ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Here and Elsewhere

In his third solo exhibition at Galerie Ron Mandos Anthony Goicolea presents new works created in 2014, which consist primarily of drawings integrated into an installation context, in addition to a selection of paintings. All works have one thing in common: they show a beautiful, enigmatic, but also somewhat elusive world that the artist conveys through various media.

Cornerstone of the show is the installation of a modified skype; a tradional seamless backdrop used in studio photography. On the enlarged leveled plane of the skype are music stands with drawings of young men and women veiling their faces behind white cloths in still, dramatic poses. The cloths are the only naturalistic elements while the heads are executed purely in contours and cross-hatching, alluding to old master drawings. Similarly, other drawings in a photo-realistic manner are lacking any figurative background, which would allow for narrative clarification. The streaky blurring and dripping contours could suggest a reference to both watercolor painting, as well as the manipulation of digital images.

Another series shows rear views of young men with grotesquely twisted arms placed before a black background, locating the image in a somewhat surreal and bleak, romantic context with references that are difficult to pinpoint. One of the large landscape drawings shows a slightly oppressive night scene of a snow-covered forest, the inherent darkness of which is disrupted by searchlights. In the foreground of the picture we see intertwined tree trunks, permitting a view of a metal construction, which could create the impression of a stage design, would the tree line not continue beyond the man-made structure.

Goicolea’s works – displaying a mastery of various media – subvert the expectation and visual experience of the spectator. Rarely are things as they seem, even at second glance, and figures and landscapes continuously elude unambiguous interpretations and categorizations. This playful handling of both content and medium is the common thread that runs through Goicolea’s work. He achieved fame with seductive photographic arrangements of a gay Jeunesse dorée underpinned by inscrutable, cryptic layers of meaning. His artistic staging of the familiar search for identity, replete with media ambiguities, questions the reliability of his visual narration.

Both his early photographs and later videos, as well as his current landscape drawings are marked by an elaborate composition and in their lonely austerity recall the sublime landscapes of Classicism and early Romanticism, yet via the constant insertion of unexpected elements are simultaneously placed in the present, located just barely outside of a tangible reality.

This oscillation between fact and imagination, fictive past and only just conceivable reality has a biographical link to the artist’s family history. Goicolea was born in 1971 in the US to Cuban expatriates and therefore has an extensive ancestry, which he only partly knows and which comes from a country that he has only visited once as a tourist.

Goicolea’s works are in numerous international collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim Museum of Art (New York), the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, as well as in various museums in Spain and the Netherlands. In 2004 – at the age of just 32 – he exhibited a monumental installation at Art Unlimited in Basel.

Text: Stefan Kobel

ABOUT Anthony Goicolea

Born in 1971 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Lives and works in New York

Anthony Goicolea (USA, 1971) is a first-generation Cuban American artist. He grew up in the Deep South of the United States of America, in the midst of the Cuban refugee crises, coupled with the advent of the AIDS crises, and the rise of the religious right. Goicolea was socially stigmatised for being Cuban, gay, and Catholic. These circumstances brought about a heightened awareness of social constructs, and the changing nature of identity in politics – a theme that continually influences his work. Goicolea explores themes ranging from personal history and identity, cultural tradition and heritage, to alienation and displacement.

His diverse oeuvre encompasses digitally manipulated self-portraits, landscapes, and narrative tableaux executed in a variety of media, including black-and-white and color photography, sculpture and video installations, and multi-layered drawings on Mylar. Best known for his powerful, and often unsettling, staged photographic and video works, Goicolea made his artistic debut in the late 1990s with a series of provocative multiple self-portrait images. These early works featured groups of young boys on the threshold of adolescence, acting out childhood fantasies and bizarre rituals of revelry and social taboo in highly staged domestic or institutional settings or dense, fairy-tale forests. Revealing a playful self-consciousness, they often consisted of complex composites of the artist himself, in all manner of poses and guises. Soon thereafter, Goicolea garnered international attention with his ambiguous, yet strangely compelling, landscapes, ranging from dream-like woodland environments to vast, unforgiving urban and industrial wastelands. The artist has created several series of digitally composited, and heretofore uncharted, topographies, often populated by bands of masked and uniformed figures.

In recent series, many of the images are devoid of humans, although the landscape reflects an anonymous and increasingly tenuous human presence. In these works, primitive lean-tos and crudely constructed shanties coexist in an uneasy union with the technological vestiges of an industrialized society. Suggesting a world on the brink of obsolescence, these chilling images further cement the pervasive undercurrent of human alienation—from one another as well as the natural environment—that can be traced throughout the artist’s work.

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