Open: Tue-Sat 10.30am-7pm

Via Francesco Crispi 16, 00187, Rome, Italy
Open: Tue-Sat 10.30am-7pm


Oscar Murillo: Marks and Whispers

Gagosian, Rome

Fri 12 Apr 2024 to Sat 15 Jun 2024

Via Francesco Crispi 16, 00187 Oscar Murillo: Marks and Whispers

Tue-Sat 10.30am-7pm

Artist: Oscar Murillo

Gagosian presents Marks and Whispers, an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Oscar Murillo. The exhibition emphasizes the formal, political, and social dimensions of the color red in Murillo’s work of the last fifteen years.

Installation Views

Murillo is known for expansive canvases, constructed from stitched-together elements, which incorporate elements of gesture, text, and studio detritus. He also produces books, drawings, sculptural installations, and videos that deconstruct and map flows of populations, power, and resources in currents of globalization and cultural exchange. Through each strand of his practice, Murillo probes ideas of collectivity and shared culture, and demonstrates a commitment to the power of material presence.

Each work in Marks and Whispers stands as a marker, suggesting fragility, despair, vulnerability, and precariousness. Hung on freestanding walls, the paintings activate the gallery’s ovoid rotunda with complex sight lines, their surfaces layered with arresting hues of scarlet that hint at the anguish which underlies a world of privilege. Such references reflect Murillo’s interrogative process of painting, which frequently involves the dense and intuitive layering of paint and the subsequent scarring of the canvas. In Marks and Whispers, this intense transfer of energy is foregrounded, as one work leads to another.

The exhibition begins with paintings from Catalyst, an ongoing series that Murillo began as a student in 2011. Each of these works is produced by saturating a skein of canvas with pigment, then laying a second canvas on top and using a long stylus to transfer marks from one surface to the other in an explosive full-body process. The first painted sheet is then used multiple times to make new works, each one infused with the energy of drawing.

Works from the Manifestation series (2018–) build on this technique, as dense gestural marks and thick impasto are layered atop stitched-together fragments of canvas. Their surfaces embody the physicality of the act of painting, a palpable “manifestation”; imposing in scale, they are energized by the conviction and urgency of dissenting action. The compositions on view are thus materially interconnected, culminating in entries from Scarred Spirits, Murillo’s most recent series, presented here for the first time. A meditation on automatic and large-scale drawing, they contain a history of his studio practice and represent an evolution in his process.

Murillo’s interrogation of mark making continues in his Flight drawings, which incorporate repeated ink marks, letters, words, and numbers drawn by the artist while traveling across the globe. These works are characterized by a simplicity of means, their maker taking advantage of travel’s meditative lull to experiment with the possibilities of improvisation with a restricted range of tools. Through their visual detachment from territory, the drawings question the geographical and discursive marks that carve out patterns of nationhood and migration, reconfiguring our understanding of the globe.

From July 20 to August 26, Murillo will present a newly commissioned installation, The Flooded Garden, at Tate Modern, London, as part of the UNIQLO Tate Play program. Concurrent to the Rome exhibition, Murillo’s work is the subject of exhibitions at the Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal; WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; and Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna.

Oscar Murillo, Marks and Whispers, 2024, installation view © Oscar Murillo. Photo: Matteo D'Eletto. Courtesy Gagosian

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