Maria Leon 15º 45º 75º 90º

Goldrausch Künstlerinnenprojekt art IT, Berlin 2017, 16 pages, 30 x 23 cm, Softcover, English

Goldrausch Künstlerinnenprojekt art IT, Berlin 2017, 16 pages, 30 x 23 cm, Softcover, English


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NWIO, 2016

installation detail

NWIO, 2016

handmade paper from newspaper,

relief engraving, newspaper clippings,

paper paste, magazine sheet and iron structures

dimensions variable

NWIO, 2016

installation detail

emit ni tsol lost in time, 2014

curtains modified with newspaper clippings

dimensions variable

The Tyranny of Speed or,

the Motor Peril and Its Remedy, 2016

hubcap and newspaper

dimensions variable

Sin título, 2016

iron bars and piece of newspaper

200 × 7.5 cm

Traces of Truths and the Mediated Surface

Text Kate Brown

At the peripheries of an iron frame, newsprint clippings

dangle precariously, threatening to fall into the negative

space that blooms between its perpendicular bars. María

León’s sculpture »NWIO« could be an editor’s table, a

skeletal remnant from a disaster or an apocalypse. Around

the frame, information lingers on the edge of extinction.

Largely dedicated to mining the formal and symbolic potentialities

of newsprint media, the work of the Spanish artist

investigates its own materiality by way of destruction and

fragmentation, questioning the looming obsolescence of

the medium itself. León’s works embody a profound quiet, as

though they exist in the stillness of an aftermath.

Aftermath of what, exactly? Take the current advertising catchphrase

of the »Washington Post«: ‘Democracy dies in darkness.’

Such dramatic words only begin to respond to the fears

surrounding the perpetually uncertain now, as we wonder

whether we are backing onto a cultural precipice. We cannot

speak about recent years without eventually coming around

to certain topics: what is fake or fact, vaudeville politicians,

media blackouts, evidence denial, oppression of journalists.

The news as an entity is in deep crisis, and its viewers are in

a crisis of faith. As so much of what is seen and heard quivers

on the brink of rumour and gossip, current media bodies call

themselves into question; doubts circulate about both the

form and content of news. In this landscape, there is urgency

for artistic investigation into the structures that frame our notions

of truth and traces of it, our cultural and political memory,

and our projections of the future.

León’s works orbit various facets of newsprint media, though

not in isolation. Rather, she explores digitalism through printing

and print processes. The digital screen and its flatness recur

as metaphor, and a minimalistic language is woven across

paper pulp and torn pages. The image as raw data or a summation

of pixels can be seen in León’s treatment of images,

where the newspaper becomes device. Articles are broken up

into words or letters, almost like code. As with »The Tyranny

of Speed or, the Motor Peril and Its Remedy«, the aesthetics

of pace and progress overtake and digest old ways: an automobile

hubcap is stuffed with a crumpled article, and another

hubcap obfuscates the view of a folded-up tabloid format or

a torn sheet.

By implementing various techniques of post-production (editing,

cutting, filtering, pasting, trimming and image correction)

by hand, as opposed to using digital methods, León ensures

that uncertainty pervades. The question continues to circulate:

What is being lost? The artifice of digital language

that León incorporates belies the tangibility of decomposing

waste – the quintessence of a day-old newspaper. Components

of each narrative are fragmented or erased. In the video

work »Printing Press«, broadsheets run through the printer,

our perception tilted at an unusual angle as images and text

streak by in a blur of abstract colour and shape. The television

hangs as if in an airport terminal or waiting room, the meaning

of its content undecipherable. With »Deutsche Tageszeitungen«,

León scratches out every piece of content on several

printed pages with a ballpoint pen and then hangs them, as if

to dry. Silhouettes of letters peer through, but just barely. As

in »Layout«, where León creates her own pulp from recycled

newspapers and bolts them together against the wall, we perceive

flecks of ink. Through rather unlikely means the works

recall Reductivist painting styles and Dadaist narrative-making

through a lyrical nonsense built from miscellaneous words

and image pieces.

There is a subtle femininity to León’s studio processes and their

outcomes. In the studio, she embraces elements of traditionally

female practices that have been contained in the domestic

domain. Images are cut, ordered, collected and archived in a

manner reminiscent of scrapbooking, home décor and craft.

Her works often begin this way, at an intimate scale, before

being incorporated into larger sculptural forms. With »emit ni

tsol lost in time«, León breaks an image apart and weaves it

back together in new compositions on beaded curtains. Now

adorned, each individual curtain can be draped and pulled

into further forms. The negative space of the wall seems to

reference a boundary between the private and public spheres,

as the curtains engage in an almost flirtatious activity of

showing and hiding. A welcome to strangers but a control for

pests, these curtains might blow in the breeze, quiet and passive

editors themselves.

Newspaper is not a material built to last. It burns first and it

burns quickly. It eradicates itself daily. It is a fragile thing with

little archival integrity, and it does not fit easily into the canons

of artwork. Yet, be it stories of war, unrest, discovery or

scandal, everything newsworthy is comprised of small dots of

CMYK on thin grey paper. It is a delicateness rendered invisible

by the power of its content. María León is acutely aware

of this contradiction within her practice, and by bringing it to

light an interesting shift occurs. We understand how fragile

information and content can be. We become aware of our

desire for knowledge and our very human condition of curiosity.

Simultaneously, we encounter a sense of loss. We feel

deep disquiet as our collective memory is erased, the remainder

unsettling yet picturesque.

born 1984, Mérida, Spain // 2007 Bachelor of Fine Arts,

Complutense University of Madrid / 2010 Master of Fine

Arts, Complutense University of Madrid // 2011 »Kaunas

Biennial Textile 11: Rewind-Play-Forward« // 2014 »Back to

the Future«, Embassy of Spain, Berlin // 2015 »XVIII Bienal

Internacional de Arte de Cerveira« // 2016 »14° Mostra Arte

Gas Natural Fenosa«, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo,

A Coruña / 2016 »CALL«, Luis Adelantado Gallery, Valencia /

»Werkstoff«, Cruce Arte y Pensamiento, Madrid / Bilbao Arte

Fundazioa Grant, Bilbao // 2017 »Goldrausch 2017«, Kunstquartier

Bethanien Studio 1, Berlin / »EMBED_IMG«, Tenerife

Espacio de las Artes, Tenerife

María León


Imprint: »15° 45° 75° 90°«

Published by Goldrausch Künstlerinnenprojekt,

Goldrausch Frauennetzwerk Berlin e. V.,

Händelallee 1, 10557 Berlin. A professional

development programme for female visual artists

funded by the European Union (European Social

Fund) and the Berlin Senate Department for

Health, Long-Term Care and Gender Equality.

Project Direction Hannah Kruse

Course Coordination Birgit Effinger

Administration & Finance Kira Dell

Project Assistance Nicola Schüschke, Janina Vujic

Text Kate Brown

Design Jenny Hasselbach, Rimini Berlin

Copy Editing Sophie Perl


Europäischer Sozialfonds


Photography Jenny Hasselbach, María León,

Nacho López (courtesy of Luis Adelantado Gallery)

Image Editing Eberle & Eisfeld | Berlin

Production Management Ellen Nonnenmacher,


Printing Ruksaldruck GmbH und Co., Berlin

© 2017 for this publication: María León

and Goldrausch Künstlerinnenprojekt

Published in conjunction with the exhibition

»Goldrausch 2017«, 9–23 September 2017

Studio 1, Kunstquartier Bethanien

Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin

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