The gallery Louis 21 announces with great enthusiasm the solo exhibition by Cristina Garrido (Madrid, 1986) entitled The Capitalist Function of the Ragpicker.
The title of this project belongs to a phrase that Theodor Adorno wrote in a letter to Walter Benjamin. The latter incarnates the idea of the ragpicker of memory and, in Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century, he wrote: “I am not going to steal anything valuable or appropriate ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse: these I will not inventory them but give them value through the only possible way: by using them”. This seems to be the work methodology of Cristina Garrido, who presents press releases from past exhibitions, posters, bags from museums and a recommendation letter that was never used. All of them, elements chosen for their function and their rhetorical and practical qualities. Tools for promotion that contribute to create the value of an artwork within the current art system.
The artist is interested in “the metamorphosis of value – both commercial and utilitarian – of certain objects or spaces. I pause to observe the different factors that cause these perceptive transformations inside and outside the art world. In my practice I work with what I have at my disposal. I begin with the analysis of an object I find, borrow or purchase; from there, I look for ways of subverting and highlighting these shifts of status, by using processes such as the intervention, the reinterpretation or the collection of the documents I select.”
In this project, we find recent works that, from diverse points of view, question the process of the construction of value of an artwork. Galleries and institutions, amongst others, contribute to give value to the works of an artist. In the exhibition we find a press release turned into a drawing. These are texts accompanied by the business letterheads from where they have been exhibited and whose prestige inevitably ends “framing” what is presented there. The information they contain usually has a very short lifespan; they are printed to be read and thrown away: introductory explanations that almost never offer a critical analysis of what they describe. Cristina Garrido´s gesture implies a continuous shift of the meaning of the material that she has been picking up from several London galleries.
Also, the poster acquired through Gagosian Gallery´s website appears now stripped from his iconic function, as the famous Fountain by Duchamp becomes invisible, turned into a painting that matches background to foreground. Painting also takes plastic bags that contained commodities acquired at The Photographer´s Gallery or Koenig Books, bookshops linked to art institutions such as the Serpentine Gallery or Whitechapel Gallery in London. In this process of deconstruction of these tools of diffusion and self-promotion, the artist does not detach from her practice, but she includes herself in the same process, presenting a recommendation letter of a work experience not related to her artistic work, but necessary for her economical subsistence. Thus, she introduces us in the precariousness of the art system, at a historical moment where the support for research is drastically reduced. She reflects in particular, to put it in the manner of Andrea Fraser, on the fact that “we are also the institution” and we participate – more or less aware – of it.
Then, the first step is to question one´s own methodology, prior to any criticism. The artist constantly reflects on her own practice and the value it acquires in a determined context. Like the ragpicker, Garrido proceeds collecting ephemeral objects that she transforms into meticulous exercises of painting and drawing, giving way to the multiple stories that the viewer is invited to compose, as the last but fundamental piece of the art system that the viewer is now being catapulted when visiting the exhibition The Capitalist Function of the Ragpicker.