Chilean conceptual artist Iván Navarro is exhibiting his work in Brussels for the first time, with Nacht & Nebel, an installation of trompe-l’œil light sculptures that explore memories of the Second World War.
Presented for the first time at La Fondazione Volume! in Rome in 2012, the installation recalls the atmosphere of Italy under Nazi occupation and the bombing campaigns of 1943-1944. It comprises six geometric light wells — circle, triangle and rectangle — constructed of brick and cement. Each sculpture spells out a word in neon, with mirrors used to project the word infinitely: ODIO, OCCHIO, EX, BECCO, ECCIDIO, etc. Plunged into darkness, the gallery thus seems to open onto endless light-filled passages, metaphors for both escape and disappearance.
Navarro seeks to trigger a different attitude to history, exploring the ambiguities of memory. Every illuminated word possesses both real substance and illusory density. Language becomes an illuminated manifestation of conscience, referencing double meanings and the painful chasms that separate appearance from truth.
Born in Chile in 1972 and now a resident of New York, Iván Navarro uses light as his raw material. Turning everyday objects into electric sculptures and transforming the exhibition space by means of visual interplays, his work appropriates the language of modernism in order to develop understated political and social criticism. Having grown up under the Pinochet dictatorship, Iván Navarro is haunted by questions of power, control and imprisonment, both physical and psychological. The title of this latest exhibition refers to Adolph Hitler’s 1941 decree that ordered the Third Reich’s opponents to be spirited away in “the night and the fog” – a death sentence. The decree’s initials, NN, are the same as those used in Latin American for the disappeared, those No Names Iván Navarro’s works so often invoke.