Window Shopping with Anna Malagrida
Saturday, 04 February 2012 photography and visual art
A couple of weekends ago I was in Cologne reviewing a music festival for Fluid Radio (you can read my coverage here). On a spare afternoon I hit the gallery trail, and came across a nice solo show at private gallery Figge von Rosen. The artist’s name was Anna Malagrida, and for her Shop Windows series (2008-09) she photographed the windows of Parisian shops, looking in from the outside. However, in her photographs the shops’ interiors are obscured by reflections, objects, and the white paint often used to cover up the windows of businesses that have closed or are being refurbished. A strong dichotomy is thus produced between outside and inside, yet at the same time the ambiguous combination of objects, window pane, and reflections casts uncertainty upon what is being viewed, and from where. Is that an object or a reflection? Am I outside looking in, or inside looking out? The flat glass panes are meant to be transparent, but they end up turning everything else into ghosts.
Ok, so Malagrida is hardly the first photographer to cause us to question what it is we are looking at. However, her work stands out because of its multiple layers of association. The photographs are large, and their composition and combinations of different surface textures often resemble complex abstract paintings. On the other hand, the fact that these photographs were taken in Paris (not discernible from the images themselves, but mentioned in the exhibition handout) remains in the back of the mind, colouring one’s perceptions with that city’s particular mystique and atmosphere. And what significance do the notions of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ have for a Spanish woman living in France? Since the photographs were taken, the sight of abandoned, empty shop windows has meanwhile taken on a more painful meaning and symbolism for many Europeans. Interesting work, then – a work-out for the mind as well as for the eyes.
On the subject of Cologne, I should mention that the city is home to an excellent public library specialising in art history, the Kunst- und Museumsbibliothek der Stadt Köln (KMB). They have public reading rooms at the Museum Ludwig and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst; the one I visited, at the Ludwig, had a good-sized collection of artist monographs and friendly, helpful staff. I was pleased to find a couple of books on the American artist Renee Green, whose solo show at London’s National Maritime Museum in 2008-9 was basically the reason why I decided to study art history. However, it wasn’t until I opened one of the books and started reading that I found out she lived in Cologne, the very city in which I, after three years of travelling all over the place, had finally sat down to read about her. Spooky.
Anna Malagrida’s Schaufenster/Shop Windows is showing at the Figge von Rosen Galerie until 18th February 2012.http://www.figgevonrosen.com/exhibition/current