The protagonist of the Nativity exhibition Navalón (Valencia, 1961) is designed and made expressly for the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. It follows the path laid down in an earlier work: Lugares de ausencia (1991), on the representation of the density of absence, defined as an invisible presence. Now that AIDS is a reality -the issue on which this installation is based- the notion of absence is reserved for the forgotten, the neglected and marginalised. Navalón uses a conceptual practice based on metaphor and ellipsis, and presents a project that combines the emotion of death and the poetics of obscurity with the solemnity of the memorials.
The starting point is the consideration of the disease, not as a mere subject but as an issue that today leads to loneliness, isolation and marginalisation. In addition Navalón symbolically and conceptually appeals to the original function of the museum, created as a hospital the second half of the eighteenth century.
Mar de soledades has two spaces. In the first of them a series of beds made of steel plates are situated in an orderly manner on which velvet cushions are placed. The purpose is that there be an imposed silence. The reference to beds of pain and suffering is immediately noticed as well as the image of a field of tombs. In this way the lead is taken by the silence which imposes a vision from this landscape. The critic and historian Jose Manuel Álvarez Enjuto points out that Navalón makes use of a repetitive minimalism, structural to the design and presentation to this stage of the forgotten. For this reason it is situated "in the purest of Spanish Romanticism of the nineteenth century, not in its artistic manifestations, but in that of its drama, in the strength of its insight and the deepest expression of emotions,” according to Álvarez Enjunto.
Conversely it is worth noting that the order of red and black respectively responds to velvet and steel. In this way it seeks to produce an experience of synaesthesia, in which the spectator's eye passes from one warm material to a cold one. This paradoxical unity of sensory opposites also contains a symbolic meaning beyond the mere interpretation of spread out forms and appearances. The installation demands the spectator walks between these beds, to participate or engage in the reality of loneliness and isolation, resulting from desolation.
This tragic treatment of death carried out by Navalón shapes a voluntarily austere stage and reveals an aesthetic approach to the notion of physical and spiritual transit from baroque foundations, where the genre of vanitas iconography is imposed as a prominent iconography and literary figure.
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