Miguel Mitlag: Malba-Museo De Arte Latinoamericano

By Gainza, Maria | Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Miguel Mitlag: Malba-Museo De Arte Latinoamericano


Gainza, Maria, Artforum International


In the chapter "The Landscape of His Dreams" in his 1992 book An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks tells of a painter who, after a serious illness, developed extraordinary and persistent waking visions of Pontito, his hometown in Italy; for many years afterward he painted obsessively detailed scenes of the place with photographic accuracy. Miguel Mitlag's installations and three-dimensional models bring this story to mind through their tangible reality, the spine-chilling feeling that these places must exist somewhere. An ordinary-looking currency-exchange office stands in the middle of the room; as at the local swimming pool, a slim diving board cuts through the air, next to three aluminum steps that protrude from the wall; as in the library around the corner, a pair of bookcases face each other. But, after a closer look, these familiar "places" suddenly seem remote and strange: The Cabina de Cambio (Exchange Booth) (all works 2007) is completely empty; the Trampolin (Diving Board), painted a flaming red, hovers over a space devoid of water; and the shelving, Biblioteca con libros de autoayuda, esotericos y ocultistas (Library with self-help books, esoterica, and books on the occult), seems to be missing some of its parts and has an antiseptic quality that recalls a laboratory more than a library. Curious alterations appear here and there in scenes that have been stripped to a minimum of information; the artist calls it pseudo-realism.

Mitlag began his career some ten years ago with photographs that documented pre-existing spaces to which he had introduced slight modifications. From there he shifted to building the spaces that he photographed, transforming them into images with both a peculiar vividness and an ungraspable slipperiness--a kind of mental photography: for instance, a living room with curious blue drops of paint on the floor; or a corner of a room with a forgotten wooden guitar lying on the ground next to brown cushions, brown curtains, and a brown mattress. …

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