With Madoz, not everything is as it seems

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Sometimes there is more to life than meets the eye. Those who doubt the wisdom of that old saying should look no further than the work of acclaimed Spanish surrealist photographer, Chema Madoz.

An exhibition of Madoz’ work is on display at Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum during the month of May, and moves to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in June. The two events mark the artist’s first appearance in Egypt.

In his compositions, Madoz presents us with what at first glance appear to be simply composed black and white photographs of everyday objects – a globe or palm tree, a cork screw or bird cage. But take a second glance, and the fallacy of those initial assumptions is laid bare.

A globe is actually a mounted disco ball, a cork screw’s blade is twisted in every direction, and a bird cage tries to imprison the clouds in the sky. Each piece contains a clever twist that strikes the viewer almost as an after thought, in a way that suggests that all of our assumptions should be as closely re-examined.

His work pushes the viewer to believe that perhaps the world is a little more complicated than we would like to think. Maybe not everything is as it seems.

The simplicity of Madoz’ compositions betray the intellectual force of his work. A work of art does not have to be ostentatiously sophisticated to be smart and engaging, and the real power of Madoz’ pieces lies in the ability of his message to sneak up on you.

Often, as they say, the medium is the message. That adage certainly rings true for Madoz’ work. The simplicity and strength of his art comes from the simplicity of the objects he photographs, and the highly textural, atmospheric use of black and white.

“I work in black and white because it conjures up a direct relationship between the image and memory, and the image and identity, that is easier for the viewer to appreciate, Madoz told The Daily Star Egypt. “Working in black and white creates a stronger image and message by highlighting textures and bringing a dynamism into the space that might otherwise be weaker.

This simple yet dynamic quality has led Borja Casani, the curator of the Cairo show, to compare the powerful, intangible quality to poetry.

“Chema Madoz works with the sense of things as if it were actually matter, he wrote in a 2006 retrospective of the artist’s work. “The task of materializing sense is undoubtedly a poetic exercise and therefore I would initially emphasize that his oeuvre produces as essentially poetic perception. Madoz uses objects and their graphic representation as if they were words from a very clear vocabulary.

Luckily for the Cairo art world, some vocabulary is universal.

Chema MadozMahmoud Khalil Museum, Horizon One Gallery, GizaUntil May 15, 2007Bibliotheca AlexandrinaMay 31-June 30, 2007

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