Paradox traverses Alejandra Prieto’s objects and installations like an uncomfortable feeling pregnant with pleasure. Her investigation into the historical lineage of objects coupled with the choice of coal as the material for the elaboration of highly polished realistic sculptures is provocative. Dark and reflective, her functional icons of high design, fashion and furniture sculpted in coal propose a multitude of interpretations that obscure the simple delight of their contemplation.
They recall the role of such humble but fundamental material in the history of industrialization – and by addition in the development of the modern era. Matching extremely skilled craftsmanship and sophistication with the rawest and dirtiest of substances, the process of making precious works of art that in turn replicate high end objects of desire signals another paradox: diamonds – one of the worlds priciest commodities – are just pressed coal under the forces of gravity and time. Furthermore the artist integrates her ambivalence towards the value system that governs consumer society in the choice of objects to be replicated in coal. A Tizio lamp or a chaise longue by Le Corbusier turn the intrinsic nature of such collectors’ fetishes into pure contradiction: coal as an energy source was at the base of an economy sustained by hard working conditions. The coal extracted from Chilean mines, an industry in disappearance while been replaced by other energy sourcing, sees its value reinstated in Prieto’s work.
Additionally, the reflectivity of her black concave mirrors and wall-based panels brings to mind the use of dark minerals – obsidian and hematite – in the production of mirrors by the Olmec, one of the oldest original people of the Americas.
Text © Gabriela Salgado