Oklahoma Contemporary
Photo: Alex Marks
A man in a leather jacket and tinted glasses is talking, facing the camera. The photo is in black and white. People are gathered around him, listening. Behind him, we can see a car standing vertically.

New Light

Aug. 02, 2022

A Brief History of Gonzalo Lebrija

Guadalajara artist brings his gravity-defying sculpture to OKC

A black, classic Plymouth Duster stands vertically over a black pool of water, nose first. Behind is the front of a museum, a large white-brick building with architecture detail.
Gonzalo Lebrija's Breve historia del tiempo (2020)

What purpose can art serve? For some, visual delights wrapped in sensory invitations; some find inspiration for explorative adventures. For others, it’s contemplative meanings behind theory-tinted lenses. For Guadalajara artist Gonzalo Lebrija, it’s a way of communication.

“Without context, Lebrija’s works exist only as beautiful objects, images or performances,” ArtNews says. “With a little introspection on the part of their viewers, however, they become evidence of dark events.”

Born in Mexico City and based in Guadalajara, Lebrija is one of the best-known contemporary artists living in the growing city and country. With a decades-long and widely exhibited career, Lebrija’s work spans across multiple mediums — photography, videos, sculpture and painting – conceptually reframing “familiar objects or activities … to imbue them with poetic and symbolic force,” writes the Palm Springs Art Museum. Lebrija finds ways to communicate with his viewers through his thought-provoking structures and frozen frames, urging onlookers to (metaphorically) step past the surface and search for more.

A golden lasso is frozen in the picture; a large, tied loop up top spirals down. The background is completely black.
Gonzalo Lebrija's Floreo 3 (2013)

In conjunction with the upcoming exhibition La casa que nos inventamos: Contemporary Art from Guadalajara, Lebrija will open one of his gravity-defying works this Thursday, Aug. 4. Within this monumental sculpture, a vintage piece of ideological “Americanness” frozen moments before impact, Lebrija creates a dialogue. As he explores time, including how perceptions of past, present and future can be altered by visual phenomena, the Campbell Art Park sculpture targets the complexities of moments lived and lost. The car appears to dangle between life and death itself.

“[My art] never talks about what you should think. I know something is wrong, and I know how to talk about it [artistically] and how to make you feel about it,” Lebrija tells ArtNews. “It’s very difficult to express [social issues], and to create a sensibility to understand them better and give people the opportunity to open, but I think this is what artists do. Artists are not politicians. In a way, they are activists, but their activism is [done] in terms of how they open other people’s minds to conceptual ideas.”

This conversation between artist and viewer can be found throughout his work, including his collaborations with Oklahoma Contemporary. In 2015, Marfa Contemporary hosted a Lebrija exhibition that included History of Suspended Time. The sculpture — another 1968 Chevy Malibu, suspended over a pool of water — was installed outside the gallery at the main intersection of the tiny Texas art mecca.

A car stands vertically over a black pool of reflective water. Behind the car is Marfa Contemporary, a white building with blue accents and large windows. The sky is blue.
Gonzalo Lebrija's History of Suspended Time (2010)

Jump seven years to this Thursday, and the Guadalajara artist will open Breve historia del tiempo, translated to a "Brief history of time", at our new home, a first for the region.

“We’ve dreamed of bringing Breve historia del tiempo to Campbell Art Park for almost a decade,” Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis says. “His 2015 project in Marfa, La Sombra del zopilote, included a version of the sculpture, warmly referred to as ‘The Car,’ installed outside the building. This show was the first of four solo exhibitions at Marfa Contemporary of works by artists from Guadalajara, and each of these artists is now participating in La casa que nos inventamos (Jose Dávila, Francisco Ugarte and Jorge Méndez Blake)."

“And as the first Guadalajara-based artist we worked with, Gonzalo was instrumental in introducing us to other artists, curators and creatives in his hometown. With this history, it’s fitting that ‘The Car’ serves as the overture before La casa que nos inventamos sounds off in September. We’re thrilled to work with Gonzalo again to bring this powerful work of public art to Oklahoma City.”

A 1968 black, Chevy Malibu stands vertically over a black pool of reflective water. A cream building stands behind the installation. We can see tall, city center-like buildings in the background.
Gonzalo Lebrija's Breve historia del tiempo (2020)

Sitting atop Automobile Alley in the middle of Campbell Art Park, the 2,500-pound classic Plymouth Duster will appear to suspend over a reflective pool of water, similar to his 2015 Marfa installation. Both sculptures are physical culminations of a 2008 performance, Entre la vida y la muerta, in which he dropped a classic car into a Mexican lake, capturing the instant just before the machine hit the water.

“Lebrija is always looking for moments of interruption,” Palm Springs Art Museum writes. “Breaks in our everydayness, events that introduce into modern society a sense of the miraculous.”

Join us and the artist from 6-8 p.m. this Thursday for the opening of this breathtaking work. Lebrjia’s piece is presented as part of La casa que nos inventamos: Contemporary Art From Guadalajara, including additional works, Floreo 3 and Entre la Vida y la Muerte, on view this fall. The exhibition — featuring nearly 50 conceptual artworks from 19 artists from or living in Guadalajara — will kick off with a free Open House weekend, Sept. 22-23.


Guadalajara artist Gonzalo Lebrija gives a talk at his 2015 opening in Marfa. Photo: Alex Marks.

Gonzalo Lebrija, Breve Historia del Tiempo, 2020. Plymouth Duster, dyed water, receptacle. Dimensions variable Photo: Fernando Marroquín T. Courtesy Colección Jumex.

Gonzalo Lebrija, Floreo 3, 2013. C-Print. 68 x 49 in. Photo courtesy the artist and Travesía Cuatro.

Gonzalo Lebrija, History of Suspended Time: Monument for the Impossible (2010). Installed in 2015 at Marfa Contemporary.

Tags tags
installation sculpture La casa que nos inventamos Artist Spotlight Guadalajara contemporary art

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