Gema Alava

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Gema Alava (b. 1973 Madrid, Spain) is an artist who lives and works in New York City. Her work, in the form of installation, drawing, photography and art projects, deals with what she calls "contradictory truths", and the capacity to "create a maximum by reversing a minimum."[1] [8][2] [9] Álava's art projects, in the form of dialogues, verbal descriptions, rumors and random encounters, explore notions of trust and intimacy, and use language as a medium to investigate the interconnections that exist between public, private, educational and interpretative aspects of art."[3] [10][4] [11] In 2012 she was appointed Cultural Adviser to the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations, (WCPUN). [12]

She has received a M.F.A.(New Genres) from the San Francisco Art Institute, a M.F.A (Painting) from the Academy of Art University, a B.F.A (Painting) from the Facultad de Bellas Artes de Madrid, Universidad Complutense and the Chelsea College of Art and Design, The London Institute, and holds a BA in Art Education from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. [5] [13]

In 1995 she was awarded second prize in Spain's National Drawing Competition, Premio Penagos es:Premio Penagos, being the youngest artist and first woman to achieve such recognition. That same year she received an Erasmus Grant for an Erasmus Programme. In 1997 she obtained a Fellowship for postgraduate studies in the United States from La Caixa Foundation. In 2002 she participated simultaneously in the Emerge Program at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, and the AIM Program at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, New Jersey. In 2011 she was awarded a Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant.

Alava's work has been exhibited and presented internationally, including the Rana Museum in Norway; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Queens Museum of Art, New York; the Margulies Art Collection at the Warehouse, Miami; the Juan Carlos I Center at New York University; the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; the United Nations Building, New York, and Manifesta 8, The European Biennial. Her first solo show in NYC was at Lance Fung Gallery.

Participants of Alava's art projects include Miguel Álvarez-Fernández, Angela Bulloch, Alison Knowles, Eduardo Lago, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ester Partegas, Robert Ryman, Jason Schmidt (photographer), Merrill Wagner and Lawrence Weiner.

Currently she teaches and lectures at the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and at the Morgan Library & Museum, in New York City.


Alava's work has been described as "minimalist studies in what might be called the qualities of fragility" by Sandra Sider, of Fiber Arts magazine; "drawing (...) with thread and shadows in an almost invisible wall installation" by Holland Cotter of The New York Times [14]; "it achieves the impossible; it makes us pay attention to things we don't pay attention to anymore", by Alfonso Armada of Diario ABC [15]; "often made from the humblest of materials, her art nevertheless gives off just the faintest trace of intense and prolonged concentration. Modest in scale, frequently fragile, it makes you think not of modesty or fragility but of resistance and struggle, life and death, the largest matters. Alava has a gift for effortless reversals that she does not hesitate to use in making her mortal point." by Ted Mooney for Artists Organized Art, Senior Editor of Art in America. [16].


For List of Things to Forget (2000), Alava creates a quilt with handwritten business letters from 1912 that resemble love letters. The stage created for this installation disappears, piece by piece, day after day, until the gallery is empty.[6]

For Land of No One (2000), pieces of letters are attached with sewing pins to the wall allowing "the possibility of its own destruction if we walk or breathe too close to it.",[6][7][8] [17]

For Tightropewalkers (2000), Alava invites the audience to enter into an empty room with drawings on the wall made out of thread, sewing needles and shadows.[9][10] [18]

For Fe's Patterns (2003), an installation commissioned by the Queens Museum of Art, paper patterns and needles, hanging from thread, move in a choreography created by the air from the museum's air conditioning system.,[11][12][19]

For Clothing (2006), a site-specific installation commissioned by New York University made out of more than two hundred small golden shirts hanging from thread, Alava deals with the idea of recovering memories that are in danger of being lost, especially the memories of the Spanish Civil War.[13]

For Tell Me the Truth (2008), Alava invites the audience to enter a small room with nine black and white photographs depicting the struggle between a nail and a thread, both anchored to the floor. Alava does not allow anyone to see the original scenarios.,[14][15] [20]

For Tell Me a Lie (2008), Alava transforms a circular installation into an oval installation at the Cervantes Institute, New York.[16] [21]

For Tell Me a Story (2008), gold leave and tissue paper, attached to the wall with pins, move as the humidity of the room changes.[17] [22]

For A Dialogue (2008), Alava establishes a conversation with artist Cai Guo-Qiang on the ramp of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on February 2008. Alava's selected written proposal of A Dialogue is exhibited from February to May at the Guggenheim Museum as part of "Cai Guo-Qiang: "I Want to Believe."[18] [23]

For Tell Me (2008–2009), Alava invites twenty-two artists to have a one-on-one conversation with her in an art museum when the museum is closed to the public, and to answer three questions. The visual documentation of these conversations is recorded by the security cameras of the museum but the images cannot be used for artistic purposes. The project ends when Alava personally invites the director of the museum to participate in this ephemeral and impossible-to-document art project.,[19][20] [24]

For Find Me (2009), Alava asked artists Lars Chellberg, Barbara Holub, Paul Kos, Ester Partegàs, Merrill Wagner, Robert Ryman, Arne Svenson, Lawrence Weiner and Maria Yoon, to create an artwork in order for her to hide it somewhere in New York City and the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. The locations remain secret—just Alava and the artists who made the pieces for FIND ME know where his/her pieces are. Alava shared general information of these locations at an Art Event at CUE Art Foundation, in New York City. Alava also hid at the Main San Francisco Public Library an artist book titled FIND ME 2.0 with the exact locations.[21] [25] [26]

For 'Trust Me' (2010), Alava met individually in one of two museums in New York City with eleven participants who responded to her open call (which was sent out in April 2010). Participants agreed to wear opaque glasses during the time Alava performed one-on-one verbal descriptions of artworks they could not see.Jason Schmidt (photographer) was invited to document Trust Me as the project was taking place. On May 14, 2010, eleven performances took place during nine consecutive hours. On October 15, 2010, TRUST ME's presentation and post-performance event was hosted at the Cervantes Institute in New York City. Participants met each other and saw for the first time photographs taken by Schmidt during their individual walk-throughs with Alava. TRUST ME's participants include visual artists, performers, poets, the director of the education department of a major art museum, writers, art critics, a museum educator and a MFA student. They described their experiences as a heightening of the senses; rebirth; entering a different world; and something to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. Participants of Trust Me: Ellen Fisher, Mayrav Fisher, Jonathan Goodman, Jessica Higgins, Erika Kawalek, Erika Knerr, Alison Knowles, Ferran Martin, J. Morrison, Gordon Sasaki and J. G. Zimmerman,[22][27],[23][24] [28]


  1. ^ Vasconcelos, El Mundo, Madrid, Spain
  2. ^ Eduardo Laporte, Diario El Correo, Bilbao, Spain
  3. ^ Mario Suarez, El Pais
  4. ^ Spain Culture New York, Spanish Consulate of Spain
  5. ^ Vasconcelos, El Mundo, Madrid, Spain
  6. ^ a b Merino, Juan Fernando. "En Tierra de Nadie." El Diario/LA PRENSA, New York, January 13, 2002.
  7. ^ Armada, Alfonso. "Caligrafia de la Fragilidad." Diario ABC, Madrid/New York, February 16, 2002 [1],
  8. ^ Sevilla, Nacho. "La Artista Espanola Gema Alava Crisostomo expone su obra en una galeria del Soho Neoyorquino." EUROPA PRESS, New York, February 25, 2002.
  9. ^ Cotter, Holland. "Artist in the Marketplace." THE NEW YORK TIMES, September 6, 2002.[2],
  10. ^ Sider, Sandra. "Gema Alava Crisostomo:Funambulista." FIBERARTS MAGAZINE, New York, Jan-Feb. 2003.
  11. ^ Queens Museum of Art, New York City. Proyectos Especiales, 2003
  12. ^ Piquer, Isabel. "El Museo Neoyorquino de Queens Recuerda el Sueno de Venus de Dali." EL PAIS, Cultura, June 23, 2003.
  13. ^ New York University Press, 2006
  14. ^ Mooney, Ted. "Gema Alava: Tell Me the Truth", Artists Organized Art, New York, April 2008.[3]
  15. ^ NCI Noticias, 2008,"Gema Alava: Conquistando la Gran Manzana
  16. ^ Laporte, Eduardo, Diario El Correo, Bilbao, Spain, "De Marcha en Nueva York", 2006.[4], [5]
  17. ^ Sirefman, Susanna. "Fung Sway" SURFACE MAGAZINE, Art & Design, No.72. New York, July, 2008.
  18. ^ "Everything is Museum." Cai Guo-Qiang, New York, 2008
  19. ^ Redaccion Iberarte, "Entrevista a Gema Alava", Madrid, Spain, 2008
  20. ^ [6],[7]
  21. ^ Eduardo Laporte, El Correo, Bilbao, Spain
  22. ^ Goodman, Jonathan. "GEMA ALAVA: BRAVE NEW WORLD", FronteraD, September 2010.
  23. ^ Simian, Jose Manuel, TRUST ME: Transmitiendo arte a traves de las palabras, NY1 Noticias, October 2010.
  24. ^ Noticias Culturales Iberoamericanas, NCI, TVE, Una performance basada en la confianza, November 2010


Link to articles[edit]

External links[edit]