This exhibition was born out of traffic jams and swift highway transit; stillness combined with acceleration. The language of street signs fighting to cling to anyone’s available attention against the indifference of landscape as a backdrop. Late afternoons and city imagery liquifying in the rear mirror. Even if all of the exhibited artworks are at a standstill they are embedded with movement and speed. Each turn an invitation, each angle a change of posture.
Milena Muzquiz’s paintings and sculptures are the product of a sensibility towards language in which every thought and consideration shares value and pertinence, receiving a certain degree of attention and care. This democracy of meaning enables gestures to configure themselves as visual puns; wordplay enacts a method for pictorial construction. Blotched flowers, monkeys and smokers appear in the canvases in the same way as witty thoughts pop up in the brain. Amusement becomes a form of contemplation.
Within the exhibition Muzquiz presents a series of phrases and words made with ceramics. These works are glossy handmade fossils of modern language, distancing themselves from the tradition of text-based art which relies on the cold and mechanical reproduction of linguistic signs as pure abstract shapes. Instead of entering the concrete dynamic of the lack of symbolic implications and the separatism from the human realm, these word-sculptures dwell deeper into elusive commonplace experiences: riddles printed on a milk carton, jumping patterns among the traffic signs, accidental conversations that grow as tangled vines, a clever phrase printed on a t-shirt. These ceramics can be understood as condensed feelings into one-liners captured within paused formulation.
A series of totem-like sculptures work as symbolic magnets, attracting to their core rubbles of language, scraps of nearby objects and fragments of the surrounding landscape. These vertical hybrids blend together scenery and people in order to assemble a lyrical collage that resonates towards an intimate order established by the artist. Through contact and touch which have a transformative quality in Muzquiz’s sculptural practice, these objects enter the orbits where the artist normally transits: her studio, domestic space, the city of Los Angeles and beyond, but also taking a detour to the subjective realm in order to do some inward sightseeing.
When looking at the panorama of sculptures and paintings that shape up Kilometraje, a torrent of dramatic references comes to mind: facial expressions fluctuating between the extremes of the human psyche, like the masks used in ancient Greek tragedies or in Japanese Noh dramas, objects as contained emotions; floral patterns and animal prints as clothes that have been petrified into colorful stone; flower vases replicating themselves and growing as corals into fractal continuity. Arranging the latitudes of thought within towers of stacked meaning, slowly step on the gas and everything drifts away into the horizon.
Andrés González, November 2020
Milena Muzquiz (b. 1972, Tijuana, Mexico) trained at the California College of Fine Arts, San Francisco and then completed an MFA at the Art Centre College of Design, Pasedena, tutored by legendary conceptual artist Mike Kelley.
She has presented solo exhibitions at: David Gill Gallery, London (2019); Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, lead by the Getty Foundation (2017); Travesía Cuatro, Madrid, Spain (2019, 2017, 2014); Travesía Cuatro, Guadalajara, Mexico (2014); Pantaleone Gallery, Palermo, Italy (2010); Interior Projects, Los Angeles (2008); and Deitch Projects, New York, USA (2000).
She has also exhibited in institutions including: Bohossian Foundation, Villa Empain, Brussels (2017); La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain (2016); Dickinson Gallery, NY, USA (2016); Peter Kilchmann (2015); 6th Liverpool Biennial (2010); 28th São Paulo Biennale (2008); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2007); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2007); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006).
Between 1995 and 2008 she was part of the musical duo Los Súper Elegantes, which she founded with Martiniano López Crozet. Combining installation, video-art and music, the band performed in museums, galleries and art fairs as well as music festivals accross Latin America and the United States.
The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.
Charlie Billingham (London, 1984) lives and works in the city of London, England. Through means such as painting and installation, Billingham isolates and re-contextualizes elements of Georgian and Regency prints and drawings from the 18th and early 19th century, establishing a kind of historical contrast. From a contemporary perspective, and with certain ironic and playful touches, the artist uses painting as a tool to create more complex environments, immersive installations that position history as a place that can be visited and revisited.
Hand Gestures is an installation consisting of a series of recent paintings and a wall painting specifically designed for the exhibition. The paintings recreate a series of isolated objects such as hands, feet, documents, chandeliers and wigs, the partial form of which is the suggestion that they exist in a larger universe. Billingham has developed a particular style of painting from a combination of shades, gradients and line drawing, a technique reminiscent of 18th century engraving methods.
The group of paintings in this exhibition originates from a previous project, which refers to A Rake’s Progress, a series of oil paintings by William Hogarth that were transformed into prints in 1735. In this series of eight images, the moral of Tom Rakewell is narrated, an heir who begins a path of descent into vice and ruin, ending up in jail, and ultimately, in a psychiatric hospital. Billingham has located certain elements of these baroque images that are later treated as independent scenes. However, despite the source of the paintings, this show privileges the narrative power of the images themselves, regardless of their historical origin. Hand Gestures delves into an even broader story (at a much more dizzying speed) that alludes to the origin and trajectory of the hands in the history of representation – from the first cave paintings some twenty thousand years ago, through the anatomical studies of the Renaissance, and culminating in the codification and syncretism of the Emoji. Billingham bets on the idea of the hand and its expression – the gesture – as a broader and more powerful story that has the ability to intersect the history of representation and image.
The Czech-Brazilian philosopher Vilém Flusser, who has deeply studied the notion of gesture, defines it as “a movement of the body or a tool attached to the body, for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation.” In this sense, Flusser differentiates between mechanical movement as something linked to survival, and gesture, as a movement related to an ulterior intention. Flusser also speaks of the human ability to read that intention in real time, and to decode it – which ultimately produces a series of articulated interpretations, or in other words, intuition. Billingham appeals to the intuitive system as the point where his paintings create moments of convergence and divergence, and the possibility of inferring meanings in the gestures depicted in the paintings.Certain works such as Roundabout, The Life Guardsman or Duke’s Meadows, present a series of hand movements that the viewer can immediately associate with intentions, even emotions. An interesting peculiarity that Billingham poses is the expressive possibility of other objects, even of other species. In The Hog and Dog, it is a dog’s hind leg and tail that gives the viewer a clue to the animal’s intention. In turn, the distinctive wall painting recreates a composition based on artistic pruning trees typical of the British public space, a tradition whose style solidified around the 18th century, and is in the artist’s words “one of the most perverse levels of the interference of man towards nature, who with his own hands tries to create order and beauty.”
In summary, Hand Gestures is a study of the gesture in its different dimensions: as a formal entity, where the pictorial gesture – through variation, movement of the line, and color – creates intricate visual environments, and transmits the intention of the artist; as a physical entity, where the gesture is declared a real and therefore representable phenomenon; and as a political entity, where the gesture is used to abstract, mediate and transmit a specific intention. Continuing the legacy of sharp British art, Billingham transforms images and their genealogy, appropriating them, allowing an open space for interpretation that does not prescribe answers.
 Flusser, Vilém. Gestures, translated by Nancy Ann Roth. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, 2014. P. 3.
Charlie Billingham (b. 1984, London, UK) graduated from Fine Art and History of Art at The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art (2008) and Fine Art at the Royal Academy Schools, London (2013).
Recent solo exhibitions include: A Rake’s Progress, SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, US (2020); Cornucopia, MAZ Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Mexico (2019); A Well Deserved Break, Park House, Dallas, USA (2019); Desire Path at Travesía Cuatro Madrid, Spain (2017); Charlie Billingham at Independent Régence presented by Supportico Lopez, Brussels, BL (2017); The Comforts of Bath, Moran Bondaroff, Los Angeles, USA (2016); Schaulust, Supportico Lopez, Berlin, DE (2015).
Group shows include: Crowd, Hannah Barry Gallery, London, UK (2020); Les Métamorphoses. Jeunes Artistes en Europe, curated by Thomas Delamarre at Fondation Cartier, Paris (2019); Objects to Identify, Moran Moran, Los Angeles, USA (2018); Absolute Éructance, with Charlie Billingham and Nils Alix-Tabeling, Damien & the Love Guru, Brussels, Belgium (2017); Plant Scenery of the World, Inverleith House, Edinburgh, UK (2017); The Coverly Set, Sergent’s Daughters, New York USA (2017); Figure.Out, Union Gallery, London, UK (2017); Aquel Que Camina Delante, Travesia Cuatro, Guadalajara, MX (2016); Carpet For A Lord, Supportico Lopez, Berlin, DE (2016); A Scratching Not A Biting, Bureau, New York, USA (2016); The Good The Bad and The Ugly (Part 3), Gesso Art Space, Vienna, Austria (2016); The Ultimate Vessel, Koppe Astner, Glasgow, UK (2015); The Funnies, MOT International, Brussels, BE (2015); Nobody Home, curated by Gigiotto del Vecchio, A Palazzo, Brescia, IT (2015), among others.
His work is part of the permanent collections at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, FR; David Roberts Art Foundation, London, UK; Cini Foundation, Venice, Italy; Saatchi Collection, UK; Fundación Calosa, MX; Ramin Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, UAE; Franks-Suss Collection, London, UK; HSBC Collection, London, UK; and Pérez Simón Collection, MX.