You don’t have to look far in the art world to find something by Daniel Buren, the 76-year-old Frenchman best known for championing the ordinary stripe. The prolific artist has one-man shows up at the Baltic in Newcastle, England; at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg, Germany; and at Galleria Massimo Minini in Breschia, Italy. There is also the set he designed for Daphis et Chloé at the Opéra Bastille in Paris, as well as his trippy installation on the rooftop of Le Corbusier’s Radiant City in Marseille. But Buren’s artistic territory extends far beyond established art hubs to places like Guadalajara, Mexico, where he recently transformed a former hospital into a temple of geometric shapes and colored light.
“From One Courtyard to Another: Labyrinth – Work in Situ, 2014” (2014) is located in the neoclassical Hospicio Cabañas. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the hospital opened in the early 19th century to offer care to the poor, handicapped, orphaned, and elderly residents of the city. Its massive complex is laid out around 22 courtyards and two chapels, one painted by the celebrated muralist José Clemente Orozco in the early 20th century. Orozco painted 57 frescoes there between 1936 and 1939, including “El Hombre de Fuego (Man of Fire),” a masterpiece of 20th century mural painting.
“My works in Las Cabañas are freer and more mature than almost any previous experimentation,” Buren told Hyperallergic via email. The installation spans 19 patios, leaving those used as administrative offices and classrooms untouched. Black and white vertical stripes, along with geometric shapes in red, blue, green, and yellow, interact playfully with existing architectural motifs such as arches and columns, opening what Buren calls “a dialectical dialogue between the old and the new.” In the hospital’s second chapel, the artist countered Orozco’s murals with a prismatic light display of his own. He treated the windows with transparently colored filters that illuminate the floor and walls, becoming “part of the old architecture.”
Despite working in such public institutions, Buren said he doesn’t like to think about the audience while working. “My work must create, at least partly, its own public,” he wrote. “To think beforehand of a specific public is, in my eyes, a very big mistake. An artist works first for herself or himself … To supposedly know the public in advance is to destroy right away the necessary minimum of freedom needed to work seriously. After the show, you might have some information from the reaction of the public, from which you certainly learn for your own good. But you cannot have the pretension to know in advance who the public is.”
Take a look at a few images from the show: