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In 200 Words: Susana Solano at Beta Pictoris Gallery in Birmingham

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Susana Solano, A Philip Guston IV, 2012; magnesium aluminum, 57¾ by 98 by 64 inches.

 

Possibly one of the most important living female Spanish sculptors, Susana Solano has continually gained recognition since her debut in the late 1970s. Her relevance and renown has grown organically over the course of her 30-year career—from Catalan to all of Spain and then Europe and the international stage.

Susan Solano, <i>Untitled</i>, 2007; sumi ink and Bután paper collage on Bután paper, 11 3/4 by 8 1/8 inches.
Susana Solano, Untitled, 2007; sumi ink and Bután paper collage on Bután paper, 11¾ by 8¼ inches.

Although Solano has attained international success—she showed at Documenta in 1987 and 1992, the Bienal São Paulo in 1987, and the Venice Biennale in 1988 and 1993, as well as the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh in 1987, followed by major solo shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C.—her work rarely appears in museums or galleries in the southeastern U.S.

Her solo show at beta pictoris (which also marks her debut exhibition in the Southeast), “Mes lleuger que l’aire (lighter than air),” includes a substantial aluminum sculpture, titled A Philip Guston IV (2012) and five collage-based works. Yet the small, sparsely hung show serves to highlight the sculpture, which commands your attention whether you are in the gallery or passing by on the sidewalk. Despite the traditionally masculine art form (sculpture) and materials (metal), the piece exudes a very feminine sensibility.

Guston, an homage to Abstract Expressionist painter Philip Guston, is one of Solano’s smaller sculptures. The hand-cut aluminum is accented with grinding marks on the surfaces of each piece, along with the scars and dings of traveling, which she considers evidence of the sculpture’s life. Guston’s form and treatment give it a feeling of flight, simultaneously in opposite directions, depending on where you stand.

After viewing Solano’s exhibition at beta pictoris, take time to travel the few blocks north to the Birmingham Museum of Art, which currently has a Guston on view in the contemporary gallery.

“Mes lleuger que l’aire (lighter than air)” is on view at beta pictoris gallery through January 16. 

A native Chicagoan, Rebecca Dobrinski is a historian, essayist, and freelance writer and editor now based in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to art, she has written about tattoos, books, concerts, city government, hockey, and Birmingham’s historic Oak Hill Cemetery. Her work appears regularly in Zen Dixie and Weld