the role of the institution is rooted in the history of conceptual art, part of which was written by artists who were also his teachers, Michael Asher and Stephen Prina. But where the latter produced a discourse that was actively critical of the institution, Pardo simply sets up a series of shifts, substituting an open question for the political positions of the earlier generation — for example, by displaying his makeover of a standard boat (Untitled (Pleasure Boat), 2005) or, more recently, presenting a room as a giant, oblique sculpture in the middle of his New York gallery (Inert, 2014). Already, back in 1997, when the MOCA in Los Angeles offered him a solo show, Pardo persuaded the team at the museum to put it on in an external location, in a house he built specially for the occasion, 4166 Sea View Lane. This open sculpture could be explored by visitors for a period of five weeks, furnished with the artist’s works. When the show ended Pardo moved in with his family. Ten years later, at the MOCA in Miami, he brought domestic space inside the museum, which was divided up into several zones: Bedroom, Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Garden, where beds, shelves, tables, lamps and banquettes designed by the artist jostled together, surrounded by printed documentation about the artist’s work stuck to the walls like wallpaper. These projects illustrate the levelling process applied by this artist

in the field of aesthetics and his determination to contest the museum’s categorising power.

Jorge Pardo was born in Havana (Cuba) in 1963. He lives and works in Merida, a town in the Yucatán (Mexico). Nearby, he spent six years working on his Tecoh project, a structure/sculpture on the scale of a village. The project at Toulouse continues the concerns explored in his interventions at LACMA, Los Angeles, in 2008, at the Fundació Caixa in Barcelona in 2004 and at the DIA Foundation, New York, in 2000. He has also accomplished major projects at the Liverpool Biennial in 2004, the Turbinenhalle, Düsseldorf, in 2003, K21, Düsseldorf, in 2002, and Skulptur Projekt Münster in 97. Pardo has had numerous solo exhibitions.

Jorge Pardo spent nearly two years working with the festival and museum teams to design this new setting, drawing on his trademark repertoire of colours and materials: plays on perspective for the pedestals, geometrical tiling, and three different lamp designs enabling visitors to distinguish the different cloisters in Toulouse from which these capitals were saved after their destruction in the 19th century (La Daurade, Saint Sernin and Saint Étienne). An exhibition within the exhibition, an artwork made for artworks, Pardo’s brilliant intervention should further heighten the fascination of these stone sculptures made in Toulouse over eight hundred years ago. His project is sponsored by local businesses, who have given the artist free access to their expertise and work.

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