Written for my Bachelor of Fine Arts, Critical Studies, 2014.
The emergence of contemporary minimalist art has enabled artists to challenge conventions and traditions of the painting medium, allowing exploration and further consideration of the materials they create with. Angela de la Cruz (b. 1965, Galicia, Spain) transgresses the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Cruz deconstructs the painted canvas, de-homing and presenting her works unusually, utilizing space corners and floor-space. Her damaged pieces are personified, embodying the raw, visceral and recognizably human. Cruz lists minimalism and film as influences, but transcends genre. She explores emotion and representation of the self, capturing something outside the planes of painting and sculptural form.
Painting as Sculpture, Art as Object:
Cruz defines herself as “a painter who makes sculptures” (Mark Edmonds) and “a sculptor who makes paintings”. (Mark Edmonds) Traditional painting conventions, use of the stretched canvas and paint, are subverted through violent, deconstructive gestures, creating emotive sculptural forms: “One day I took the crossbar out of the painting and bent it and the painting bent and from that moment on I looked at the paint on the painting as an object.” (Lisson Gallery) Challenging the plane of the canvas becomes a transformative gesture, allowing the artwork to transcend the medium and create its own environment and space. Donald Judd explores similar ideas in minimalist sculpture: “The main thing wrong with painting is that it is a rectangular plane placed flat against the wall.” (Donald Judd) Judd affirms that the use of actual space is a more powerful and specific thing; when a work is taken off the wall it becomes more accessible to others. There becomes no single way of viewing, “not confined to a particular way of hanging things in a room”. (Lisson Gallery) Fried rejects this idea, believing it refers to something that only pretends to be painting and is “non-art”. (Michael Fried) He rejects this interaction with the work as “theatre” (Michael Fried), yet it is this awareness of one’s self in relation to the work which is most powerful. The situation becomes that of the beholder; the work confronts and demands something of them. Cruz’s sagging and cowering forms are transformed. Without formality they welcome an approach, instigating a personal encounter.
Homeless (1996), After, Camden Arts Centre, London (2010):
Homeless, like many of Cruz’s works, is emotively titled, eliciting immediate empathy. These emotional states “conjure up a particular kind of imagery” (Lisson Gallery), assisting texture, feeling and atmosphere. Titles provide “a way to justify the existence of the work, giving it a place” (Lisson Gallery); Cruz’s humanize her works. The frame snapped and bent, Homeless lies wedged into the corner, baring its insides. The cream-painted canvas has buckled, stretched and folded. Homeless is a painting without a home, the broken frame rendering it unsuitable for conventional wall hanging. The work becomes a sympathetic entity in a state of homelessness. There is vulnerability in the placement of the work, like “being embraced by an elderly angel” (Charles Darwent). The buckles in the loose canvas make it more human; the drapes resigned, weary and fragile. For others, the work is “jammed in the corner of the gallery, like a child being punished”. (Adrian Searle) The discomfort inherent in the frame and placement attributed also to the reading of the work—not cream but “off-white” (Adrian Searle) or “urine-coloured” (Lisson Gallery) and not humorous but a “comedy of embarrassment” (Adrian Searle) when compared to the white paintings of Ryman and Malevich. It is, however, the painful human brand of humour in Cruz’s work that is engaging, an entirely human social anxiety. The broken frames create slumped, stilted forms, vulnerable and open, provoking awkward conversation.
Larger Than Life(2004), Lisson Gallery:
Cruz likens Larger Than Life to “a huge woman who couldn’t dance and had fallen to the floor”. (Adrian Searle) The work stretches wall-to-wall, bent and cramped under the white ceiling and lights. Its edges twist and contort, the shiny brown fabric sagging and folding like ripples on a liquid surface. The angled bends in the edges of the piece are comical and anecdotal, returning the viewer to a time when it was necessary to squeeze into ridiculously small spaces in order to hide. However Larger Than Life also conveys a more tense energy; fully lit, exposed, and constricted, it can be likened to a wolf backed into a corner: “If you’ve ever felt the need to huddle behind a cushion or wished the walls would swallow you, you will recognize the urge to make yourself small being explored here.” (Waldemar Januszczak) Cruz’s paintings possess a relatable brand of awkward human “buffoonery” (Adrian Searle), slumping comically. The classic slapstick ‘I’ve fallen and can’t get back up’ is easily observed in her work, yet it is the subtle undertones that convey an equally important, deep-seated anxiety and discomfort.
“Her paintings cower and lean in corners, or flop exhausted from the sheer strain of being in public. These paintings are like so much discarded clothing or violated skin. If they have a life of their own, it is one of constant unremitting effort.” (Adrian Searle)
The same vulnerability found in Homelessis observed in Larger Than Life. Cruz’s deconstruction and violent gestures in the alteration of the canvas frame destroy the stoicism of the flat, two-dimensional plane of the canvas. The folds, creases and sags effectively communicate a human tiredness that is universally recognisable. Her works are emotive and atmospheric, both confronting and shrinking from the viewer, a bizarre contradiction personified in the organic folds of destroyed canvas.
Much of Cruz’s work is interpreted as analogous to the death of the painting medium, the precarious nature of her works appearing to reflect the fragility of painting. Yet what is most meaningful and engaging are the qualities of self-portraiture that are explored: “To my eyes, what counts in her art is the emotional weight she achieves with her seemingly minimal ploys.” (Waldemar Januszczak) Cruz occupies a transitory space between painting and sculpture but this is not her focus: “The moment I cut through the canvas I get rid of the grandiosity of painting.” (Lisson Gallery) These small organic folds of canvas matter most, capturing the tired nuances of everyday life, and reflecting the forms of Cruz’s body. She communicates everyday human anxieties, and crafts a space in which conversation with the physical manifestation of these social discomforts is entirely possible. Consequently, there is an intimacy and reflexivity in the making and viewing of Angela de la Cruz’s sculptural paintings that is unparalleled by interaction with a flat canvas hung traditionally on a wall.
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Lisson Gallery. ” Angela de la Cruz ‘In Conversation’ with Jenni Lomax and Greg Hilty Part II.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.
Lisson Gallery. ” Angela de la Cruz ‘In Conversation’ with Jenni Lomax and Greg Hilty Part III.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.
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