Pilar Albarracin: Kewenig Galerie

By Schwabsky, Barry | Artforum International, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Pilar Albarracin: Kewenig Galerie


Schwabsky, Barry, Artforum International


It may not be a hard-and-fast guarantee of quality when a work of art brings a broad smile to your face the minute you set eyes on it, but an appeal to the pleasure principle is no bad sign. Such was the effect on me of Pilar Albarracin's Techo de ofrendas (Ceiling of Offerings), 2004, an installation consisting of hundreds of colorful, ruffled flamenco dresses bunched together to fill the overhead space of the Kewenig Galerie. Of course it's a great joke for a Spanish artist having her first one-person show abroad to play on stereotyped images of her homeland, yet there is something so tender and loving about the allusion: That floating mass of color, and the tactile richness with which it is embodied, are nothing short of gorgeous.

The idea of offering, alluded to in the work's title, refers to a Spanish custom according to which women may bring dresses to church as donations, like ex-votos, in gratitude for some favor granted by the Virgin. Referring to an earlier realization of the piece, Rosa Martinez wrote of a sort of divine barter "from woman to woman." While the humility presumed by a votive offering may seem lacking in a benefaction that seems intended rather to overwhelm and dazzle the receiver, one may trust that even a celestial being might easily be won over by the bravura of Albarracin's gesture and the resplendence of the result. Then, too, the work evokes something akin to the experience of a small child hiding beneath its mother's skirts--a sense that one has found relief or asylum beneath a heavenly canopy of the maternal. …

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