By: María Cristina Pignalosa. March 13, 2007
The Lego toy brand is, in a way, a subversive, controversial and problematic icon, says Colombian artist Nadín Ospina, who inaugurated this week a new stage of his series Colombialand, at the Cervantes Institute in Paris.
This series uses the tokens of this famous brand of children’s toys to make politically incorrect images.
The work he is presenting in Paris is entitled The Flowers of Evil and is an animation in 3DMax format. It is inspired, according to the artist, by the perverse idea of turning the exotic into the evil counterpart of the characters that the Danish firm Lego uses in its popular educational toys for children. The fashionable bad guy usually plays us, says Ospina.
The paintings that make up this series are pictorial enlargements of the animation stills; a four-minute fragment that is projected on large screens in a specially conditioned space.
Flowers of Evil consists of a video installation, sculptural objects in the center and a series of paintings that set the scene for the space where the video is projected. The exhibition was curated by Spanish professor and curator José Jiménez (European Aesthetics Prize 2006).
The relationship between Ospina and Lego began 10 years ago, when the artist bought a Lego toy for his daughter in Paris, from the Legoland series, in which stories take place in exotic places. At that time, the specific game for Latin America had a background of jungle, pre-Columbian pyramids, parrots, monkeys, parrots, snakes and also indigenous people, in addition to a series of tremendously sordid local characters. The artist says that the dolls have cut faces, badly shaved beards and are armed to the teeth, with pistols, rifles, machetes and bombs. It is the perfect and prejudiced portrayal of Latin America by the media in Europe, Ospina adds.
What I do is to take Lego’s proposal and magnify it. Play its game, the game that Lego proposes and take it to a superlative dimension. To take it out of the children’s universe and project it to a plane where it allows us to see that our children play with objects that we ourselves did not detect.
Painting and technology For the artist, his work is a union between a contemporary technique and a millenary one. It is a way to potentiate painting through technology and to revert technology into a handmade element, in quotation marks, like painting, adds the artist.
With this series, Ospina intends to show something new after the theme of pre-Columbian icons with which he has been so successful. Flowers of Evil takes him on a different route; a good road.
The exhibition is complemented by a catalog that contains a text by art critic Bernard Marcadé, who in turn takes up Baudelaire’s approach to The Morality of the Toy.
With this exhibition, Ospina consolidates his position as one of the most internationally renowned Colombian artists. His work has been exhibited in events such as the Sao Paulo, Havana, Lyon and Venice Biennials. He won the National Artists Salon and the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in New York .
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY .
Ana María Escallón Art critic “The work he takes to Paris is the kind of childish game added to Colombian stereotypes that in a double reading, picks up the symptoms of the prejudices of each culture.”
Eduardo Serrano Historian and critic “He touches on aspects of Latin America’s cultural and social reality with a sharp political commentary despite his playful mood. He uses a sharp sense of humor.”
Fernando Toledo Writer and critic “His work not only allows us to reflect on violence, but also allows us to see how we are seen and how our image is perceived outside the region.”
Bernard Marcadé French art critic and professor “To the perverse manipulation operated by the creators of these toys, the Colombian artist Nadín Ospina opposes his own visual manipulations, which level a deliberately critical and political opinion.”