location: Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Siena

Galleria Continua is pleased to present three first solo shows in Italy of three most important international contemporary artists: Juan Araujo “Walled – in Shut”, Reynier Leyva Novo “El Peso de la muerte” and Qiu Zhijie “Racing Against Time”. The exhibitions open the 13th of February till the 1st of May 2016. Monday-Saturday, 10am-1pm / 2-7pm

Juan Araujo Walled – in Shut

Born in 1971 and Venezuelan by nationality, Araujo is a prominent figure on the international art scene. His works have been shown in prestigious public collections such as the Tate Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Jumex Collection in Mexico City, the Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea in Belo Horizonte, the Galería de Arte Nacional of Caracas, the Museu de Arte Contemporáneo in Caracas and the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.To introduce the new series of works presented in Walled-in Shut, Araujo refers to a journey made by Mark Rothko to Italy in 1959, which coincided with a particularly delicate moment in the American artist’s life. Having received the important Seagram Building commission, Rothko had for a year been absorbed in a profound reflection that prompted him to look for echoes of his ideas in works from the past. Araujo creates his works by taking a photograph of a building or landscape and then focussing on and reproducing a portion of it. This scrap, copied and transformed, yields an image that preserves the original fragment but also reveals itself to be a new pictorial fragment. Far from being mere citation or appropriation, Araujo’s work dwells on history, on the images themselves and on their permanence in time through different modes of reproduction, adaptation and diffusion.

“The Rothko and Fischer families landed in Naples and visited Pompeii. According to Fischer’s account, Rothko discovered ‘a deep tie’ between the work he was doing at the Seagram Building and the ancient mural paintings of the Villa of Mysteries. Then the Rothko family visited Rome, Florence and Venice. In Florence Rothko went to the Laurentian Library, designed by Michelangelo, just as he had during a previous visit in 1950. In a subsequent interview with Fischer, Rothko admitted that the sense of space in the Laurentian vestibule had been a source of inspiration for the works in the Seagram Building. ‘The room had exactly the feeling that I wanted’, commented Rothko. ‘It gives the visitor the feeling of being caught in a room with the doors and windows walled-in shut.’” (Juan Araujo)

Juan Araujo was born in Caracas in 1971, and lives and works in Lisbon. The artist has had solo shows at important international galleries and museums, including Mineirianas at Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and A Través at the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo (CGAC) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, both in 2015. His work has featured in many group shows and biennials, including: United States of Latin America, MOCAD Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, USA (2015); Another Part of the New World, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russia (2015); The Insides Are on the Outside, curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Casa de Vidrio, São Paulo, Brazil (2013); the Aichi Triennale, Nagoya, Japan (2010); Museu de Arte Moderna di São Paulo (2009); the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2009); the Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2007); the São Paulo Biennial (2006); San Diego Museum of Art (2005); and the American National Society, New York (2005).

Reynier Leyva Novo El peso de la muerte

One of the latest generation of Cuban artists, Novo has already had occasion to show his work in important international events and venues such as the Havana Biennial, the Venice Biennale, MARTE Museo de Arte de El Salvador and the Liverpool Biennial. El peso de la muerte is a project specially conceived for Galleria Continua and brings together a series of new works in which investigation and procedure are key elements. Deeply poetic but also alive with questions, Novo’s work is situated in the context of the daily battles to get to the bottom of individual and collective identity. Although armed conflicts have been a constant over the course of humanity, the twentieth century is considered the period of the great human tragedies: the two world wars, the war in Vietnam, the Gulf War and the conflicts in the Middle East are just some examples. The twentieth century was marked by totalitarian regimes, which reached their peak in the Second World War and contributed to causing the highest number of deaths in history. Taking this reflection as a starting point, Novo has conceived El peso de la muerte, the series of pieces that also gives its name to the show’s title. The work takes as its starting point the quantity of ink used to print the lists of the official victims of the Second World War published by every belligerent nation and the death certificates of the heads of state involved in the conflict. The calculation is made by using INk 1.0, a software programme for calculating the area, volume and weight of the ink of manuscripts and printed documents, using digitalized images of the original documents. This calculation procedure also gave rise to Cinco noches, Nueve leyes and La última pena, a new series of works grouped together by the artist with the name El peso de la Historia. Cinco noches brings together five twentieth-century political books that in large part formed the ideological foundations of five totalitarian systems in different parts of the world. Nueve leyes focuses on a selection of the legislation applied by the Cuban Revolution from its beginnings onwards. La última pena is the application of INk to the part of the Cuban penal code that has regulated the application of the death penalty from 1987 until today. In Novo’s hands, the steel is transformed into a set of moveable weights for balancing scales and determining a given weight rather than into tools for working the earth. Each object bears an inscription: the technical specifications of the destroyed firearm and the name and edition of the work. When buying an arm one acquires a property that remains as a legal document, even if the arm itself is destroyed. The process set in motion by Novo ensures that the property of the arm becomes the property of the art work.

Reynier Leyva Novo was born in 1983, in Havana, Cuba, where he lives and works. After graduating from the José Antonio Díaz Peláez Experimental Art Center, he continued his studies in Havana, first at the San Alejandro School of Fine Arts (2003) and then at the Department of Behavior Art directed by Tania Bruguera (2007); from 2004 to 2008 he studied at the Higher Institute of Fine Arts. Recent solo shows include El peso de la Historia, a collateral event of the 12th Havana Biennial, Morro-Cabaña Park, Havana (2015); El polvo, la sangre, el sueño común, Bildmuseet Museum of Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, Umeå, Sweden (2013); and El deseo de morir por otros, 11th Havana Biennial, College of San Gerónimo, Havana (2012). Participation in many group exhibitions has enabled the artist to show his work around the world: in 2015 at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, at the Jewish Museum in New York, at the Valentín de Madariaga Foundation in Seville; with Project 35 Volume 2 in Slovenia, Venezuela and America in 2015 and in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong in 2014. Works by Novo are held in many important collections: the National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana; the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM); the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Oregon, the CIFO-Europe Foundation, Spain, the MISOL Foundation, Bogotá, Colombia, the Farber Collection, New York and the Pizzuti Collection, Ohio.

Qiu Zhijie Racing Against Time

The project comprises a group of new works specially conceived for the occasion. Qiu Zhijie is not just an internationally established artist but also a key point of reference on the Chinese art scene. His artistic practice embraces calligraphy, poetry, teaching, criticism and curating. A thinker, activist and cartographer, Qiu is a multi-faceted intellectual figure, and his work is articulated through an all-inclusive practice which in Chinese is called Guangdong art. The term encompasses various different meanings. It is the expression of individual freedom whilst respecting social responsibilities, it is the concurrence between rational analysis and impulse, it is the harmonic interaction between the different spheres of action in which we engage. And finally it is the reciprocally advantageous fellowship between the explosive experience of making art and the experience of everyday living. “Art does not just concern the work produced, but also the more general environment to which the work reacts; it is a complete practice,” says the artist. It cannot but engage, then, with real life, society, politics and history, both that of our own age and that of the past. Qiu’s art is the representation of a new mode of communication between the Chinese literary tradition and contemporary art, social participation and the power of self-liberation given by art. In his work he uses different media, ranging from video to photography, performance to ink painting and installation. This mixture of languages function as a single whole: “I try to use all types of media, I believe that my ideal medium is the relationship established between all the objects,” he explains. Racing Against Time, the project conceived by the artist for the gallery’s large ground-floor rooms, takes the form of an archaeological site. The show features a series of ‘landscapes’ entitled Evolution. Reflecting Qiu’s typical style, they are realized using the centuries-old Chinese technique of padding with sponges; these paper reliefs, some scattered with fossils and fragments of artefacts, are a world that comes to the surface thanks to Qiu’s archaeological sensibility. The Evolution series develops chronologically, from Pangaea to the invention of agriculture and through to the “birth of God”; the images of the intricate skeletons of Lover and those of the legendary bird Kunpeng represent the final point of evolutionary history.

Qiu Zhijie was born in Zhengzhou, in the province of Fujian, China, in 1969. He lives and works in Beijing and Hangzhou. After graduating in printmaking from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in 1992, he immediately became active on the contemporary art scene. He is a professor at the Academy of Chinese Art and at the Department of Experimental Art of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. His major solo exhibitions to date are: The Grand Project, Fujian Art Museum, Fuzhou (2015), L’Unicorno e il Dragone, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2013), Blue Print, WDW Art Centre, Rotterdam (2012), Twilight of the Idols, Haus of World Culture, Berlin (2009), Breaking Through the Ice, Ullens Contemporary Art Center, Beijing (2009), A Suicidology of the Nanjing Yangzi River Bridge 1 - Ataraxic of Zhuang Zi, Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai (2008). The artist has contributed to many group shows, including: Bentu, Chinese Artists in a Time of Turbulence and Transformation, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; the 56th Venice Biennale (2015); the 31st São Paulo Biennial (2014); the Göteborg Biennial (2013); the 53rd Venice Biennale, Chinese Pavilion (2009); The Real Things: Contemporary 6th Chinese Art, Tate Liverpool (2007); the Gwangju Biennale (2006); the Yokohama Triennale (2005); and the 25th São Paulo Biennial (2002). As a writer, Qiu has published various texts on art, including: The Image and Post Modernism (2002), Give Me a Mask (2003), The Limit of Freedom (2003), Photography after Photography (2004) and On Total Art (2012). Qiu also curated the first video art exhibition in China in 1996, and, between 1999 and 2005, a series of exhibitions called Post-sense Sensibility, the purpose of which was to promote the work of young Chinese artists. In 2012 he was the curator of the 9th Shanghai Biennale, Reactivation.

Opening: Saturday 13 February 2016, via del Castello 11, 6pm–12 midnight Until 1 May 2016, Monday–Saturday, 10am–1pm / 2–7pm