by Sukanya GargOct 10, 2019
The exhibition Double Skin by French-Moroccan artist Yto Barrada is her first solo exhibition in Latin America. Presented by Estancia FEMSA – Casa Luis Barragán, the exhibition is on view at the Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico from June 22, 2019 to September 8, 2019. Barrada won the inaugural Ellen Auerbach Award in Berlin in 2006, was named Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year in 2011, won the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2015, and was awarded the 2019 Roy R. Neuberger Prize. Her work combines the strategies of the documentary film with the metaphorical approach to imagery in her photographic, installation, and sculptural work.
The exhibition, which brings together the artist’s newly commissioned works, deals with notions of aesthetic ambiguity – which resonate with many aspects of Barragán work and life. Double Skin also engages Barragán’s deep interest in magic and enigma, which he understood to be crucial elements of architecture, as well as with his use of the formal and symbolic tension between concepts such as opacity/clarity, desire/restriction, openness/enclosure.
In the studio space of Barragán’s house, Barrada covers the walls with a second skin: a wallpaper from the series Paste Papers (2019). These works are based on designs she found in different books belonging to Luis Barragán, such as: The Grain Silo-Citadels of Morocco; Coatlicue; The Art of Gardens; Max Ernst; Spanish Andalucia and Parables and Evangelical Allegories, among others. The practice of decorating book covers and endpapers with paste paper designs dates back to the 17th century. Originally used by bookbinders, paste paper was also applied to line drawers in modest homes. Barrada amplifies this discrete function in her piece by transforming the paste paper into an exterior ornament for the studio walls, thus bringing intimacy into full view. This gesture of transportation acts as a rich metaphor for the many ambiguities implicit in Barragán’s life and work.
Dispersed throughout the rooms of the house one finds five chromatic collages, the Practice Pieces (Color Charts) (2019), made with hand-dyed silk velvets. Inspired by dyers, and the color chart sampling systems used in textile conservation, these pieces are inscribed within Barrada’s long-standing interest in educational materials, platforms, and structures. Both Mexico and Morocco boast long histories of natural dye production, including cochineal, indigo, and Tyrian purple.
Lastly, in the library of the house one finds the short film Horsehair, Confetti, and Rice (2019), projected directly onto a yellow monochrome painting made in Barragán’s architecture studio. The film is a piece of experimental cinema, with a strong emphasis on materials and textures, in which a wealth of colours and shapes unravel. The hallucinatory quality of the film also alludes to historical artistic imaginaries that stem from both Mexico and Morocco. As such, the exhibition pays homage to the strong influence of Morocco’s vernacular architecture - and the country’s material culture in general - on Barragán’s, and his friend and notable collaborator Mathias Goeritz’ architectural oeuvres. Furthermore, Double Skin is framed within Barrada’s long engagement with architecture and the history of modernism through multiple past projects.