Alvaro Barrington's first solo presentation in a UK institution opens at South London Gallery

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Alvaro Barrington's first solo presentation in a UK institution opens at South London Gallery
Alvaro Barrington, Carib Series, Marioworld 2, Spider Pig, September 2021. Acrylic and yarn on burlap behind printed photograph and acrylic spray paint on an acrylic sheet, in wood and acrylic artist’s frame. Banana Fall on You, Green, September 2021. Oil and acrylic on burlap in artist’s wooden frame.

LONDON.- Alvaro Barrington’s South London Gallery exhibition is his first solo presentation in a UK institution. Extending his exploration into blending multiple cultural and visual references, he presents new works characterised by his adept use of a broad range of techniques and materials. In a bespoke installation for the SLG’s main exhibition space, the wall colours are inspired by an abstracted idea of the sun rising and setting, with the left and right-hand walls of the gallery representing the global North and South respectively. Paintings made of concrete smeared onto exquisitely dyed Hermès blankets in the ‘North’ and on burlap in the ‘South’, are hung high on the walls to prompt associations with cloud paintings. These notional concrete clouds become increasingly dense in the transition from 'North’ to 'South’, a reference to countries in the global North offloading waste on their southern neighbours.

On the lower walls, a new body of work pivots around the idea of a relatively near future in which augmented and virtual reality have evolved to the point that people routinely choose which identity or character to adopt in different social and other situations, with digital and real life becoming completely intertwined. Works with distinctive frames made from concrete and aluminium in the 'North’, contrasting with corrugated iron, painted and natural wood in the 'South’, contain layers of painted, stitched, printed and digitally rendered elements. Trotters referencing the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, Napoleon and other pigs featured in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, merge with spiders’ legs inspired by the African folktale Anansi the Spider and Louise Bourgeois’ bronze spider sculptures. These in turn are superimposed against backdrops ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to a game map from Super Mario World. The threat and impact of climate change looms large throughout, with drawings made from charcoal – effectively burnt wood – punctuating the 'North’ with the repetition of the letters ICU, short-hand for both ‘I See You’ and Intensive Care Unit.

Alvaro Barrington is the child of Grenadian and Haitian migrant workers and was raised between the Caribbean and New York. Barrington’s practice explores interconnected histories of cultural production. Considering himself primarily a painter, his multimedia approach to image-making employs burlap (hessian), textiles, postcards, clothing and cast concrete, exploring how such diverse materials can function as visual tools while referencing personal, political and commercial histories. Through this confluence of materials and subject, Barrington engages histories of music and painting associated with the Caribbean, the socio-political context of his childhood in 1980s New York, and London where he is currently based.

Recent exhibitions include MoMA PS1, Queens (2017); A Taste of Chocolate at Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2018); an ongoing Tt x AB collaboration with the painter Teresa Farrell; co-curation with Julia Peyton-Jones of the exhibition Artists I Steal From at Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2019); Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Paris (2021 and 2018); Corvi-Mora, London (2020); Sadie Coles HQ, London (2021 and 2019); Emalin, London (2021, 2019 and 2018).

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