October, 23rd 2015 – January, 10 th 2016
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente presents the exhibition Ars Combinatoria on the photographer Chema Madoz (Madrid, 1958), one of the most interesting creators in the contemporary art scene thanks to his poetic vision and particular manner of interpreting art through photography.
It could be said that Chema Madoz’s art form is the art of combining elements and objects. Thereby the title of this exhibition makes reference to the combinational arts developed by the Majorcan philosopher Ramón Llull (13th and 14th century).
By the 1990s, after a first stage when he worked with the human figure, natural light, chance, and photo reportage, Chema Madoz’s studio began to collect objects that he had found throughout his years of creation. All of these accumulated objects are at the origin of his photographs. Chema Madoz not only composes his photographs with objects, however, but also by playing with natural elements. Once he conceives of an idea in mind, he designs and builds it to be photographed—thereby, for the artist, the photograph becomes a register of memory that allows him to materialize an idea giving form to the final image, to his work. Chema Madoz considers himself to be an object sculptor who works from the perspective of a photographer. But we could also call him a visual poet or a conceptual artist, since his artistic work ensues from a mindful, intellectual process. In this cerebral process governing all his photographs, sometimes conclusions come after the creation of the object, and other times before it.
The artist approaches objects in different ways: the found object displayed without altering it, the modified object, and the one that he himself invents and builds in his studio. Always returning to objects, Madoz transforms them, searching for different combinations, their hidden relationships at first sight, digging into the tricks of the eye. In his photography, there are displacements, metamorphoses, combinations, or the search for relationships between objects, a kind of lightheartedness associated with the idea of a game. Chema Madoz understands games as the child’s main way of understanding and relating to the world. In the chance encounters he subjects his objects to, Madoz is also linked to the surrealists in his search for new meanings, new relationships, and new paths for the mind to wander and open up our field of vision.
There are objects that have a conceptual weight of their own and a strong semiotics to them, a recurring theme in the artist’s work: books, paintings, shoes, glasses and spoons, drops of water… as well as all things associated with travel.
Chema Madoz tries to makes subtle changes to things, adding and subtracting from them to create that strangeness we feel before his photographs. Strangeness and familiarity are two characteristics we find in his work. Strangeness because faced with his work, at first glance, they appear shocking or surprising to us; and familiarity because right away, we recognize his subtle gestures, and when we discover them, they bring a smile to our way of looking. Madoz wants to make us partake knowingly in his discoveries and so he refuses to guide our way of looking, giving descriptive titles to his works. We find some pieces with a certain dose of social commentary and critique; and although the great majority of his images have a friendly, poetic character to them, we also find others with a harsher, gloomier character, closer to dark humor.
This exhibition of some 70 photographs provides an extensive itinerary through the artist’s oeuvre, offering a broad view of the different phases of his work, as well as his development and turn to objects that called his attention. Along with the photographs is a documentary video Chema Madoz, regar lo escondido (Chema Madoz, Watering Hidden Things, 2012) about his trajectory as an artist; Fotopoemario (Photopoems, 2003), in which Brossa composes his poetry from twelve of Madoz’s images; and 24 Dibond prints of the artist’s graphic work.
(Oliva María Rubio, Curator)