May 17, 2012 - Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) - Rita McBride: Public Tender
May 17, 2012

Rita McBride: Public Tender

Alexander Hick, Day After Day (film still), 2011.*

Rita McBride
Oferta Pública / Public Tender

18 May–24 September 2012

Museu d’Art Contemporani 
de Barcelona (MACBA)
Plaça dels Àngels, 1
08001 Barcelona, Spain
Hours: weekdays (except Tuesdays), 11–7:30pm
24 June–24 September, 11–8pm
Saturdays, 10–8pm
Sundays and public holidays, 10–3pm

Exhibition organized by MACBA and curated by Bartomeu Marí

Educated in the United States but based in Germany, Rita McBride is a professor at the prestigious Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Her work explores the production of public space and the reception of culture through sculptures that recreate familiar elements from our immediate environment. McBride sometimes dramatizes objects related to architecture and design, often through the use of unusual materials and unexpected dimensions. As such, she examines acquired notions of shape, function, and material in relation to a vocabulary that challenges the myths of progress induced by modern ideology. In her pieces, industrialization, mass production processes, and the laws of efficiency are brought up against the role of handmade artifacts and the sphere of the dysfunctional. McBride thus pushes the boundaries and the qualities of the white cube, a spatial modality that is often considered indispensable for the neutrality required to exhibit artworks.

The exhibition
On entering the exhibition we immediately encounter a reconstruction of the ground floor of Villa Savoye, the famous house designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965) and built between 1929 and 1931 in Poissy, France. In Backsliding, Sideslipping, one Great Leap and the “Forbidden” (1994–2012) the life-size floor plan of the villa becomes a kind of pedestal for other sculptures: Double Helix Spiral Staircase (1990), a rattan spiral that rises up towards the ceiling, and Glass Conduits (1999), glass ducts that make their way along the wall until they are interrupted by the architecture of the building. McBride breaks away from the traditional idea of sculpture—the creation of unique elements intended for contemplation—and instead offers a panoramic, almost filmic reading of space, in which the artworks and the exhibition environment come together and form a complex narrative.

Two aspects that are crucial for understanding Rita McBride’s work—scale and materials—are intertwined in works like Tangerine Cloud Template (2006), Servants and Slaves (Domestic) (2003), White Elephant (Wall) (2003), and Chair (Smoked) (2003). These pieces are based on a perception of architecture as domestic space, in which modernity makes its mark by subordinating form to function, and bringing the expressivity of industrial materials into the foreground.

Nevertheless, the work that most forcefully challenges the boundaries of sculptural functionality is perhaps her best-known and most iconic work, Arena (1997), an enormous structure that emulates large public spaces designed to hold crowds. Arena is a kind of huge amphitheatre that is brought inside the museum space and transforms the conventional relationships between subject and object. Its very presence changes a space intended for visual contemplation into another that is ready to host actions, while its circularity favors encounters among spectators, who become both perceiving subjects and objects of perception. In conjunction with the artist, the institution that displays this special work programs a series of activities (lectures, screenings, performances) that are usually excluded from the exhibition space.

Arena is not the only work by McBride that has attained monumental dimensions. Other large-scale works include Mae West (2002–11), a 52-meter-high, 32-meter-wide, 57-tonne carbon fiber sculpture. Located in Effnerplatz, on the outskirts of the constantly expanding city of Munich, it openly takes on a colonizing role in relation to public space, both in its scale and its shape. The artist herself has described it as “a tool to define the evolution of a relationship between the public and urban ambitions of the city.” In essence, she says, “Mae West is the definition of what architecture is not and what sculpture has become.”


Conversation between Rita McBride and Bartomeu Marí
Friday 18 May, 6pm
Free admission

Blind Dates:
MACBA invites artists into the Arena
20 June: Tamara Kuselman
18 July: Laia Estruch
August: Jordi Ferreiro
19 September: Ryan Rivadeneyra
20 September: Miguel Noguera
Museum galleries. Admission with Museum ticket. Limited places.

Day After Day, by Alexander Hick, produced by Rita McBride
Daily in the Museum galleries. Admission with Museum ticket. Limited places.

Sónar 2012:
Game of Life – Wave Field Synthesis Sound System
14, 15, 16 June
Compositions by Milo McBride, Barbara Ellison, Funckarma, Robert Henke, Ji Youn Kang, and others.
Museum galleries. Admission limited to Sonar attendees only. Limited places.
With the support of the Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam.

Daily guided tours
(included in the admission fee)

Rita McBride. Oferta pública / Public Tender. Barcelona: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), 2012. The book includes a photographic essay by Anne Pöhlmann and texts by Luis Fernández-Galiano, Mark Wigley, and Bartomeu Marí. Single edition in Catalan, Spanish, and English.

*Image above:
Alexander Hick, Day After Day (film still), 2011. Courtesy the artist.

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
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