Photo of David Medalla wearing a mask that reads "in conversation with the cosmos"

David Medalla: In Conversation with the Cosmos

In Conversation with the Cosmos is the first comprehensive survey in the United States dedicated to the late Filipino artist David Medalla (1938–2020). The exhibition contextualizes the elusive and experimental practice of an artist whose pioneering work spanned kinetic, performance, and participatory art movements. Medalla’s life and work cultivated intimate forms of exchange between collaborators, friends, and lovers in the service of “cosmic propulsions,” “Impromptus,” and other otherworldly propositions. Beginning with paintings and drawings from the late 1950s and concluding with the works he produced before his death, In Conversation with the Cosmos presents the accumulations of a creative life imbued with an anti-institutional ethos and a commitment to impermanence and change.

David Medalla: In Conversation with the Cosmos is organized by Aram Moshayedi, interim chief curator, with Nyah Ginwright, curatorial assistant.

Major support for David Medalla: In Conversation with the Cosmos is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Generous support is provided by Karen Hillenburg, and Christine Meleo Bernstein and Armyan Bernstein. Additional support is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, David Regan and Edgar Cervantes, John Auerbach and Edward Tang, Beth and Ken Karmin, and Edward Lee.

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Born in Manila, Philippines, David Medalla (1938–2020) is an artist known primarily for his “biokinetic” sculptures produced in London in the 1960s. Among these sculptures were his Cloud Canyons, also known as bubble machines (first version 1963), which merged art and technology. As cofounder of the influential gallery, Signals London, Medalla played a vital role in introducing important global artists such as Lygia Clark, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Takis (Panayiotis Vassilakis) to Britain. In the late 1960s Medalla founded the Exploding Galaxy, an experimental performance group that enacted happenings in public settings across London and performed as an opening act for Pink Floyd and other rock groups. During this period, he began to create pioneering participatory artworks such as A Stitch in Time (first version 1968), in which spectators were invited to contribute to large-scale installations that he had initiated. From the 1979 until the end of his life, Medalla focused his practice on what he termed “synoptic realism,” producing paintings and impromptu performances that further forged creative connections between his personal experience and historical figures and mythological characters.

For more than six decades, David Medalla presented artworks, installations, and performances in a variety of formal and informal venues across the globe, from small artist-run spaces to major museums. His work was featured in two landmark exhibitions curated by Harald Szeemann: Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern (1969) and Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany (1972). One of Medalla’s Cloud Canyon sculptures was featured in the influential exhibition The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-war Britain (1989) at the Hayward Gallery in London, curated by Rasheed Areean. Medalla’s work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, at such venues as Tate Modern, London (2016); Jewish Museum, New York (2014); Fondazione Prada, Venice (2013); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2003); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998); the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1997); and New Museum, New York (1992). In 2016 he was shortlisted for the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. Medalla’s participatory artwork A Stitch in Time was included in the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). In 2021/2022, the exhibition David Medalla: Parables of Friendship was presented at Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany and Museion, Bolzano, Italy.

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