El viento sopla donde quiere (The wind blows where it wishes), 2023. Adobe and mixed metal, 770 x 439 x 277 cm. Photo: Timothy Schenck – The High Line, Courtesy Gabriel Chaile, Lisbon and High Line, New York

Missing Pieces: A Conversation with Gabriel Chaile

Gabriel Chaile blends past and present in his poetic sculptures, uniting ancient ritual and function with a contemporary social consciousness. His colossal adobe oven-creatures inspired by pre-Columbian forms are regularly used for baking empanadas and bringing people together to share a meal. Encompassing performance, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation, his practice is driven by a strong sense of social justice rooted in his Indigenous and mixed European heritage. Chaile grew up in Tucumán, northwest Argentina, an area rich in pre-Hispanic culture, which inspired his idea of the “genealogy of form,” which suggests that neglected stories and histories are passed down and reworked through objects.

Chaile, who is now based in Lisbon, has had a number of high-profile outings recently, including the 2022 Venice Biennale, a commission for the High Line, and a show at Barro Gallery, both in New York. He also installed his most ambitious show to date last year at Studio Voltaire, where he covered the interior of the former chapel in adobe, effectively transplanting the rustic mud brick churches of his homeland to London. “Usos y Costumbres” (“Traditions and Customs”) was a collaboration with his friend, the Argentinian painter Laura Ojeda Bär, who also participated in this discussion. Together, they used the space to rethink Western hierarchies of value and power, collapsing time and cultures into a new and vital synthesis of survival and resistance.

Elizabeth Fullerton: “Usos y Costumbres” seemed a departure from your signature sculptures, focusing on the architecture of the space, even though your giant sculpture-portrait, Laura, took center-stage.
Gabriel Chaile: Laura and I wanted to develop a project that involved a two-way dialogue while maintaining our individual autonomy. . .

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