A creator of immersive and unsettling site-specific installations, Spanish artist Greta Alfaro is installing an architectural structure of 1,000 loaves of waste bread in Battersea’s Cooke Latham Gallery.
Responding to the history of the gallery space which was part of a renowned bakery in operation from the nineteenth century until the start of the Second World War, Alfaro explores the history of bread as a staple food and an object of symbolic significance. In the centre of the exhibition space is an architectural structure made out of waste bread loaves which can be entered by visitors. Inside this cavern a new video piece uses footage filmed in a family bakery in Spain to depict the different processes of bread making, intertwined with myth, oral tradition and religious ritual. The rhythmic cycle of the film inside the dark walls of the bread grotto creates a magical space that echoes the night-time labours of the baker.
Drawing upon the symbolism of the traditional oven, and the importance placed upon cave-sites in Spain, Alfaro explores the connection between the two, spaces of regeneration, fertility and ascetic retreat. Alfaro envisages a scene where discarded loaves become the building blocks of an edifice in which the viewer is brought into direct confrontation with our own culture of excess and the potential for transformation and change.
‘The relationship with bread might be a way to mark the difference between the poor and the rich worlds: there are those who desperately yearn for bread and those who easily relinquish it.’ Greta Alfaro
The exhibition explores our changing attitudes to bread throughout history, from the pagan sacred offerings of wheat and its central role in the Christian Eucharist, to becoming a second-rate substance of contemporary consumer culture that is so easily cast aside. On the walls of the gallery Alfaro has hung a series of collages and photographs that use allegorical storytelling to provoke a re-examination of the humble loaf in our shared history.
Working across film photography and installation, Greta Alfaro uses myths and popular tradition to address contemporary issues. Her past projects have included a site-specific exhibition, I Will Not Hesitate to React Spiritually at Lambeth County Court where she responded to found documents of supposed spiritual interference by Southwark Council and In Ictu Oculi, a film in which the guests at an elaborate dinner table set in mountainous landscape transpire to be a wake of savage vultures.
Greta Alfaro lives and works between London and Spain. She graduated from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia in Fine Art and received a Masters in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London. Her solo exhibitions include Decimocuarta estación (2019) at the Fundación BBVA, Madrid; In Ictu Oculi (2019) at the Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan; El cataclismo nos alcanzará impávidos (2015) and European Dark Room (2014) at Galería Rosa Santos, Valencia; Still Life with Books (2014) at Artium, Vitoria; In Praise of the Beast (2013) at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan; and Invención (2012) at Ex Teresa, Mexico City. Among her other solo site-specific projects are I Will Not Hesitate to React Spiritually (2019), with Roaming Room, and A Very Crafty and Tricky Contrivance (2012), with Genesis Foundation, both in London, and Comedias a honor y gloria (2016) in La Gallera, Valencia. She has taken part in numerous group shows and festivals in venues including Whitechapel Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts and Saatchi Gallery in London; Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Brasilia; The Bass Museum of Art in Miami; the Conciergerie in Paris; Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin; La Casa Encendida in Madrid or the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Cooke Latham Gallery opened its inaugural exhibition in December 2018 in a 19th Century warehouse in Battersea. The space aims to support emerging and mid-career artists with a focus on those creating new forms of artistic language. With its slower-paced exhibitions and an intimate setting, the gallery is dedicated to the experience of contemporary art.
All involved with this exhibition are businesses committed to reducing waste. Our thanks go to the Celtic bakers and The Bread Factory who have kindly provided unsold surplus bread and to ReFood who will be recycling the bread into energy at the closing of the show. Final thanks to Toast ale who are ‘brewing a better world’ with their beer made from waste bread which will be served to guests at our preview evening.