Cristina Iglesias: Metonymy, Madrid

Since the beginning of last month, the Museo Reina Sofía is hosting the largest retrospective to date of the work of Cristina Iglesias, one of Spain’s major artists. Her work began to be widely known in the 1980s. She represented Spain at the Venice Biennials of 1986 and 1993, and received the National Prize for the Arts in 1999. A key figure in the innovation of contemporary sculpture, she is one of Spain’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Aside from her work, which can be seen all over the world, Iglesias (born in San Sebastian in 1956), is also known for having been the wife of the late Juan Muñoz (1953-2001).The current exhibition spans her whole career, from her early mature works right through to her latest creations.

Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of Iglesias’s work is her use of space. Her sculptures severely transform the places they occupy, whether they are placed in the middle of the room or leaning against a corner of it. Many of her works resemble latticework, which plays not only with space, but also with light. The artificial light of the museum blends with the one coming in from the windows, creating a game of light and shadow with the artist’s works. From the beginning of her career, the sculptures of Cristina Iglesias adopted an abstract nature, but this was in no way a radical statement.Being from the Basque Country, the towering figures of Chillida and Oteiza made abstraction a natural choice for a younger generation of sculptors. Within this abstract language, Iglesias has resorted to a wide variety of materials: ceramics, iron, concrete, bronze, aluminium and, more recently, water. One of the most curious things the visitor will encounter is the sound of water flowing in some distant room. To finally discover the piece Towards the Bottom (2009) after hearing it from a distance, gradually getting closer and closer, is a truly moving experience.

Although formally her work has evolved from the 1980s, there are key points which run through her entire career. Perhaps the most important factor is that her pieces always work at different levels. Yes, many of her sculptures are beautiful, but Iglesias says she wouldn’t like people to judge her work based only on their formal appearance. The conceptual part is also important, although there is no discourse or guide: it is the individual spectator, one on one with the piece, who must extract his or her own conclusions. Iglesias insists on the importance of literature in her work. The title of the exhibition, Metonym, seems therefore all but innocent.

Cristina Iglesias: Metonymy, running until 13 May, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid.

Rubén Cervantes Garrido

All images courtesy of Cristina Iglesias and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
1. Three Suspended Corridors, 2005.
2. Celosía VIII. Impressions d’Afrique II, 2002.
3. Towards the Bottom, 2009.