I caught up with Adrián Villar Rojas at his temporary studio in the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin.
He starts the conversation by saying, “I have a lot of problems with the word ‘studio’. And this last year – actually, this last six months – I’ve been trying to find new words to define things, and trying not to define too much.”
I had not seen him in person since his triumphant Byzantium Serpentine Exhibition in 2013, but had seen his work in the Moscow Biennale, in the new Frank Gehry LVMH building in Paris and in Frieze on various galleries’ stands.
Villar Rojas was born in 1980 in Rosario, Argentina, where his parents still live. He had a laboratory there where a team of workers made “bricks” and other things. This is now a thing of the past. “I would address it now as a moment of common and communal education. In a way I became a school and they became my school too.”
We stand in the large gallery surrounded by imposing boulders, each embedded with an incongruous selection of “stuff” collected from Turin or imported from Turkey.
Villar Rojas has in some cases created almost classic still lives with bread, meat and cheese, while in other instances it looks like something tragic has happened leaving just remnants – an odd shoe – and the rock is the only witness to the event. He has also installed a nest of a honero, the native bird of Argentina, on the roof, which will remain after the exhibition.
Villar Rojas labels himself a parasite. Before he installed the Istanbul boulders in the large gallery (“100 tonnes, more or less, which arrived on 7 huge trucks – like 12-metre-long trucks”) he prepared the building.
With a small team they cleaned both the facade and the interior, obscured the visitors’ desk, removed all signage, and closed the internal entrance to the café, thus restoring the building to its initial state when it was designed by Italian minimalist architect Claudio Silvestrin almost 20 years ago.
Villar Rojas has also insisted that there will be no artificial light or heat, meaning in these dark months the only light will be from the street lights diffused through the small front windows.
The long corridor running the length of the building has several small sculptures, the most poignant a simple arrangement of a baseball cap and a sports bag. It seems to me a self-portrait of the artist who stated to me: “I think what this year has taught me, in a harsh way, is that I am a nomad. And I don’t have a place.” It is not work that is the problem. “Work we have – a good pile, many years ahead.”
He admits that the problem is more having time to regroup and plan. “But also it’s a good moment to be a cat and lie on a couch and do nothing.”
Rinascimento, Adrián Villar Rojas continues at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, until 28 February
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