Mirrors and Electricity - Studio Visit with Ivan Navarro

I'm reflected in a mirror that was a leftover sample from the show Ivan had at Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris this past May.  Ivan is in front of me and Kevin Burg is on the back.  All photos are by Jamie Beck

I'm very lucky to have collaborated with Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, the masterminds behind Ann Street Studio, to shoot a series of contemporary artists' studio visits. They are extremely talented, creative and fun.  This is the first of six visits that we did together and I couldn't be happier with the results. 

Ivan Navarro has been mentioned in this site in several posts. However, this is the first time I've been to his Brooklyn studio and I was fascinated by his labyrinthine space spread out in several levels, his extraordinary technique and his innovative ways to transform electricity and mirrors into art. I saw one of Ivan pieces for the first time probably eight or nine years ago.  I felt mesmerized and transported by a floor sculpture created with a double mirror and bulbs that had the effect to trick the eye into the vision of a tunnel that seemed infinite, an Alice In Wonderland rabbit hole that invited onlookers to step on it and become part of Ivan's endless spiraling space.

I always say that his art is part rock n' roll part deep political argument. It's impossible not to, given his background and upbringing. Ivan was born in Chile and grew up in Santiago during the Pinochet years. Those were years of repression, censorship and silence. Electricity was used normally and also abused by the regimen to torture, to terrorize, to threaten.  But Ivan saw something else in the use of bulbs and fluorescent light and influenced by Dan Flavin, after finishing art school in Chile, moved to New York. 

Part of understanding Ivan's work has a lot to do with his love for music. His first video was produced in 2005 and shows Ivan pushing a shopping cart made of fluorescent bulbs on the streets of West Chelsea.  Ivan and a friend stop at the Balenciaga boutique on 22nd street and plug the cart in the street lamp to “steal” public electricity. Passersby look at the mobile sculpture, a bit curious, but jaded, like most New Yorkers are. When Ivan made this video, he wanted to add music to it, and realized the complications of licensing songs, reproducing rights and royalties.  It was then that it occurred to him to launch Hueso Records to produce his own music and release music related to his own artwork. Now, Ivan has ventured into releasing records like Caterina Purdy’s  techno-cumbia or experimental rock played by the Chilean band Electrodomestico. 

Ivan has had such a fruitful career and he is still so young.  He represented Chile in the Venice Biennale in 2009 and has exhibited in solo and group shows all over the world.  Museums and collectors alike love his work, and how not to? He is so darn good at what he does, his finishes are so impeccable, his technique so simple, yet so powerful and the enormous amount of work that goes into each sculpture is part of Ivan’s success: nothing leaves the studio unless it is 100% perfect.  He has a lot of projects for next year that will be announced soon.  2014 will certainly be very special for him.