Nadín Ospina’s (1960) exhibition at the Anthropological Museum of Madrid is timely, both for the issues it raises and for its location, re-registering the other in the place beyond the colonizing gaze. This Colombian artist has spent years displaying an aesthetic that has both post-pop and a critical tone that does not derive from the pamphlet or the rhetoric of the slogans.
As appropriately underlined by Isabel Durán, her curator, Ospina offers meetings that, “unlikely as they seem, involve a confrontation with ourselves.” Indeed, with the Martians “twinned” with versions of the chief of the Quimbaya ceramics, even the American Indians with whom we played as children, or different monstrous beings, we witness a fascinating staging that dialogues perfectly with the museum’s collections. We are facing an example of the exhibition space as a “contact area” defended by James Clifford, in a superb cross-cultural itinerary.
One of the most successful rooms in the exhibition is the one that is built around the work Family Portrait (2015), a photograph of the artist’s family (made around 1900) in which the pater families of German origin pose together his children, sitting in the center his wife, with indigenous features. Ospina has declared that the discovery of that image was absolutely “revealing”, confronting him with his cultural reality and with his identity. The dogma of purity is dismantled in this lucid exploration of miscegenation. The caste pictures of the viceroyalty of Peru, attributed to Cristóbal Lozano (1771-1776), and which are part of the collections of this museum, shed a formidable interpretive horizon to understand the genealogy of the system of exclusion and racial screening.
Monsters and chimeras take the place of the “specular reflex” of familiarity, which has become – freud the Freudian evocation – disturbing. In the midst of these mestizo, exotic and strange beings is the Rhinoceros that Dürer recorded as a perfect example of the artistic “anomaly”: an animal sent as a gift and that went from country to country until it was shipwrecked on the Italian coasts. The latest video installation recreates Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, updating the castaways who are now aliens. Let’s not forget that, for example, in the US The undocumented immigrant is described as an alien: a monstrous, dangerous, undesirable being. Ospina paints a timely visual story to remind us that we have to leave hostility behind to display hospitality. In it life goes.
I am another you.
Anthropology National Museum. Madrid. C / Alfonso XII, 68. Curator: Isabel Durán. Until May 24. .