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Exhibition at MACBA brings together more than sixty of Sergi Aguilar's works
Sergi Aguilar Ruta vermella, 2009. 65 x 154 x 97 cm. Acer, alumini i pintura. Photo: Pau Aguilar Amorós.

BARCELONA.- ‘How can one construct physical objects that derive from, and in some way refer to, pure immateriality?’1 This imponderable question is the obsession that has driven the artistic research of Sergi Aguilar (Barcelona, 1946). The exhibition Sergi Aguilar. Reverse/Obverse (1972–2015) brings together at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona more than sixty of Aguilar’s works spanning four decades of his artistic creation. Structured around five episodes or sections that create a dialogue between the pieces and the thematic cycles of different periods, this is the largest ever exhibition to be dedicated to the work of Aguilar.

The atmosphere of the artist’s studio has been reconstructed at MACBA. Far from proposing a chronological narrative, it recreates the dynamics of the artist’s studio, resulting in an almost infinite web of possible and random relationships between the works. The exhibition, which is organised as a sinuous journey through Aguilar’s sculptural production of the last forty years, explores some of the creative tensions that are constant in his work, such as the dialogue between object and process, moderation and accumulation, solidity and lightness, the artificial and the natural, and place and displacement.

The exhibition is accompanied by the publication Sergi Aguilar. Revers anvers. It includes a wide selection of works and photographs that constitute a story without chronological order, one which plays with the metaphor of the artist’s studio. This allows us to delve into certain concepts (space, nature, time, earth, desert, displacement) and key objects (iron, marble, topographies, cardboard, tree trunks, maps, photographs, collages and tables).

The exhibition Sergi Aguilar. Reverse/Obverse (1972–2015) at MACBA is divided into the following five episodes:

Tools and measures
One of Aguilar’s first series, Tronc, espai, terra, eina (Trunk, Space, Earth, Tool), 1974, has as its starting point the found tree trunks used by the inhabitants of Menorca for making tools. In these essential forms of bronze and brass presides the idea of both tool and a reference to nature. ‘The constructive aspect of objects held – and continues to hold – an attraction for me, but I think they must be connected with ‘living things’ [...] art made with artificiality and thus associated with the natural world,’2 says Aguilar.

Eines i mesuradors (Tools and Measures), 1974–2014, is a series in which tools also accumulate, but here they have become lighter and are combined with measuring tools, drawings and some volumes of an abstract nature.

In Abans de la cendra (Before the Ashes), 1999–2004, tools stacked on the five shelves of a trolley suggest themes such as signs, weight, templates and building systems. Gradually, the natural reference is dissipated, and these small volumes, although still close and accessible, now exude a strange functionality.

From copying nature, the artist proceeds to analysing it. It becomes a geometrised nature, a radical form but one that does not lose sight of its original context.

Distributed on a large wooden table, designed by Aguilar for the occasion – as with all the supports used in this exhibition –, are a representative selection of sculptures made of black marble and executed between 1974 and 1998. Angle, 1974, Dos-Tres núm. 1 (Two-Three, no. 1), 1978, and Canvi (Change), 1980, are blocks partly abstracted from nature, but which openly refer to Post-Minimalism.

The solid corporeality of these marbles establish a dialogue with works such as 18, 1994–98, Fixed, 2000, and Move, 2000, in which cardboard, wood and plywood introduce a sense of fragility and lightness, while hinting at the first appearance of linguistic signs, the result of a pronounced formal synthesis.

Signs and landscape
The blocks begin to disappear, making way for space as the main reference in the works. The sculptures are bent, fitted and dislodged, creating accidental geometries in which the concepts of inclines, enclosure and compasses are excuses to raise ideas of visibility and obstacle. The material of the work is space; the form is transparency and the void.

The artist likes to mention Tony Smith’s description, from around 1950, of his experience of travelling by car one evening, with his students, on a highway under construction in New Jersey. The trip became a revealing experience for Smith, one of the first times that space, time and the mood of the ‘viewer’ became creative materials.

The result of a journey made by Aguilar through the desert of southern Algeria, Nord-Sud (North-South), 1991, occupies a central place in this gallery. It is a steel structure reminiscent of a blackboard, resembling a space for notes and inscriptions.

Meanwhile, Ruta vermella (Red Route), 2009, unfolds like the skeleton of a small hill, alluding to a certain way of looking at the landscape. The emphasis shifts from the object to notions of territory, transit and vacuity. The idea of displacement is suggested by two black-and-white photos of the desert, Libya, 2005, and a selection of videos made by the artist on different journeys.

Place and territory
Influenced by his travels, Aguilar went on to add to his work the concepts of land and topography. ‘Now it is not the space, but the itinerary, the going there and, why not, returning. Volume no longer seems to be necessary. Can we talk of a volume made out of a distance, a sculpture made between places?’3

Entre viajes (Between Journeys), 2005–9, consists of 153 drawings that refer to a notebook made in different anonymous geographic locations that are varied and indefinite. 58 falques (58 Wedges), 2004–10, and To G. Anselmo, 2013, allude to the dematerialisation of sculpture and to displacement, as much by the movement they suggest to the viewer as by their content.

To G. Anselmo is a trolley or cart containing a steel block, water level, cables and other materials that are used to measure and to orientate ourselves in the land. This, as with other trolleys and works by Aguilar in which accumulation becomes almost an aesthetic category, refers to the notion of waste that refuses to go away and which ends up finding a new artistic existence.

Fugues and time
Finally, the itinerary, which could also be visited in a loop, closes with three pieces: Via Laietana, 1988, a steel sculpture hung on the wall and inviting us to take refuge inside, while pulling us toward Punt de fuga (Vanishing Point), 2013–15, and Cara NNO (NNW Face), 2015, the latter especially conceived for the exhibition. These are works that offer possible paths to follow.

‘The attraction of the atmosphere of a place, of a topography, of a mark, is a mystery. A particular magnetism occurs. For some it is the arrival; for others the time it takes to get there; and for others the decision to stay. In any case, what fascinates us is the search for a horizon that is always shifting, if not disappearing.’4

1 Translated from Sergi Aguilar: ‘Revers anvers’, Revers anvers. Barcelona: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), 2015, p. 19.
2 Aguilar, op. cit., p. 23.
3 Aguilar, op. cit., p. 67.
4 Aguilar, op. cit., p. 99.

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