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Adriana Arroyo is a Costa Rican artist, living and working in Berlin

¿Cuánta Tierra Necesita un Hombre?

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Adriana Arroyo sets up unexpected relationships between debris from a civil engineering materials laboratory, the urban landscape of security grills and abstracted imagery of volcanic land in Costa Rica. These unlikely affinities that she exposes, test our preconceptions of the public and private and also hint at the fragility and temporality of the structures we have grown to depend on.

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A Geometry of Rubble

In 1886, the same year that saw the release of his celebrated novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy published “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, considered by Joyce to be the Russian author’s best short story.

With a title like that, it’s not hard to imagine what the story is about. Tolstoy, a vegetarian and anarcho-pacifist, was never one to choose his words lightly. As with all his works, this text is as relevant as ever.

Adriana Arroyo has presented us yet again with a body of work, that is to say, of questions revolving around the earth, its changes, what emerges from it, what concerns us. Giving another turn of the screw to her 2015 show Geotropism (KM Gallery, Berlin), Arroyo digs deeper into our dialectic relationship of possession-impotence with the landscape. At what point does the landscape become a belonging (how much land does a man need?). Besides the conventions of the law, what defines possession? What ultimately is appropriation?

Answering in the form of a question is a well-known mechanism. However, Arroyo takes the more interesting route—asking questions with declarative statements: gates are ornamental / bars are fragility.

After photographing them in 35mm film and enlarging the negatives in digital high resolution (even the process is dialectic: chemical-digital), Arroyo combines images of the slopes of Costa Rican volcanoes with those metallic structures that are no longer ornamental. And symbolically, she places a geometrical figure of construction rubble in the center of the exhibition. Note the contradiction: a geometry of rubble. In her words, “the contrast between how the landscape is formed: volcanoes/tectonics, how we divide and alter it: security/segregation-based architecture / the peculiar aesthetic of gates / bars and how we negotiate it, use it, domesticate it: structures, the mixing of materials for roadways, etc.”

Towards the end of Tolstoy’s story, we sense the inevitable tragedy of a protagonist who desired, at a high price, what he did not really need. The final sentence is devastatingly pragmatic. Adriana Arroyo’s work, on the other hand, doesn’t try for a verdict, a resolution. It remains a question. A doubt under construction.

by Luis Chaves

The exhibition takes place from May 5 to July 3, 2016. The opening is on May 5, 6-9pm.

Adriana Arroyo was born 1981 in San José, Costa Rica. She currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

In 2013 she concluded the two year studio programme at De Ateliers, Amsterdam. Recent solo shows include 'Geotropism', Gallery KM, Berlin, 'Estratos Inestables', TEOR/éTica, San José and `Unstable Strata´, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam. Recent group shows include: Money, Good and Evil. A Visual History of the Economy, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2015), ‘A Paradise Built in Hell’, Kunstverein Hamburg (2014), ‘On White I’ and ‘On White II’ at Geukens & De Vil, Antwerp and Knokke (2014) and ‘I appear missing’ at Galerie Gabriel Rolt (2013).

Her work has been screened at among others the Berlinale Forum Expanded (2011), Germany, Toronto International Film Festival (2011), Canada and the Oberhausen Short Film Festival (2011), Germany. Arroyo´s work is included in the Caldic Collection, Wassenaar (NL) and the Hedge House Collection, Wijlre (NL) as well as several private collections.

Adriana Arroyo is represented by Gallery Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam and Gallery KM, Berlin.

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