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Melanie Smith. Farce and Artifice. Still video

Melanie Smith. Farce and Artifice

Melanie Smith. Farsa y artificio

Melanie Smith. Farce and Artifice


Barcelona, Spain

From May 18 to October 7 of this year, the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) presents the exhibition entitled "Melanie Smith. Farce and Artifice," the largest institutional exhibition centered on the work by Smith ever presented in Europe. Under the curatorship of Tanya Barson, the show covers all the mediums used by this artist, from her early sculptures, assemblies, reliefs, and paintings to her video, photography, and installation proposals.

Born in the United Kingdom (Poole, 1965), Melanie Smith's artistic career has actually developed in the art scene of Mexico since the 1990s. In 1989, she left behind the political and economic tensions of Margaret Thatcher's UK to settle in Mexico. There, she has witnessed the impact of capitalist modernization, neoliberal globalization and hyper-consumerism, the evolution of an informal economy in parallel with traditional forms of production, as well as the idiosyncratic manifestation, or collapse, of modernity. Both contexts—the Mexican, or in a broader sense, the Latin American, and the British, or more precisely, the Anglo-Saxon or Eurocentric culture—are essential components of her work.

The exhibition surveys Smith's work from the beginning of the 1990s to this day. It is organized according to a series of seemingly simple themes or motifs that are recurrent in her artistic production: Abstraction, Urban, Color, the Body, Archeology, Nature, and Scale. This arrangement allows for the juxtaposition of works produced in different periods of her career, underscoring the continuities between them while also embracing tensions, conflicts, irrationality, and chaos. Smith has defined her body of work as a "giant palimpsest."

The exhibition includes early emblematic works like Ciudad espiral (Spiral City, 2002-2004) and Farsa y Artificio (Farce and Artifice, 2006). Ciudad espiral is a video accompanied by a series of photographs and paintings centered on Mexico City and inspired by Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson's gigantic Land Art sculpture. These works are shown alongside later works like Fordlandia (2004), which explores another kind of (seemingly unlimited) immensity in the Brazilian Amazon. Recorded in Fordlândia, a ghost town founded by Henry Ford in the Amazon forest to produce rubber, this visual essay on entropy centers around details about the settlement, its state of ruin, the autochthonous communities that live in the region, the Amazon River, and the local flora and fauna.

The exhibition also includes more recent works like the performative altarpiece Farsa y falsedad (Farce and Falsehood, 2017-2018), inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's and Pieter Bruegel's paintings. In addition, the show will be the scene for Smith's latest film titled María Elena (2018). Shot in the Atacama Desert, this film addresses the impact of capitalist activity and the resulting pollution on the Latin American landscape.

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