London has been awash with modern Colombian art over the past year. Doris Salcedo's Tate crack (and accompanying White Cube retrospective) were followed by Once More With Feeling at the Photographer's Gallery, which wrapped up last week. One of the contributors to that exhibition, Oscar Muñoz, has his first solo European show that opened last week at Rivington Place in Shoreditch.
Mirror Image cherry picks a number of pieces from across the span of Muñoz's career, showcasing his longstanding interest in "the impossibility of... fixing images". It's a preoccupation drawn from the experience of hailing from a country of many identities, one scarred throughout the artist's life by violence and the necessary act of "[accepting] war as part of the routine of living". In Project for a Memorial, the artist frantically sketches the image of a face onto a hot sidewalk: by the time the last brushstroke is made, the form is already evaporating, morphing from a realistic visage into an incoherent blot and, finally, oblivion. Shown on six screens, with each face at a different stage of emerging or disappearing, the images haunt as they fade, like the ghosts of Colombia's many missing. Equally fleeting are the other video pieces shown here. The Line of Destiny (pictured) captures the artist's reflection in water cupped by his hand, while in Narcissus, a face drawn in ink suspended in a basin is distended as the liquid slowly drains away, until the very last moment when the features are forever scattered on the porcelain.
If the subjects in these video pieces are created, albeit ephemerally, by the artist's steady hand, then Encouragement in the upper gallery goes one better. A series of six mirrors are hung on the wall. Look into them and you see nothing but your own grizzled features; yet fog the surface with your breath and, just for a moment, an image of a person appears. It turns out the people are all victims of political violence in Muñoz's native Cali, long-lost figures brought back to life, if only for a second, by an act of historical and literal resuscitation. It's a particularly weird act to perform in an art gallery, especially if the only other person in the room is the museum guard, as was the case when we visited.
Also upstairs is a more recent installation, Paistiempo, for which the author uses burnt newsprint from two of Cali's daily newspapers, El Pais and El Tiempo, their headline stories of death and violence receding from view as the scorching process renders the pages illegible. It's a less impressive example of Munoz's found-document technique than his contribution to the Photographer's Gallery show, in which street snapshots of people in Cali in the Fifties were reunited with their subjects. But it rounds off the retrospective nicely.
Image courtesy of the Institute of Visual Art