Anonymous Beings: An Interview with Emil Alzamora
Interview with Emil Alzamora
By KATHERINE MANGIARDI, MAY 2015
For Emil Alzamora's first solo show with Marc Straus gallery, he has created sculptures of the human form through a process of reduction and omission. Forms are distorted, shrouded and blurred; lacking facial features and sex, yet remain universally representative. Alzamora's anonymous beings are at once intimate and nonspecific; emotionally charged objects of the present.
Katherine Mangiardi: Your sculptures lack recognizable features and are androgynous yet there is a sense each is individual. What is the significance of your choice to leave out detailed features void of gender?
Emil Alzamora: With these more recent works I have pushed that further. It has been a gradual process of “undoing." With sculpture there are technical processes associated with their making that either accumulate material or reduce it. One of the things I have been exploring is interrupting the process or intentionally sabotaging it in order to see what physics will do to alter or dictate the final aesthetic or narrative. At the root of all of this is a fascination with revealing and concealing, of exposing and protecting. The anonymity of these works appeals to me in their universality, their humanness and their distilled version of what we tend to think makes up our individuality. They are human, before they are individuals, before they are male or female.
Mangiardi: You were born in Peru. How does your own history inform the work?
Alzamora: I was born in Lima. My mother was born in Michigan, but grew up in Lima until she was 15 and my father is English. My stepfather is American and is an experienced sailor so I spent quite a bit of time on a sailboat. We spent much of my upbringing in Florida and in Majorca, Spain. Travel was always important to my family as was visiting all aspects of humanity by way of ruins and museums. In many ways I feel American, though I am a British citizen. I speak Spanish but it is an odd mix of Majorcan and Peruvian. In the end this has left me feeling rather without a country and more a person living in the world. This definitely has contributed to my interest in the universal be it cultural, geographical, religious etc.
Mangiardi: Giacometti and Brancusi have a strong relationship to your sculptures in the way emotion is conveyed through treatment of scale and surface yet your work does not seem to be derivative due to your unique treatment of material. What is the meaning behind your choice of surface?
Alzamora: Although I love a smooth surface, it isn't the primary reason for my making a sculpture. There is an idea or a feeling I want to explore. In this case, I was really into the concept of reduction both in the physical sense but also in a cognitive sense (they are clearly overwhelmed with something). The smooth sculptures, for example, come from a series of drawings I did last summer that really pushed the idea of erosion or reduction and distillation. The forms followed as I started making them. I knew they would have to end up smooth to be effective in this context so I went with it and really liked the results aesthetically and how charged they were despite and because of their limited content.