Marisol Malatesta: I'm not pregnant!, Meals & SUVs, London
Monday 25 February 2008
Beyond the established West End galleries and slick architectural spaces such as Victoria Miro or White Cube, with their stable of blue chip artists that tend to get written about in these pages, there exists a whole other art world. Not just the hip galleries in the industrial wastes of Vyner Street, the East End's answer to Cork Street, but small artist project spaces where the young and unknown show their work. One such space is Meals & SUVs, a small gallery complex on the first floor of a dilapidated building in Haggerston Road, Dalston. It is here that a young Peruvian artist, Marisol Malatesta, has a one-person show.
Born in Peru, Malatesta completed her fine art MA at Byam Shaw in 2003. Since then her work has been shown in a number of group exhibitions, including the arcanely named Did You Feed the Duck? at the former Nylon Gallery. Her rather engaging abstract paintings were based on architectonic structures such as Tatlin's famous unbuilt tower.
The blurb for this show suggests her work "references the disciplines of architecture and archaeology in its incorporation of the monumental and the mythic..." Big claims. She better describes her collection of figurative drawings shown here as "cheerful characters in weird scenarios".
Working as a gallery attendant at the Undercover Surrealism show at the Hayward she came across George Bataille. Attracted to his notion that the beautiful, the subversive and the seductive are close bedfellows she began to explore Peruvian Pre-Inca vases and artefacts, which she has drawn using children's marker pens and crayons.
Malatesta claims that it was through the rediscovery of Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Millais and artists such as Goya, Hogarth and Brueghel that she came to explore human physiognomy in an attempt to "understand" the psychology of facial expressions.
In an anteroom inspired by museum archival "black rooms", where objects are hidden from public view, are a series of drawings based on erotic Peruvian artefacts. The tensions of being a young South American female artist, are, according to Malatesta, what fuel her work and there is an implicit assumption that the whole somehow creates an overarching narrative, which, quite frankly, it doesn't. For the theoretical underpinnings and references don't really make up for the rather unresolved ideas. It's still a long way to those blue chip galleries.
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