Tucked in – as it is – between glossy, glassy shopfronts of art ateliers and designer furniture stores, Elsi del Rio might not catch your eye at first. But if you find yourself on Humboldt, in a quiet, leafy part of Palermo Hollywood, keep your eyes peeled, because their most recent exhibition is most definitely worth a look.
Described by Sorcha O’Higgins, of The Culture Trip as a ‘place where you can see the best up and coming artists from the city’, Elsi del Rio opened their most recent exhibition ‘Alhajero – Té de Colección’ on Tuesday night. Running until the 30th of December, the exhibition brings together works which have graced the gallery’s walls during the first 17 years of its life. The result is a collection of works which sometimes (not sorry about the pun) works, and sometimes becomes overwhelming.
As the gallery’s own description of the exhibition tells us: ‘Given the diverse nature of the sample, we hope that you can find in it the seed of new collections or the excuse to complete collections already started’. The language of ‘nature’ and ‘seeds’ is not out of place in an exhibition that seems to bring pieces together in the hope of their cross-pollination.
A first look around the gallery shows a profusion of images: in the work of one illustrator a dog and its elderly owner share the same light brown spots; in another piece a naked woman struggles in the rain, trying at once to squeeze a lemon and to hold an umbrella over her head. In other pieces cut pieces of colored paper begin an energetic orbit on a huge white page; flowers sprawl over a pink canvas, the final image placed over a palimpsest of other images glimpsed at beneath.
Ceramics in muted whites and golds recall familiar forms, sometimes seeming to resemble crocs, sometimes coral. These forms quietly harmonise with the sedate and intricate embroidered images beside them. At other points, though, this tight packing of the work creates a chaotic clamour of images, and at one point it leaves a series of cartoons literally overshadowed by the sculpture displayed above them.
Outside in the yard, where its cooler, the trace of a vine which once grew up the wall seems to be in conversation with the intricate wooden sculpture suspended from a balcony. Once again the interactions between the natural world and the man-made environment seems key to the connections between the works. Yet the white, signless gallery gives no indication as to whether these connections are intended by the artists and the curator, or are mapped on to the works by my desire to make sense of a collection of very different images.
The absence of signs or labels besides the works (or the loo, for that matter) sometimes gives way to confusion. I feel this sense of misunderstanding, of wanting some explanation, most intensely before the the charged image of an albino black man in white papal robes, who holds colourful samples of hair in a relicry-like golden frame.
Left wanting to know more, I explore the gallery’s website, and find the artists‘ names. The photographer behind this charged image is, I discover, Leandro Allochis. A lot of clicks later, I realise that the exhibition has done what it set out to do – in a way. Despite the sometimes overwhelming abundance of works, a seed of interest has been sown.
‘Aljahero – Té de Colección’ runs until the 30th of December.
Elsi del Rio, Arte Contemperaneo, is open Tuesdays-Fridays 1pm-7pm, and Saturdays 11am-3pm.