7 Spanish Artists You Need to See at ARCOmadrid

The 36th edition of ARCOmadrid opened today, welcoming 200 galleries from 27 countries to the Spanish capital. Despite this strong international presence, the fair has maintained deep local roots; exhibitors hail from Barcelona, Santander, and Palma de Mallorca, among other cities in Spain. The country has long cultivated a wealth of influential artists—from Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso—and here, we spotlight seven of the most exciting contemporary Spanish artists now on view at ARCOmadrid.



Carlos Irijalba

B. 1979, Pamplona.

On view at ARCOmadrid: Juan Silió • Booth 7G03

Irijalba has explored how the motifs of Western culture could be isolated and translocated to create eerie, otherworldly scenes. For Twilight (2008–2009), he installed a football stadium light in one of Europe’s last rainforests and photographed the result. In recent years, he has become interested in geology—Skins (2014) features replica cave walls from a project where archeologists attempted to duplicate a popular cave, in order to preserve the original from tourists. His 2016 series of prints, Relative states of matter, riffs on the pastel-hued cross-sections of Earth’s crust found in geology textbooks.



Ian Waelder

B. 1993, Madrid. Lives and works in Mallorca.

On view at ARCOmadrid: L21 • Booth 9G15

At age 19, Waelder had his first solo exhibition at L21 Gallery in his hometown of Palma de Mallorca. In the years since, the young photographer has traveled across the globe for residencies in Portugal, Germany, and Argentina and has continued to show across Spain. An avid skateboarder, Waelder is fascinated by suburban culture and the traces left by individuals on their environment—like a pair of sneakers tied together and dangling from a telephone wire, or tracks made by skateboard wheels on a gallery wall. Waelder’s early shows featured large-scale photographs crumpled to emphasize their inherent physicality; more recently, he’s turned to sculptures, text-based work, and soundscapes to accompany his photography.



Kiko Pérez

B. 1982, Pontevedra. Lives and works in Madrid.

On view at ARCOmadrid: Galería Heinrich Ehrhardt • Booth 9A09

During a 2014 residency co-produced by the Helsinki International Artist Programme, Pérez began to translate the architecture of traditional wooden Scandinavian houses into a series of paper works. These spare, geometric abstractions have evolved over the succeeding years—a solo show at Bilbao’s CarrerasMúgica gallery last year featured paintings and collages executed in warm, earthy tones with a dash of constructivism. Born in Pontevedra, Pérez studied in Bilbao where he was trained in the Basque sculptural tradition. Today, the Madrid-based artist works in both sculpture and painting, with techniques and materials that often relate the two mediums.



Elena Alonso

B. 1981, Madrid. Lives and works in Madrid.

On view at ARCOmadrid: Espacio Valverde • Booth 9F01

Alonso’s drawings feature sleek forms that toe the line between mechanical and architectural, like abstracted versions of some illustrated instruction manual. These pared-down compositions also reflect her interest in the decorative arts—she counts Art Deco, collage, and marquetry among her visual influences. While drawing is her primary focus, Alonso has also experimented with sculpture; Espacio Valverde will be showing several of these subtle three-dimensional works at ARCOmadrid. Born in Madrid, the artist also studied in Pontevedra, Stockholm, and Helsinki before returning to her native city to live and work.



Jordi Colomer

B. 1962, Barcelona. Lives and works in Barcelona and Paris.

On view at ARCOmadrid: Michel Rein • Booth 7H10

Along with curator Manuel Segade, Colomer will represent Spain at this year’s 57th Venice Biennale with a project called “Ciudad de Bolsillo,” or “Pocket City.” The title suggests that this work, like much of the Catalan artist’s practice, will engage in some way with urban living. Segade’s previous projects, mainly video and photographic works, have explored city environments both real (the anonymous, sprawling suburbs of Mexico City), or imagined (the unrealized Spanish casino city “Eurovegas”). On view at the fair are stills from Colomer’s recent video installation work, X-Ville (2015), which guides the viewer through a utopian metropolis based on the ideas of French architect Yona Friedman.



Juan López

B. 1979, Alto Maliaño.

On view at ARCOmadrid: Juan Silió • Booth 7G03

In the early 2000s, when he was still a student at art school, López began to carve reliefs from the heavily layered advertising posters across the Spanish city of Cuenca. Today, the Spanish artist continues to utilize the urban landscape in his work—in a show last year for Galería Luis Adelantado, Valencia, he brought the city into the gallery with a minimalist skyline crafted from vinyl. Other installations have explored the interaction of these two environments as well; during 2009’s “Today I aspire to nothing,” López invited a group of parkour enthusiasts to perform in an exhibition space filled with architectural elements.



Alain Urrutia

B. 1981, Bilbao. Lives and works in London.

On view at ARCOmadrid: Casado Santapau • Booth 9E06

Bilbao-born, London-based Urrutia has said that he consciously courts enigma, and his small-scale paintings are replete with obscured faces and cloaked objects. Beautifully rendered in shades of black and white, his imagery is pulled from pre-existing photographs. Most recently, he’s focused his on the concepts of memory and the construction of history with works that often feature historical bronzes or statues. These objects are perpetually obfuscated—some are wrapped in canvas, while others are turned away from the viewer and therefore impossible to identify.


—Abigail Cain

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