Curated by Carla Donauer
Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp
13 September – 8 December 2019

ISLA is Sol Calero’s first institutional solo exhibition in Belgium. For Kunsthal Extra City, the artist developed a new, site-specific installation. This sculptural pavilion, an autonomous structure, has links to the eclectic architectural environment of the premises, a former industrial laundry. Evidence of the physical labor previously carried out on the site remains present in the space. ISLA is a structure that can potentially be activated and “used”, with benches and chairs to sit on and a platform to climb on.

The installation combines previous aspects of Calero’s site-specific spatial approach, her architectural interventions and her affinity with painting. But now, for the first time, the artist has realized a pavilion inside an exhibition space. In earlier pavilion projects, Calero situated these architectures outside, focusing mainly on the community-creating aspect of her work: the pavilions had an inside area as a meeting point, confined by its walls. In this new project, Calero approached the subject differently: the pavilion is recognized as a ‘building’ with architectural allusions – such as its height, a balcony, doors, passages, floors and ceiling – but the basic shape draws a cross of two intertwining axes, dividing the space into four sections. This way, the form calls to mind the nautical orientation system of the compass, pointing into four directions, so that multifaceted layers and perspectives are created, offering ever-changing views on the overlapping sections.

Formally the structure creates a rough notion of the abandoned and is reminiscent of partially collapsed houses or unfinished constructions. Calero’s abandoned space uses poor materials –mainly wood, ribbed plastic roofs, plastic chairs – and strategies of improvisation to create a feeling of shelter and home through simple gestures.

One could read the title ISLA in multiple ways: it might evoke the image of tropical vacation destination, surrounded by the ocean, a friendly place to rest or precisely the opposite: a place where one cannot escape, with the ocean as a boundary, the water as a deep barrier between oneself and the imaginary “other side”. In the context of recent history an island also could be associated with migration and its various implications of escape and rescue. Metaphorically speaking, an island could stand for isolation and limited possibilities in terms of one’s wishes, desires or resources. With ISLA, Calero further develops her ideas on the formal aspects of painting, on color and architectural investigation. The tropical and colorful visual impact of the work contrasts with its surroundings and the opposite of color temperatures between the outside and the inside. ISLA offers visitors an inviting space by creating images through readable gestures. Everything that you might find on an island is present: water, heat, shadow, spaces to rest, and nature. It is a space that symbolises wishes and creates a visual echo in the head of the viewer. Yet Calero offers an illusion, as these aspects of the tropical are present only in a symbolic reality. This twists the aspect of representation and presentation in an uncanny way: it is in the highlighted environment’s artificiality that its seductive power lies.

Sol Calero, Isla, 2019. Installation view, Extra City, Antwerp.
Courtesy of the artist. Photo by We Document Art