Every week, artist Oriol Vilanova (Spanish, born 1980) scours flea markets for second-hand postcards. He organizes his collection, which contains more than 75,000 postcards, into works of art that address how images shape our knowledge of the world. More than 4,500 museum postcards of dramatically different objects make up Anything, Everything, the centerpiece of Vilanova’s presentation at the Albright-Knox, which is the first museum exhibition of his work in the United States. By organizing the postcards according to their colored backgrounds, the artist proposes that the circulation of objects through reproductions can “color,” or influence, their meanings.
Vilanova’s exhibition extends into the 1962 Building with two other postcard-based works. For Old Masters, the artist will install four ordinary-looking jackets in different locations. Unlike most works of art, these jackets are meant to be touched: in their pockets, visitors will find postcards from Vilanova’s collection featuring works by the artists of adjacent paintings. For To be Precise, the artist will place thousands of postcards—bundled to hide their images from view—in a former telephone booth near Shop AK. These interventions prompt questions about how images are valued, experienced, distributed, and understood, especially within a museum context.
The popularity of printed postcards in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries vastly expanded the circulation of images. Although Vilanova’s works are made with these “analog” materials, the scale of his installations points to the more recent proliferation of digital images in contemporary culture. While evoking the complexity of organizing such vast quantities of information, Vilanova’s compositions insist on the poetry of the images he collects, juxtaposes, and displays in unexpected ways.