Review: Rafa Macarrón's "Fifteen" @ CAC Malaga
Between March 26th and June 6th, the Contemporary Art Center of Malaga presented Fifteen, a milestone exhibition by Rafa Macarrón curated by Fernando Francés. Featuring fifteen works made especially for this presentation, including ten canvases, four large-format bronze sculptures, and a polyptych made up of fifty drawings, the works are titled numerically in an effort to leave out any suggestions about their narratives.
As a self-taught artist, ex-cyclist, and physiotherapist by training, Macarrón's artistic practice has been strongly informed by popular culture influences, namely comics, as well as Spanish painting of the 50s and 60s. Blithe about the customary approaches and the "rules" imposed by the tradition, over the years he developed a playful work that represents everyday situations taken out of context and altered by the deformity of the characters. Comfortable with the knowledge about the human body through his studies in physiotherapy, the Madrid-born artist is often reducing his subjects to abstracted forms creating highly welcoming and intriguing scenes. Although known for his colorful, vibrant visuals, the body of work created for this presentation was created exclusively in a monochrome scale.
"I wanted the exhibition to be a project by itself, and a tribute to Las Pinturas Negras de Goya, Saura, Alfonso Fraile artworks, and also Dubuffet," the artist told Juxtapoz about this determined switch. "The space is diaphanous so I wanted all the works to be one. This led me to play with black and white colors and work without my detailed and meticulous painting." Along with the large scale, these two elements successfully accentuate the emotional weight behind the work. "I had to change the scale to make this exhibition. I did not want the space “to eat” my work, that's why I opted for the large scale and that's been a challenge. I tried to go to the immensity of the room and thus find the balance with my works," the artist explained."
This shift informed a different, more expressive mark-making as well as the use of larger painting tools, which led to powerful visuals in which his customary singular thin lines were replaced with more expressive and repetitive linework. "There was a moment when I liked my sketches and my drawings more than my artworks on canvas, so I started to draw on the canvas," Macarrón told us about the differences in his approach. This allowed for simpler, more subject-focused compositions, which also added to the overall impact of these monumental pieces. "I look at my previous work and they have more details and are very meticulous. Moving the drawing itself to the canvas is where I feel more comfortable now," the artist summarized. In addition to that, he is frequently experimenting with materials on top of acrylics, oils, pencils, or sprays, allowing each individual choice to speak for itself - linen to express warmth, aluminum or PVC to show coldness, and paper that allows him to show the most graphic parts. "Go back to colors? I don’t know, it would depend on the project I am working on," Macarrón concludes, clearly fascinated by the weight and impact of the newly developed aesthetic. —Sasha Bogojev