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Happiness is a state of inertia, Ińigo Manglano-Ovalle
Max Protetch Gallery (www.maxprotetch.com)

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For his fifth solo exhibition at Max Protetch, Manglano-Ovalle will present a major new sculpture: a fish tank based on a scaled-down version of Mies van der Rohe's unbuilt House with Four Columns (or 50x50 House, 1951). Both elegant and menacing, the work demonstrates the artist's continuing interest in producing objects whose physical intensity is capable of posing probing critical questions about the times in which we live.

The fish tank, built with glass and white aluminum, lit with white light and lined on the bottom with white gravel, will be filled with Astyanax fasciatus mexicanus, commonly known as the Blind Mexican Cave Fish; these fish are indeed blind and make their way via smell and touch. The object itself is profoundly transparent, but because it has been installed below eye level, and its inhabitants are blind fish, it inverts the notion of transparency, calling into question what true visibility looks like. In order to look inside the tank, a viewer would have to prostrate himself, offering a gesture of submission in exchange for verification of the seemingly transparent scene inside. Because they are blind, the fish within are never accorded the ability to see the creatures who stare in at them, establishing a one-sided metaphorical equation in which vision itself becomes transparent––and blurred.

By using House with Four Columns as a starting point, Manglano-Ovalle mines this canonical Modernist design for an array of philosophical, sociological, art historical, and even ecological references. The artist has long looked to icons of Modernism, particularly Mies van der Rohe, as emblematic of the contradictions and unfulfilled promise of 20th century political movements and historical trends. But he also shows how these contradictions come to serve as the foundations for present conditions. As accessibility to information explodes in our own age, it paradoxically becomes harder and harder to ascertain the parameters of the truth, which is subject to numerous mediating (and sometimes politically motivated) forces. The unbuilt house is represented as a model, and the model is a fish tank––it both stands in for Mies's unrealized design and replaces it with a troubling new vision, an analogue to Plato's cave that has been subjected to the intense glare of illumination.

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Happiness is a state of inertia also relates to the artist's series of investigations of naturally occurring phenomena like storms and icebergs as metaphors for contemporary cultural conditions. Included in the exhibition are a series of mandala-like black-and-white images. Based on aerial photographs of a section of Antarctica (referred to as Iceberg Series B15) taken by NASA between 2001 and 2005, the source material is in fact the tracing of an event, the dissolution of an ice cap. By treating these traces of ominous environmental import like Rorschach inkblots, Manglano-Ovalle conflates the escapism inherent in their surface beauty with a critique of psycho-political flaws in society's relationship to the visual: the inability to fully trust what we see, despite our intense reliance on what we see.

Ińigo Manglano-Ovale is currently the subject of a one-person exhibition at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachuetts, on view through October 31, 2010. Entitled Gravity is a forced to be reckoned with, the exhibition includes a major new installation (also based on Mies van der Rohe's House with Four Columns) and video works. He has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions at venues throughout the world, including the National Sculpture Factory, Cork, Ireland (2008); The Art Institute of Chicago (2005); Haus Esters and Haus Lange of the Krefelder Kunstmuseen, Krefeld, Germany (2005); el Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey, Mexico (2004); La Caixa Foundation, Madrid (2003); Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2003); the Barcelona Pavilion, Mies van der Rohe Foundation, Barcelona (2002); and the Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (2001, traveled to the Rose Art Museum, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Orange County Museum of Art, and the Palm Beach Institute for Contemporary Art).

Manglano-Ovalle also been included in many major group exhibitions, including Documenta XII (Kassel, Germany, 2007); Not I: A Samuel Beckett Centenary Celebration, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2006); the Liverpool Biennial (2005); “What’s New Pussycat?” Museum für Modern Kunst, Frankfurt (2005); Somewhere Better Than This Place, The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2003); Tempo, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2002); and Whitney Biennial 2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2000). In 2001 he was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He lives and works in Chicago.

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