MASSIMODECARLO is delighted to present Alvaro Barrington’s first personal exhibition in Italy: Sea Both Sides, on view at Casa Corbellini-Wassermann in Milan until December 6th, 2022.
Referencing both Jay-Z’s “I keep one eye open like CBS” and Frank Ocean’s “I see both sides like Chanel” Barrington’s Sea both Sides is a very personal take on this play on words: having moved to the United Kingdom, Barrington reflected on his experience in London, across the sea from New York City, and being able to see new, multiple sides of the United States from his new vantagepoint.
Sea Both Sides premieres Barrington’s first sculpture: NO Work on the Block, aka Gated Community, Milan, 2022, is a monumental structure that resolutely, imposingly inhabits the space that used to be Casa Corbellini-Wassermann’s central living room. Its volume, chain and metal structure is as intimidating as it draws the viewer towards it. All gravitating around this central sculpture, the gallery’s adjacent rooms feature four woven works and ten new concrete portraits, their muted gazes directed towards its spellbinding, haunting presence.
NO Work on the Block, aka Gated Community, Milan, 2022 is the fruit of Barrington’s exploration of sculpture as a medium. In New York, the “block” is a cornerstone of the city’s layout: imposing, monolithic, the block’s structure dwarfs anyone meandering among them, making the sky feel small and far removed above. Barrington translates this energy, and the sensation of being locked within the narrow city blocks and gazing up at the sky into this powerful, yet inaccessible structure.
Thoroughly mindful of the context within which he presents his work, Barrington was especially intrigued by Casa Corbellini-Wassermann’s interior architecture, and particularly by the marble frames that structure the home’s doors, floors and windows.
As a response to this, the works in Sea Both Sides are framed in materials ranging from metal to cardboard and mirrors thus create a new dialogue with the home’s turn of the Century architecture. Indeed Barrington sees cardboard as a “new marble”: it is the epitome of our contemporary reality, at once reminiscent of “arte povera”, as much as a ubiquitous reminder of our online Amazon delivery age.
The cement portraits in Sea Both Sides find their starting point in Barrington’s study of Picasso’s work, which was profoundly impacted by the Spanish flu and World War Two, and resulted in his figurative paintings representing heavy, corpulent female bodies modeled after sculptures. It quickly became clear to Barrington that almost one century apart, similarly harrowing experiences are influencing his own practice, with war and the pandemic still looming, but also the silent pandemic of the opiod crisis that is plaguing our contemporary societies.
Rather than paint sculptures himself, Barrington chose to paint with cement, translating this same heaviness directly onto the soft, textile surface of his velvet carpet canvases. His application of cement to outline each figure’s silhouette is swift and gestural, creating an elegant balance between their structures complex, long construction and the painting’s spontaneous, gestural process.
Finally, Sea Both Sides presents four medium-sized woven works, entirely woven by Barrington at the gallery in the days leading up to the exhibition. Composed with colorful wool yarns crisscrossing vertically and horizontally across the delicate, almost transparent surface of the raw jute canvas, these works are uniquely compact and loose at once, presenting an exquisite connection between the home’s mille righe – thousand lines linear marble features, the lines and blocks of New York City, and a humble nod to the notion of manual labour that is central to Barrington’s practice.