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Maus  Contemporary

Gema Álava



Gema Álava (b. 1973 Madrid, Spain) lives and works in New York City. She has lived in Madrid, London, and San Francisco, studying at the Facultad de Bellas Artes de Madrid (BFA), Universidad Complutense (MA, Education); the Chelsea College of Art and Design, The London Institute (BFA); the Academy of Art University (MFA, Painting), and at the San Francisco Art Institute (MFA, New Genres). In 2012 she was appointed Cultural Adviser to the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations.
In 1995 Álava was awarded second prize in Spain's National Drawing Competition, Premio Penagos by the MAPHRE Foundation, becoming the youngest artist and first woman to receive said recognition. The same year, she received an Erasmus Grant, and in 1997 she obtained a Fellowship for postgraduate studies in the United States from La Caixa Foundation. In 2001 she was accepted simultaneously to the emerging art programs at the Aljira- A center for Contemporary Art, and at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, in New York. Her first solo show in New York City was in 2002 at Lance Fung gallery, and in 2011 she was nominated for, and awarded, a Peter Reed Foundation Fellowship for her trilogy TELL ME - FIND ME - TRUST ME (2008-2010). Participants of her art projects include artists Alison Knowles, Paul Kos, Robert Ryman, Arne Svenson, Merrill Wagner, and Lawrence Weiner.

Álava has worked for a decade as a lecturer, art educator, and education consultant in the Education Departments of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Morgan Library and Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York; working with many audiences (children, teenagers, adults and seniors) in numerous programs, including Family, School, Adult, Special Events, Professional Development, VIP, as well as Access Programs specially designed for individuals and groups with disabilities.
Her work has been exhibited, presented, and/or founded by the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Spain; the Queens Museum of Art, NY; the Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY; the Rana Museum in Norway; the Morgan Library and Museum, NY; the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Miami, FL; the CUE Art Foundation, NY; the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain; the San Francisco Art Institute, CA; New York University, NY; Columbia University, NY; the Jersey City Museum, USA; the London Institute, UK; the United Nations Building, NY; Fundacion La Caixa, Spain; Fundacion Maphre, Spain; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NY; the General Consulate of Spain in New York and the Cervantes Institute.

Her art project A Dialogue was selected by artist Cai Guo Qiang and performed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2008. Her project Trust Me was selected by Wooloo to be performed at MANIFESTA 8, and at the European Biennial of Contemporary Art (Murcia), Spain.

Álava's work has received national and international recognition in many publications including The New York Times, Diario ABC, Diario El Pais, Fiber Arts Magazine, Agencia EFE, and has been broadcasted in HITM Television, NY1 Noticias, Mega TV News, NCI Noticias, RTVE, and TVE National Television of Spain. In 2013 she published the book Tell Me the Truth, 2008-2013 which was presented at TWIN Gallery in Madrid, Spain, and at the Instituto Cervantes in New York City. She writes for FronteraD Magazine.




Gema Álava "Hexagons: constellation"Gema Álava "Hexagons: constellation"

Gema Álava

Hexagons: constellation




a set comprised of twelve individual mixed media works


24 karat gold leaf, pigment, watercolor, graphite,

and Faber-Castell watercolor pencils on airport blueprints

collaged on linen, mounted on wood


24 1/4 by 24 1/4 in. each

(each ca. 61,6 by 61,6 cm)


installed as shown

approx. 50 by 154 in.

(ca. 127 by 391 cm)




In Hexagons, Gema Álava's first solo exhibition at Maus Contemporary, the Spanish-born, New York-based artist presents incredibly subtle and beautiful commentaries on gender, power, movement, and the crowd mind.

Exhibiting mixed-media paintings — works built and layered from a palette of materials including, in part, 24 karat gold leaf, watercolor, blueprints, and watercolor pencils — Álava constructs complex narratives of "the hive mind". Using what seems at first to be a disarmingly simple iconography, Álava is exploring an allegorical landscape between bees and humans. She draws corollaries between systems of colonization, control, reproduction, and extinction through making visual metaphors of how a Queen Bee controls her colony. As she explains, "A queen bee can control her entire colony — including its reproduction and makeup — with as few as 12 pheromones." Now, as bees become threatened, Álava also uses components of their lifespan, including aspects of their construction like the hexagon, to mark the spaces that humans colonize, inhabit, move through, and impact in similar ways.


For her first exhibition at Maus Contemporary, Álava will present an installation and mixed-media paintings from her Constellation series. Each is a component of her ongoing project Hexagons, which unites mixed media paintings on linen, site-specific installations, performance works, and public forums, lectures, and presentations, into larger dialogues surrounding the issues being addressed. "If bees are not allowed to pollinate, humanity might perish. If artists are not allowed to pollinate culture, humanity might perish as well," she says.

Constellation 0, a small-scale mixed-media painting on airport blueprints, combines elements of astronomy, chemistry, and geometry, to present a work which creates metaphors for the pheromones for flight, the opportunity for escape, and the unity of systems.

Hexagons: constellation, is a multi-part, large-scale works, spanning 12 uniformly sized panels of linen on wood. Each is unique, a collage of airport blueprints on linen, delicately covered with gold leaf, pigment, watercolor, graphite, and watercolor pencils. Here, Álava's works transfix viewers to the sky, where they oscillate between the space of bees' flight and the space of their own.

It can be challenging to synthesize complexity into beauty, yet Gema Álava's Hexagons do precisely that. Her materiality is seductive and luscious, making her works enticing to view. Her subject matter is recognizable and evocative, leaving space for interpretation; it is also timely, universal, and pertinent.




Gema Álava, "Constellation 00"Gema Álava, "Constellation 00"

Gema Álava

Constellation 00



24 karat gold leaf, pigment, watercolor, graphite,

and Faber-Castell watercolor pencils on airport blueprint,

collaged on stretched linen


8 by 10 in.

(ca. 20,3 by 25,4 cm)





Gema Álava. "Constellation 000"Gema Álava. "Constellation 000"

Gema Álava

Constellation 000



24 karat gold leaf, pigment, watercolor, graphite,

and Faber-Castell watercolor pencils on airport blueprint,

collaged on stretched linen


8 by 10 in.

(ca. 20,3 by 25,4 cm)





Gema Álava - site specific intervention HEXAGONS at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), 2015Gema Álava - site specific intervention HEXAGONS at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), 2015



Gema Álava – Madrid: Álava’s installation HEXAGONS was presented at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in 2015 as part of the exhibition “Leonardo,” a tribute to art and science, reflecting on different aspects of CSIC research areas and related to concern about the earth’s natural resources.

HEXAGONS consisted of 22 karat gold hexagons, applied to the floor of CSIC Headquarters.  The public wasn’t prevented from stepping on the gold panels, allowing the possibility of the eventual erosion or destruction of the piece. The ephemeral installation remained on view until it disappeared under visitors’ shoes after the exhibition ended.


Many artists and scientists live under the same threat as bees. Bees are generous and intelligent with a great sense of ethics but when exploited and poisoned with insecticides they get sick and abandon their beehives. When artists, scientists and bees are not allowed to pollinate –due to ignorance, lack of attention or premeditation– their panels and nectar of knowledge fall to the floor.  Einstein predicted that without bees, without pollination, there would be no flowers, fruits or humanity since resources that are not sustainable become obsolete. Our future, and that of our children, requires that we learn to walk in between hexagons.

-Gema Álava, 2015






Gema Álava  Tell Me The TruthGema Álava Tell Me The Truth

Gema Álava

Tell Me The Truth

(Tensions No. 1 through No. 9)


silver gelatin print on baryta-coated Ilford Multigrade Fiber paper

# 3 of an edition of seven


13.25 by 20 in. / each

(approx 33,7 by 50,8 cm / each)

framed individually





Reflex 1Reflex 1



Reflex 2Reflex 2



Reflex 3Reflex 3



Reflex 4Reflex 4

Gema Álava

Reflex 1

Reflex 2

Reflex 3

Reflex 4


2010 - 2017


ballpoint pen ink on folded Moleskine paper


8 1/4 by 10 1/4 in. each

(each ca. 21 by 25,4 cm)



private collection, Birmingham, AL









born 1973 in Madrid, Spain
Lives and works in New York




Gema Álava - education


Yale University. Certified Course "Moralities of Everyday Life," Coursera

Stanford University. Certified Course "Love as  a Force for Social Justice," Coursera



MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bootcamp, Trek "The Business of Culture", Vienna, Austria

Columbia University. Certified Course "The Science of Learning," EdX

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Certified Course, "Heidegger: Being and Time”



HARVARD UNIVERSITY, Certified Course "Introduction to Data Wise: A Collaborative Process to Improve Learning and Teaching," via Edx



MIT, "The American Dream for the Next Generation" Course, via Edx

Berkley, "The Science of Happiness" Course via Edx



San Francisco Art Institute, MFA, Masters in Fine Arts, New Genre



The Academy of Art College, MFA, Masters in Fine Arts, Painting & Printmaking (with honors)



Universidad Complutense de Madrid, MA in Education


Círculo de Bellas Artes, Graduate Certificate, Aesthetics, History&Theory of Contemporary Art


Universidad Complutense de Madrid, BFA, Bachelors in Fine Arts, Painting (top 10 graduates)


Chelsea College of Art and Design, The London Institute. BFA Semester Exchange Student




Gema Álava - solo exhibitions


Hexagons, Maus Contemporary, Birmingham, AL



Gema Alava: Observational Awareness, Robert Henry Contemporary, NYC, USA



Tell Me and Silences, AC Institute, New York City (March 13th -May 10th)

Tell Me the Truth 2008-2013, Instituto Cervantes, New York City



Tell Me the Truth, TWIN Gallery, Exhibition, Madrid, Spain



Circle of Hope & Peace, United Nations Headquarters, New York City

PRESENCE:NET, in collaboration with composer and sound artist Josué Moreno, Estampa, Sound In, Madrid, Spain

CYCLE, Performance in collaboration with Jessica Higgins at Emily Harbey Foundation for SWITCH, Intermedia Television, New York City



Here and There, Performance in collaboration w/ sound artist Robert Lange, Lehman College Art Gallery, NY

FIND US, Action with the support of Utopic Gallery, Madrid, Spain. October 2011

The Oracle: Tell Me a Secret, in collaboration with composer and sound artist Josué Moreno, Estampa, Sound In, Madrid, Spain. October


Cervantes Institute, New York, "TRUST ME," An Art Project by Gema Alava documented by Jason Schmidt with the participation of Ellen Fisher, Mayrav Fisher, Jonathan Goodman, Jessica Higgins, Erika Kawalek, Erika Knerr, Alison Knowles, Ferran Martin, J. Morrison, Gordon Sasaki and J. G. Zimmerman. October 15, 2010

John Jay College Gallery, The City University of New YOrk, "Gema Alava: Tell Me the Truth."

The Malcom X & Dr. Betty Shabath Memorial and Educational Center, "Tell Me a Story I, II, III." New York, NY



CUE ART Foundation, "FIND ME," An Art Project by Gema ALava with the participation of Lars Chellberg, Barbara Holub, Paul Kos, Ester Partegas, Robert Ryman, Arne Svenson, Merrill Wagner, Lawrence Weiner, and Maria Yoon, New York, NY.

An Art Museum in New York City, "TELL ME," with the participation of 22 Artists, New York City

Mumford Fine Art, “Tensions,” London

SUNY Rockland Community College, “Gema Alava,” New York



Messineo Art Projects & Wyman Contemporary, “Tell Me the Truth,” New York, NY

Lucy Gooding Gallery, The Bolles School, “Tell Me a Story,” Jacksonville, FL



King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center of New York University, “Hay Ropa Tendida (Clothing,)” New York, NY



Lance Fung Gallery, “Land of No One,” New York, NY



Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, “The Siren’s Silence,” San Francisco, CA



Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, “List of Things to Forget,” San Francisco, CA



Mill & Short Gallery, “Fragments,” San Francisco, CA




click here for Gema Álava's full CV


click to access Gema Álava's full CV