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b. 1969, Barquisimeto, Venezuela
Alexander Apóstol was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in 1969. He studied photography with Ricardo Armas from 1987 to 1988, and art history at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, from 1987 to 1990. Apóstol has completed residencies with the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Maracay Mario Abreu, Venezuela (1998), Casa de América, Madrid (2002), and the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy (2012–13).
Encompassing photography and video, Apóstol’s oeuvre seeks to expose fractures in the modernist project, both in the artist’s native Venezuela and across South America. Since early in his career, he has concentrated on the iconography of the urban landscape, a tendency exemplified by his series Polished Residents (Residente Pulido, 2001). This set of photographs portrays iconic buildings from 1950s Caracas, but Apóstol digitally altered the images to conceal windows and doors. Built landmarks are thus transformed into impenetrable monoliths that speak to the decadence of a metropolitan project now estranged from its architectural contemporaries.
Apóstol’s video Yamaikaleter (2009) features political activists from Venezuela—both supporters and opponents of Hugo Chávez, then president. They take turns reading “Letter from Jamaica,” a document Venezuela’s founder, Simón Bolivar, wrote while in exile in 1815 to request the British Empire’s support for the country’s independence process. The video shows the readers struggling to speak English, a language they do not understand, as a metaphor for the distance between the historical figure and his present-day appropriation.
Apóstol again examined questions of history and identity in his series Rehearsing the National Posture (Ensayando la Postura Nacional, 2010), a re-creation in video and photography of the 1950s paintings of Pedro Centeno Vallenilla, an artist favored by the 1952–58 Venezuelan dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez. At Casa Recao, a decadent modernist mansion in Caracas, performers mimic the contorted positions of figures in the paintings, resulting in some unlikely and unwieldy compositions. Among these are photographic restagings of portraits of Venezuelan national heroes; Apóstol represents them nude in a heavily homoerotic style to highlight the patriarchal overtones of nation building.
Apóstol has had solo exhibitions at Sala Mendoza, Caracas (2004); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami; and Palau de la Virreina, Barcelona (all 2006); David Rockefeller Center of Latin American Studies at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2007); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain (2010); and Centro de la Imagen, Lima (2011). He has participated in the group exhibitions Habitat/Variations, Bâtiment d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, and Lo(s) Cinético(s), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (both 2007); Painting in the Glass House, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut, and Islands+Guettos, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin (both 2008); Photographic Typologies, Tate Modern, London (2010); The End of Money, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, and Destello, Fundación Jumex, Mexico City (both 2011). Apóstol has also participated in the São Paulo Biennial (2002); Istanbul Biennial (2003); Cuenca Biennial, Ecuador (2004); Prague Biennial (2003 and 2005); San Juan Triennial, Puerto Rico (2009); Manifesta (2009); and Venice Biennale (2011). Apóstol lives and works in Madrid.