It is very difficult to resist the charm of the cabinets of curiosities. They first appeared during a time when knowledge was accumulated through material objects, whether art or books, and not through online clouds.
The cabinets contained objects which were either curiosities, difficult to find, or which had a historical and/or scientific value, or which were simply beautiful, combining artistic pieces with junk, fossils and different archaeological finds to bring together science and art. In short, small private museums avant-la-lettre.
Within contemporary artistic practice, the idea of accumulation has also been a common one, although often for purely documentary aims; but the strength of the cabinet of curiosities has not waned, as seen in the large number of installations of this type at the Venice Biennale in 2013. In that same spirit, Frederic Amat (Barcelona, 1952) and the Artur Ramon Art Gallery have recreated a cabinet of curiosities, in which works by the artists are in dialogue with the collection of the gallery.
In a large installation occupying a large part of one wall, Amat celebrating his status as an artist who moves between different disciplines, from theatre sets to film, has recycled some of the wooden shelves used to the theatrical monologue The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín, which opened in 2014. It is a recycling of a recycling since the shelves originally came from the historical fabric store Ribes & Casals in Barcelona.
On these distressed shelves Amat has placed over a hundred objects, which are of all different kinds, but where their physical proximity in a small space makes them part of the same family, despite their historical and stylistic differences. Small format paintings, ceramics and sculptures by Amat himself nestle shoulder to shoulder with antiquities such as a seventeenth century Flamenco sculpture, a drawing by José de Madrazo, a Spanish Romanesque figure of the virgin, etchings by Piranesi, small chests, apothecary jars and glass objects. Beside the old works, Amat’s paintings and ceramics seem to recede into the past. Or is it that the antiquities have become modern objects?
Amat’s iconographic obsessions, such as eyes, seem to be reflected in a mirror of details like the seventeenth century plate of porcelain olives from Lleida. It is a continual play of semantic and aesthetic comparisons, which surely hide the secrets that Amat, who is also an unabashed collector, has decided not to reveal, but which invite the viewer to observe the installation closely.
To complement this work, Amat exhibits two others as well as a series of nine recent pieces from the Cartografies series, in which he creates random maps on paper. In the end, geography often also forms a part of the cabinets of curiosities at a time when people began to calculate their precise physical situation in the world. Beyond space, in this simple but very suggestive exhibition of Frederic Amat, time, ages and centuries intermingle. Or rather, they do not exist.
Wunderkammer-Frederic Amat can be visited at Artur Ramon Art until January 18, 2019.