Adrián Villar Rojas is an Argentinian artist who conceives long-term projects that are produced collectively and collaboratively, assuming the form of large-scale, site-specific environments that are both imposing and fragile. His works leave a minimal imprint of their passage through the world thanks to their perishing materiality and parasitical integration. Within his research and worldbuilding, which mixes sculpture, drawing, video, literature and performative traces, Villar Rojas brings together the human and more-than-human realms while investigating the fragile and temporary nature of human civilization.
For Helsinki Biennial 2023, Villar Rojas has created a site-specific sculptural work in dialogue with the environment and inhabitants of Vallisaari Island. The work has its roots in Villar Rojas’s Brick Farm, a series of works inspired by the Argentinian hornero bird, which makes its nests from mud, straw and rubble, adapting them to human-built surroundings. In the new work, however, there is a shift from the organic, ephemeral sculptures inspired by the hornero to a more artificial, yet still more-than-human mode of materiality.
Using an amalgamation of software systems collectively described as the ‘Time Engine’, Villar Rojas has generated a series of intensely detailed virtual worlds and placed sculptures within them.
Simulating various environmental and socio-political conditions across timespans ranging from hours to millennia, the Time Engine allows him to take his already experimental sculptural practice to a new level, creating works in places and times that surpass our tangible realities.
As the extreme conditions of each world bore down on the sculptures, they became ever more complex and harrowed. Fires scorched them, altered gravity distorted them. Unrest toppled them, wars wounded them. Other life forms sheltered within or bloomed upon them. The artist modelled worlds, which in turn modelled the sculptures.
The effect of the environment and time on his work has always been an important part of Villar Rojas’s practice. From the beginning of his career, he has been interested in the interaction between inorganic and organic or human-made and so-called natural materials. He exposes his art to the elements, unconcerned about how it is influenced by the environment – for him, destruction and decay are brought about by the inevitable entropy of being in the world.
Solo exhibitions include The End of Imagination, The Tank, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2022); El fin de la imaginación, The Bass, Miami (2022); La fin de l’imagination, Marian Goodman Galerie, Paris (2020); Poems for Earthlings, Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (2019); Sometimes You Wonder, in an Interconnected Universe, Who is Dreaming Who?, Tank Shanghai, China (2019); The Theater of Disappearance, The Geffen Contemporary at Moca, Los Angeles (2017); NEON at Athens National Observatory, Greece (2017); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2017);
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2017); Rinascimento, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino (2015); Fantasma, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2015); Two Suns, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York (2015); The Evolution of God, The High Line, New York (2014); Los teatros de Saturno, Kurimanzutto, Mexico City (2014); Today We Reboot the Planet, Serpentine Galleries, London (2013); and La inocencia de los animales, Moma Ps1, New York (2013).
Participation in international group exhibitions includes Portals, Hellenic Parliament + NEON, Athens (2021); Bruges Triennial, Belgium (2021); 12th and 13th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2020 and 2018); 2nd Lahore Biennale, Pakistan (2020); Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh (2020); Layers of Time, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2019); 1st Riga Biennial, Latvia (2018); 14th and 12th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2015 and 2012); 12th Havana Biennial, Cuba (2015); 12th Sharjah Biennial, Kalba, United Arab Emirates (2015); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel and Kabul (2012); The New Museum Triennial, New York (2012); and 54th Venice Biennale, Argentina’s National Pavilion, Italy (2011).
Villar Rojas has been the recipient of numerous prizes such as Konex Award (2012 and 2022); the Sharjah Biennial Prize (2015); the Prix Canson, Paris (2015); the Zurich Art Prize at the Museum Haus Konstruktiv (2013); the 9th Benesse Prize in the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); the Nuevo Banco de Santa Fe Scholarship for Young Artists (2006); and the First Prize National Art Biennial of Bahía Blanca, Argentina (2005). In 2020 he was nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize. His 2013 film, Lo que el fuego me trajo, screened at the Locarno International Film Festival 2013. His 2017 film trilogy, The Theater of Disappearance, screened at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival 2017.