The subway in any major city is a conduit, where thousands of lives flow like water through pipes in the journey from past to future. The subway station, however, is like a purgatory—a present-tense place where the journey temporarily hangs in the balance as one waits on the platform, maybe reading a book or reading the looks on the faces of passersby. Some people are hardened by years of public transportation; they pay no mind to who or what is happening around them. Others can’t help but assume the posture of human curiosity in such spaces and find fascinating the fleeting masses of strangers. Chilean-born, Berlin-based artist, Pablo Zuleta Zahr, belongs to a third category altogether. He surpasses the instinct to merely “people watch” and goes beyond to create elaborately curated photo documentaries of people moving through a particular station. The footage that he captures is true—real people passing through a real subway station—but the art that he makes from the video footage turns into a sociological exercise wherein people are organized by gender, style, and color of clothing and then regrouped into “patterned panoramas,” as the gallery refers to them.
For his first show in the United States, entitled Event Horizon at Richard Levy Gallery in Albuquerque, NM, Zuleta Zahr presents work from his series’ Baquadano and Madrid, as well as the four panel video installation, BUTTERFLYJACKPOT. Baquadano consists of large format photographic grids comprised of stills from ten hours of video footage of Chilean metro passengers. The results of the artist’s meticulous reorganization of people are almost abstract; the visuals of color and pattern become as strange and alluring as the orchestrated grouping of originally disconnected individuals.
Pablo Zuleta Zahr lives and works in Berlin and holds an MFA from Düsseldorf Art Academy. His work has been exhibited widely outside of the U.S., including at MITTAGEISEN, Berlin, Germany; Museo de Artes Visuales, Santiago de Chile; Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain; Studio la Città, Verona, Italy; Gallery Bendana-Pinel, Paris, France; and Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, UK, among elsewhere.