Currently on view at Marian Goodman Gallery is Los Aristòcrates de la Selva y la Reina de Castilla, a large scale exhibition by the renowned German conceptual artist Lothar Baumgarten. Known for his slide projections, site-specific installations and sound recordings in which he a range of different issues from international politics to institutionalization of the arts, Baumgarten is once again presenting a complex body of work at Marian Goodman Gallery. Carrying the idea of civilization into the core of his argument, the artist touches upon different representations of cultural identity and evolution of the mankind.
At the center of Los Aristòcrates de la Selva y la Reina de Castilla are four ship models among which are Christopher Columbus’ Pinta, Niña, and Santa María. Documenting the excellence in craftsmanship and nautical technology at the time of the last Discovery of the Américas, these ships, originally built from the wood of the Cantabrian forests of Northern Spain, demonstrate the importance given to the maritime culture in that era, and serve as a grounding force for the transnational identities at play.
The way the models are presented inside the gallery have certain significance in delivering the atmosphere of Columbus’s era, when the originals were built. Installed on metal cantilevers as a metaphor for the rough conditions of the ocean, the models stand on pedestals that are hand stained with Onoto seeds, a type of plant commonly used by South and Central American natives for face painting. This material, also used for covering the columns inside the gallery space, is the reason early colonizers mistakenly named native peoples as ‘red skinned’. In short, the pedestals, covered in a material vital to the native tribes, are used to hoist the glories of their conquerors.
The river names painted on the gallery walls, with feathers of eagles and falcons attached onto some letters contribute to the somewhat theatrical nature of the installation, while an overpowering sound installation completes the immersive and disorienting atmosphere of the space. The surrounding score, repeating river names in certain dying languages of native societies, along with the sound of the ocean, orchestrates an unusual harmony, making the sound element a nearly tactile part of the exhibition.
Accompanying the major installation are screenings of various video pieces by Baumgarten. Reaching 108 minutes in total, these videos document the lives of Yãnomãni people in Venezuela and Brazil between the years of 1978 and 1980 when the artist lived in Orinoco region among the locals.
Lothar Baumgarten: Los Aristòcrates de la Selva y la Reina de Castilla is on view at Marian Goodman Gallery through June 14, 2014
Marian Goodman Gallery [Exhibition Page]