"You Are Here" by Ester Partegas

Ester Partegàs: You Are Here

You Are Here, 2014
Installation with wallpaper, light boxes, and color transparencies
23.5 x 38 feet, this exhibition; dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist; Foxy Production, New York, NY; and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

On view from June 27, till August 10, 2014
Marfa Book Company, 105 S. Highland Avenue, Marfa, Texas 79843

Ester Partegàs often addresses the most banal aspects of the urban landscape with a keen eye for telling details that otherwise would be overlooked or dismissed. Her earlier renditions of corporatized environments, such as an airport lounge or a mall atrium, drew attention to their interchangeable aspects and the consequent quality of sameness that today makes distinguishing one place from the next increasingly difficult. She explores the psychological dimensions of these indeterminate spaces, reflecting not only on how their anonymity can disorient and unmoor us, but also on the sense of wonder and possibility that can arise when considering anew the commonplace and discarded.

At the Marfa Book Company, continuing to investigate this state of dislocation, Partegàs adopts the format of a wrap-around installation, as she has previously, to situate the viewer in another version of anywhere. Printed on black-and-white wallpaper encircling the gallery, a weed- choked expanse of a boarded-up structure evokes the kind of no-man’s-land that infiltrates the contemporary landscape to an ever greater degree. In setting this scene, Partegàs creates a provocative space to manifest her conceptual interests by resuscitating elements whose ubiquitous character has rendered them virtually invisible in everyday life.

This imagery reflects Partegàs’s longstanding fascination with borderlines and margins and the potential for transformation they represent, “where,” she notes, “one thing is starting to become something else.”* At certain points around the room, the wallpaper is purposely misaligned and sections of the imagery repeat, evoking the staccato rhythm of individual frames from a filmstrip; at other points, the wallpaper ends, leaving bare areas of the white gallery wall before continuing again. These slippages or interruptions in the flow of imagery conjure multiple associations, from the tension between the real and the simulated, to the inevitability of transiency and mutation, to the possibility of open-endedness and multiple perspectives.

The visual allure of several large-scale color photo-transparencies, illuminated in light boxes, offers a striking contrast to the surrounding backdrop; this aspect of the installation also relates to Partegàs’s interest in consumerist marketing strategies that helped to propel certain earlier works. Upon closer inspection, these rural and urban views reveal glitches—a rip, a fold, or a slice of background or foreground—indicative of their actual point of origin. Selected from a much larger group of pictures taken during a trip to China in 2006, her photographs are twice removed from reality: they document images appearing on vinyl barriers around construction sites, as well as a point where the fictional subsumes any trace of the factual.

The moving about that the city multiplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place... a universe of rented spaces haunted by immense social experience of lacking a place... a universe of rented spaces haunted by a nowhere or by dreamed-of places.

–Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

For the artist, this omnipresent packaging of the city takes part in “an endless game of temporary surfaces that question the certainty and singularity of the spaces we occupy and experience.” In You Are Here, her own layering of image and space interrogates the meaning and assurance of this familiar phrase, challenging us to reexamine our understanding of the world and our place within it.


This text was written by Ashley Kistler, Director, Anderson Gallery, on the occasion of 17 - March 9, 2014. Quotes by the artist derive from correspondence with the author in October 2013.



Ester Partegàs (born 1972, La Garriga, Barcelona) received an MFA in Sculpture from the Universitat de Barcelona and completed postgraduate studies in Multimedia Arts at the Universität der Künste, Berlin. She has presented solo exhibitions and projects at the Aldrich Museum for Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT; Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Hallwalls, Buffalo, NY; Centre d'Art Santa Monica, Barcelona; and Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, TX, among other venues. Over the last decade, Partegàs’s work has been included in over 60 group exhibitions internationally. She is represented by Foxy Production, New York, NY; Christopher Grimes, Santa Monica, CA; and NoguerasBlanchard, Barcelona and Madrid.