The multidisciplinary artist, David Medalla b.1942 in the Philippines, has died age 78. Medalla enrolled at Columbia University in New York upon the recommendation of the American poet Mark van Doren age 14. In the late 1950s, he returned to Manila and met the Catalan poet Jaime Gil de Biedma and the painter Fernando Zóbel de Ayala, who became the earliest patrons of his art. He lived and worked in London, New York and Paris.
His practice is informed by complex combinations of memories and evolving relationships. His work often reflects rhythms and systems found in the natural world. His work incorporated painting, participatory work, performance and kinetic sculpture, including the pioneering ‘auto-creative’ sculptures that he first made in the 1960s.
During the 1960s in Paris, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard introduced Medalla’s performance of ‘Brother of Isidora’ at the Academy of Raymond Duncan. Later, Louis Aragon would introduce another performance finally, Marcel Duchamp honoured him with a ‘medallic’ object.
His work was included in Harald Szeemann’s exhibition ‘Weiss auf Weiss’ (1966) and ‘Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form’ (1969) DOCUMENTA 5 exhibition in 1972 in Kassel.
During the early 1960s, he moved to the United Kingdom and in 1964 co-founded the Signals Gallery in London, which presented international kinetic art. He was editor of the Signals news bulletin from 1964 to 1966. In 1967 he initiated the Exploding Galaxy, an international confluence of multi-media artists, significant in hippie/counterculture circles, notably the UFO Club and Arts Lab. From 1974 to 1977 he was chairman of Artists for Democracy, an organisation dedicated to ‘giving material and cultural support to liberation movements worldwide’ and director of the Fitzrovia Cultural Centre in London.
Residing at the George Washington Hotel on Lexington Ave. in New York, in 1994, he founded the Mondrian Fan Club with Adam Nankervis as vice-president.
Between 1 January 1995 and 14 February 1995 David Medalla rented a space at 55 Gee Street, London, where he lived and exhibited. He exhibited seven new versions of his biokinetic constructions of the sixties (bubble machines; and a monumental sand machine). These machines were constructed from Medalla’s original designs, by the English artist Dan Chadwick. The exhibition also featured large-scale prints of his New York ‘Mondrian Events’ with Adam Nankervis, and five large oil paintings on canvas created by David Medalla in situ at 55 Gee Street.
His work featured at the last Venice Biennale and was well received bringing his practice to the attention of the young generation of artists.
Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2020