© Cristina Iglesias

Untitled (Tilted Hanging Ceiling), 1997
Iron, resin, stone powder
15 x 915 x 600 cm
Private Collection
Installation view at Museu Serralves, Porto, 2002
Photo: Kristien Daem

Cristina Iglesias

The first major presentation of the work of Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias in the UK.

Cristina Iglesias' work evolved in the context of European and American sculpture during the 1980s and 90s, when a generation of artists expanded the object of sculpture into the realm of installation. This survey brings together 40 sculptural and architectural pieces installed as a sequence of personal spaces. Incorporating interests in literature, architecture and geology, the works present a sensual and evocative setting using such disparate materials and techniques as cement, alabaster, resin, bas-relief, tapestry and silkscreen.

The first work in the exhibition, "Tilted Hanging Ceiling", 1997, creates a suspended canopy for the Whitechapel's Lower Gallery, resembling the textured walls of a cave or a fossilised seabed. Inviting the visitor to look upwards, this work exerts itself through its sheer presence and mass. The surrounding screens of enormous copper sheets contain images of a mysterious metropolis. Formed by creating ramshackle maquettes from cardboard boxes and using photography more like a drawing tool, Iglesias then silk-screens the images of the structures onto copper and enlarges them to a human scale.

The next room in the exhibition contains the "Jealousies" - large mesh screens joined together to form intimate chambers. (In Spanish the word "celosía" means a slated shutter, or a vertical blind or the emotion jealousy.) These works recall the ornamentation of Moorish architecture and contain extracts from the work of modernist literary visionaries like Raymond Roussel and Joris Karl Huysmans.

If caves and labyrinths provide frequent references for Iglesias, then gardens provide another. Her work is intricately connected with the idea of arcadia, an idyllic landscape or a spiritual and psychological space that evokes transience and passage to a heavenly place. The Vegetation Rooms are constructed as larger-than-life organic environments. At once reassuring and claustrophobic, these organic and architectural structures are placed together to illustrate the slow time of geology and the fast pace of technology.

"Passages", 2002, comprise overlapping canopies that recall sunscreens in Arab street markets. This work also reflects the influence of Walter Benjamin's writings for Iglesias and in particular his concept of "the cult of distraction", where we no longer focus on specific objects but rather drift in an absent-minded way through our environment. Walking through the exhibition conjures up the experience of an urban labyrinth - the art of losing one's way where sculpture and architecture provide a backdrop for musing and daydreaming. Drawing on the languages of architecture and ornamentation, Iglesias' elaborate casts, curving walls and flying canopies create spaces of the imagination.

Cristina Iglesias is part of an ongoing programme strand at the Whitechapel assessing the work of an internationally renowned artist mid-career. Previous shows have included Jeff Wall (1996), Thomas Schütte (1998), Nan Goldin - Devil's Playground and Rodney Graham (both 2002).

21 March - 18 May 2003
Hours: Tue-Sun 11 am - 6 pm, Thursdays until 9 pm

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