Brooklyn-Based Chilean Artist Ivan Navarro Illuminates History Using Lights And Mirrors

Iván Navarro builds chairs that aren’t meant for sitting and doorways you may’t stroll by. Armed with fluorescent and neon lights and mirrors, he hijacks on a regular basis objects or architectural fixtures like ladders, tables, doorways, fences and water towers and imbues them with metaphorical meanings critiquing techniques of energy, authority and surveillance. Comprising multicolored fluorescent tubes, his “Red and Blue Electric Chair” – a remake of Gerrit Rietveld’s iconic 1918 Red and Blue Chair – is his model of the electrical chair. Drawing from the historical past of artwork and design and his private life, the artist who initially supposed to be a set designer references capital punishment within the United States, and the way electrical energy was utilized by the Chilean junta as an instrument of torture and frequent energy cuts as a solution to isolate and management residents.

Navarro was only a yr previous when General Augusto Pinochet seized energy in Chile in 1973 in a coup d’état that overthrew the democratically-elected president Salvador Allende. Growing up in Santiago below the shadow of a two decade-long, bloody army dictatorship that left 1000’s useless or lacking, he lived in fixed concern of being “disappeared”, following the imprisonment of his father, a political cartoonist, graphic designer and socialist college dean heading the propaganda division. “It was always that feeling of not knowing,” he remembers. “My parents always thought that some catastrophic situation might happen. There were people shooting outside and constant blackouts and water cuts, so you had to store water and keep a battery-operated radio, candles and flashlights. Basically you couldn’t trust anyone. You had to be very careful, mind your own business, go to work or to school, then go back home. At around 9pm every day, there was a curfew to keep people under control, so very similar to what we’re living now. It was way more violent, but the routine was very similar.”

However, Navarro isn’t attempting to make overt socio-political statements by his artwork. He locations extra emphasis on a spirit of contradiction: new items in opposition to previous items. “What is important is that every work is almost a criticism of the previous work I made,” he notes. “That’s how I keep creating. I don’t look for political problems to make a new piece. I think once you do something very well with a material, the meanings will come. This logic also gives you a lot of freedom because you just say, ‘Today, I’m making a chair, and what’s the opposite of a chair?’” Upon his transfer to New York in 1997, the connections between his artwork and political historical past grew to become extra evident. It was additionally there that his work started to interact with Minimalism, which manifested by way of type, however he subverted its apolitical nature. “When I came to the US, I was interested in lights, then I saw the work of Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, and my work started connecting to them because that was my new context, but also understanding my own background,” he explains. “What I did was to connect certain political or social ideas to the very classic materials of Minimalism, something that Minimalism always lacked in content because it’s more visual.”

The ingenuity of Navarro’s brightly-shining works lies of their easy, important and perfectly-mastered esthetic that seduces viewers, inviting them to give up themselves to an immersive expertise to hold out their very own reflection. Wanting audiences to ask questions, his works could also be learn on quite a lot of ranges, providing infinite meanings. “The interesting part about being an artist is you find things that nobody thought of before,” he says. “You’re like a magician – you suddenly show people that it’s possible to make art with something that they never thought of. The biggest challenge is to make them think in a different way. The key moment is when they don’t understand how the work is made. It challenges their perception because they start imagining things and their creativity starts flowing. Then you realize that your art is triggering something in people’s minds.”

A current retrospective on the previous 20 years of Navarro’s profession at Parisian cultural middle, Centquatre, offered creations whose unique perform is subverted and of their place are sculptures that pressure individuals to ponder what they’re , and take into account the doable new meanings for these objects as soon as they’re remodeled into artwork. Up subsequent is a public set up for the longer term Villejuif Institut Gustave-Roussy metro station of the Grand Paris Express designed by French architect Dominique Perrault, which is ready to open in 2026. Called “Cadran Solaire (Sundial)”, Navarro’s art work consists of 300 mild packing containers, every bearing the identify of a star that may be seen from earth with the bare eye in numerous languages. He remarks, “It’s an interesting history of language because it shows languages from ancient to recent times from all over the world, as every time a new star is found, it usually gets a name connected to the geographical place of its discovery.”

Last yr, Navarro’s exhibition, “Planetarium”, at Galerie Templon in Paris, marked the primary time he used paint. In 2020, he had returned to a extra handmade manufacturing attributable to restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic, whereas on the identical time accumulating photographs of nebulae. Considered astronomy’s world capital, Chile comprises the vast majority of world infrastructure, primarily observatories and telescopes, because the skies within the nation’s north are very clear, so many fanatics go to it to commune with the cosmos. Mixing mild packing containers and paint, Navarro recreated celestial phenomena within the method of a planetarium representing the universe by man-made photographs. “It’s part of the same idea of doing something I’ve never done,” he discloses. “I was making minimalistic light boxes using words, and everything had to be super clean. I always had a problem with scratches on the glass that would completely destroy the piece, but then I said why don’t I take advantage of that? So I started experimenting by scratching mirrors, painting and staining, and then I realized that they looked like nebulae.”

Grinding out 1000’s of dots on a mirror with a handheld Dremel rotary device to permit mild from the LEDs to penetrate, Navarro thereafter provides coloration to them one after the other, applies fluid stained-glass paint on prime of a glass plate laid on the bottom, does the identical with one other piece of glass, then combines them by a intelligent play of mirrors and one-way mirrors to provide the phantasm of highly effective stellar explosions in infinite area. The outcomes are three-dimensional work that seem to have captured fragments of area, from cosmic landscapes to constellations and eclipses. “For abstract expressionists, it’s almost like painting is a representation of the body’s movement, but not for me,” he states. “I’m trying to do something different from the history of abstract painting. It’s not expressionist; it’s just a bunch of colors thrown together. The idea is to collapse the gesture.” And there he goes once more, contradicting every part that has come earlier than.

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