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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 - 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


private US collection