Álvaro Urbano’s (b. 1983, Madrid, SP) work involves an archeology of desires and past intentions. By creating atmospheres that replicate specific spaces and architectural gestures, the artist explores the narratives that are embedded in these built bodies. Urbano borrows strategies from theater and filmmaking–such as lighting, sound and costumes–in order to explore new formats of immersiveness, his projects are often structured as scenes or sequenced chapters. The interweaving of different media is used to generate situations that approach liminal and oniric dimensions transforming the exhibition space into a vessel of phantasms and apparitions.
These staged realities are inhabited by vegetal and animal elements, only from a close distance these entities reveal themselves as intricate organic simulations. Functioning as active characters instead of passive props, they interact with the viewers within an established fictional setting, generating parallel stories derived from botanical sensitivities and the common ground of art history. Urbano uses the “what-if” as a narrative trigger for exploring the volitional underground that can be unearthed from these modernist and contemporary ruins, often verging into the hallucinatory realm.
The exercise of re-creating and re-framing architecture becomes an intimate exploration of the subjectivity of other artists and the social context in which these spaces were considered as functional, innovative or condemned to oblivion. Figures such as Federico García Lorca, Luis Barragán, Eileen Gray and Oscar Wilde appear in these stagings as elusive figures enriched with fantasy and speculation. Mimicry is used by Urbano as a platform in which illusion derives in humorous transformation; parody and homage bloom in synchrony.
Urbano has presented his work in exhibitions and projects at TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, SP; Bergen Assembly, NO; Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, US; La Casa Encendida, Madrid, SP; Art Basel Statements, Basel, CH, with ChertLüdde; Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, DE; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, DE; Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, BE; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, DE; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, DE; CAB, Brussels, BE; Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow, RU; PAC, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, IT; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, DE; among others.
Urbano’s work is part of Hamburger Bahnhof Collection, Berlin, DE; Collection Lafayette Anticipations – Fonds de dotation Famille Moulin, Paris, FR; TEA Tenerife, SP; TBA21, Madrid, SP; Collegium, Arévalo, SP; Colección Museo Jumex, Mexico City, MX; and Fonds régional d’art contemporain Bretagne, Rennes, FR.
Together with Petrit Halilaj (b. 1986, Kostërrc, XK), his partner and frequent artistic collaborator, Urbano received in 2014 the Villa Romana Fellowship. They attended The Artists and Architects-in-Residence at MAK, Los Angeles (2016/2017) and hold a joint professorship at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, FR. Urbano and Halilaj have presented their joint work at Ocean Space, Venice, IT; Bally Foundation, Lugano, CH; Frankfurter Kunstverein, DE; Palacio de Cristal, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, SP; Autostrada Biennale at the National Library, Prishtina, XK; the 17th Quadriennale di Roma, Rome, IT; the Biennale Gherdëina, in Ortisei, IT and S.A.L.T.S., Basel, CH.
Upcoming projects include a solo show SculptureCenter, New York, US (2024). Collaborative exhibitions with Petrit Halilaj will take place in Guggenheim, Bilbao, SP (2023); Sydney Biennial, Sydney, AU (2024); and Portikus, Frankfurt, DE (2025).
Álvaro Urbano studied Interior Architecture at the ETSAM in Madrid, and Fine Arts at the Institut für Raumexperimente, Universität der Künste in Berlin; he lives and works between Berlin and Paris.