David Medalla (23 March 1942 – 28 December 2020) was a Filipino international artist. His work ranged from sculpture and kinetic art to painting, installation and performance art. He lived and worked in Manila and Berlin.
Medalla was born in Manila, the Philippines, in 1942. At the age of 14 he was admitted to Columbia University in New York upon the recommendation of American poet Mark van Doren, where he studied ancient Greek drama with Moses Hadas, modern drama with Eric Bentley, modern literature with Lionel Trilling, modern philosophy with John Randall, and attended the poetry workshops of Léonie Adams.
During the late 1950s he returned to Manila and met the Spanish poet Jaime Gil de Biedma and the painter Fernando Zóbel de Ayala, who both became the earliest patrons of his art. During the 1960s in Paris, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard introduced Medalla's performance of 'Brother of Isidora' at the Academy of Raymond Duncan, later, Louis Aragon would introduce another performance, and Marcel Duchamp honoured him with a 'medallic' object.
His work was included in Harald Szeemann's exhibition 'Weiss auf Weiss' (1966), 'Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form' (1969), and in the documenta 5 exhibition in 1972 in Kassel, Germany.
During the early 1960s he moved to the United Kingdom and in 1964 co-founded the Signals Gallery in London, which presented international kinetic art. He was editor of the Signals news bulletin from 1964 to 1966. In 1967 he initiated the Exploding Galaxy, an international confluence of multi-media artists, significant in hippie/counterculture circles, particularly the UFO Club and Arts Lab. From 1974 to 1977 he was chairman of Artists for Democracy, an organisation dedicated to 'giving material and cultural support to liberation movements worldwide' and director of the Fitzrovia Cultural Centre in London.
Residing at the George Washington Hotel on Lexington Avenue in New York City, in 1994, he founded the Mondrian Fan Club with Adam Nankervis as vice-president.
Between 1 January 1995 and 14 February 1995 Medalla rented a space at 55 Gee Street, London, where he lived and exhibited. He exhibited seven new versions of his biokinetic constructions of the sixties (bubble machines; and a monumental sand machine). These machines were constructed from Medalla's original designs, by the English artist Dan Chadwick. The exhibition also featured large-scale prints of his New York 'Mondrian Events' with Adam Nankervis, and five large oil paintings on canvas created by Medalla in situ at 55 Gee Street. Another important feature was a monumental animated neon relief entitled 'Kinetic Mudras for Piet Mondrian' constructed by Frances Basham using argon and neon lighting after Medalla's original idea and designs. Medalla also invited artists to perform at the space.
Medalla lectured extensively including at; the Sorbonne, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art of New York, Silliman University, the University of the Philippines, the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, the New York Public Library, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury, Warwick, and Southampton in England, and the Slade School of Fine Art, St. Martin's.
He was the founder and director of the London Biennale in 1998, a “do-it-yourself” free arts festival, which hosts work by Mai Ghoussoub, Mark McGowan, Deej Fabyc, Marko Stepanov, Adam Nankervis, James Moores, Dimitri Launder, Fritz Stolberg, Salih Kayra, Marisol Cavia, and many others.
In 2010 Medalla participated in a residency in Brazil and - in collaboration with Adam Nankervis - exhibited at the show “The Secret History of Mondrian Fanclub - Homage to Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape and Lygia Clark”, curated by Adriano Casanova at Baro Galeria. During this period he also produced the artwork Cosmic Pandora Micro-Box, published in 2018 in the book by James Cahill "Flying Too Close to the Sun: Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary", Phaidon.
Medalla won awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation. In 2016, he was "shortlisted" for the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture.
In 2017 Medalla's seminal partcioatory work "A Stich in Time" was included in the 57th Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor.
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