Colombian-born, London-based artist Oscar Murillo opens his first solo exhibition in the United States today, in the city referred to as the capital of Latin America. His exhibition “work” will be on view through Aug. 2, 2013 at the Rubell Family Collection, in Miami. It’s a landmark show for an artist just 26 years of age, coming as it does during the Art Basel Miami Beach fair.
Murillo, in addition to performance and video works, creates large paintings, five of which constitute the Rubell show. His canvases often include words or word fragments such as “pagne” or “yoga,” which adorned canvases he showed at the Independent fair in New York this spring, in the booth of London gallery Modern Art. The paintings sometimes look as though they had been scribbled upon and then left on the floor for a while to pick up dirt.
“The Rubells saw my work at the Independent,” Murillo told A.i.A. by phone from Miami this morning. “They had never come across it before and they were curious to know more and visit my studio, which was then in New York.”
But Murillo didn’t have any work at the studio at that time, so he pulled an all-nighter. “Over the course of one night, I made a body of work, so they could see a studio in full operation,” he said.
The Rubells were sufficiently impressed to invite the young artist to live at the Rubell Family Collection this summer, using its 3,600-square-foot gallery as a studio.
The giant space was not the only thing that informed the new works. Rather, exposure to Miami’s Latin culture, as well as a weekend visit to Colombia, was part of the inspiration for the new show.
“The Rubells’ staff are 80 percent Colombian, so my being there became a cultural experience,” Murillo said. “I moved away from Colombia to London with about 50 percent of my family when I was 10. So while in some ways my immediate environment was the same, London has never been a Latino place like the States. It was very welcoming, but there wasn’t the kind of community you can find in the States.”
An anthropological perspective, perhaps inspired by his position on the outside of British culture, carries into the choice of words he inscribes on his paintings.
“One of my works says chorizo, a food which comes from Spain. Then you look at colonialism in South America and how the idea of a food becomes part of a different context. Yoga is from India, and was long practiced only by men and was seen as a kind of philosophy and religion. Now it’s come to the Western world, where it is dominated by women.”
In “work,” Murillo shows paintings inscribed with the words mango, chorizo, and yoga, along with two abstract paintings. A catalogue including a text by Hans Ulrich Obrist and photographs of Murillo’s time in residence at the Rubell Collection will be available.