Luis Gordillo’s fixation

Text below was translated from La fijación de Luis Gordillo by Margot Molina from the 16 Oct 2014 edition of El Pais. I recently bought a book catalogue of his retrospective at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) last week and noticed that his works echo the same painterly concerns of several Filipino artists working in the contemporary art scene. This is a preliminary attempt at uncovering a connection or circumstantial similarities in the milieu of Spain and the Philippines that influenced its painters working in a certain period.

Luis Gordillo, photographed before his work 'Is this the future?' / LAURA LEÓN
Luis Gordillo, photographed before his work ‘Is this the future?’ / LAURA LEÓN. From EL PAIS (No copyright infringement intended)

An exhibition in Seville traces the obsession to paint heads that the artist developed in the 1960s when he began to employ psychoanalysis.

At the age of 80, anyone would think that Luis Gordillo is retreating from everything and will now worked locked in a bubble, without the need of the rest of the world. Nothing more is further from reality because the father of pop-art in Spain and influence of several generations of artists is a sponge that absorbs everything and translates it into his own language. Gordillo has not lost an iota of curiosity that has transformed him into one of the best Spanish artists of the second half of the twentieth century. This is evident in hisin Cabezas, the exhibition that opened Thursday (October 2014) in Seville.

The exhibition, which can be seen at the Real Alcázar until 9 January 2015, brings together 55 works (many of them multiple so that a total of 123 pieces are shown) made between 1956 and 2014.

“When I got into pop art, in 1963, all I did were heads. The subject appears and disappears throughout the years, as a feet or a tail can also appear, but curiously I always return to painting heads. I suppose this comes from my interest in psychoanalysis, which I started in Madrid in 1963 and I have done for 40 years, although with interruptions,” reflects Luis Gordillo (Seville, 1934) before one of the series of the sample: Cabecitas Expressionistas, 2003-2010).

“But psychoanalysis creates a dangerous dependence, that someone listening to you is nice and I’ve always had a lot to tell. I could spend hours pulling the thread and I suppose that certain levels that has reached my work come from there, “says Gordillo, who a decade ago showed in his city his first steps as an artist through 150 works in Pre-Gordillo goes to Paris .

The exhibition begins with drawings from the late 50’s, most of which belong to the artist’s brothers, although the strong core of the exhibition, curated by his brother José Manuel Gordillo – from whom he started the idea of ​​gathering the heads – and Luis Montiel, are pieces from the sixties and seventies. The gouache work, Cabeza de Santiago (1963) and the drawing, Self-portrait with Jose (1963) are exhibited for the first time and several paintings in the 60 works presented have not been shown for decades.

In the Hall of the Alcázar Apeadero, which has almost tripled its exhibition space thanks to the intervention of the study of the architect Frade, you can see fundamental works in the trajectory of the artist as the acrylic work, Cabeza Macho (1973) and the diptych Trio gris y vinagre ( 1976), both loaned by the Foundation Suñol of Barcelona. Although more than half of the pieces belong to the artist’s collection, the stunning polyptic series Luna (1977) belongs to the Reina Sofía Art Center in Madrid.

The exhibition brings together works from 1956 to 2014, including some early unpublished drawings

“When I abandon figurative references, it seems to me that the head is no longer enough and I begin to dive into deeper levels, to penetrate the brain,” says the artist thoughtfully, almost as if he had returned to a session of psychoanalysis, therapy that he abandoned A decade ago, to explain the genesis of much of its production in the 1990s.

In Superyo Frozen, a large exhibition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) in 1999, many of the works were diptychs that resembled a sectioned brain. “It was like entering the inside of the head and capturing its rhythms,” adds Gordillo, the creator of a colorful and attractive “mental map”, as he defines it.

Cabezas, organized by the Seville City Council with the sponsorship of the La Caixa Foundation and the Cajasol Foundation, welcomes the visitor with three great prints by Melchor Voyeur in blue, green and purple, the same motif that served in 2007 to cover The Roman bridge of Cordoba during its restoration. And it shows how this obsession with the heads does not belong to the past with several recently dated works. The last work, Is this the future?, is an acrylic on canvas made this year in which the face, possibly the artist’s own, flattens like If it were a rubber mask on a succession of planes.

“Now I am still very open, because to maintain many things at the same time takes a lot of energy and there are days when it seems that my head breaks. Before I could develop many themes intellectually at the same time, now not so much “, confesses the Gordillo. And with a smile assures that it is his feminine side that has allowed him to multitask; Although his wife, Pilar Linares, helps him. “She is 50% of what is here, perhaps even 60%. She works a lot and is my absolute partner,” he concludes.


Cy Twombly at Centre Pompidou

30 novembre 2016 – 24 avril 2017
de 11h à 21h ou de 11h à 23h
Galerie 1 – Centre Pompidou, Paris

Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus, 1962, Oil, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas, 259 x 302 cm

Hardly any artist of recent fame has been regarded as ‘active’ as long as Cy Twombly, an American artist who lived in Rome towards the end of his life. He first came to the attention of the international art scene in 1956 during his first set of solo exhibitions in Rome, Düsseldorf and Paris. He has since been considered a famous artist after that, but him being famous meant being famous only within his circle of peers, where the judgments of his colleagues (some of whom are Twombly’s earliest collectors) are a far more valuable achievement than jacked-up prices in the auction house.

Cy Twombly’s continued rise in 1970s seem a bit puzzling. How is it compatible with the realistic, but infinitely cruel, Warhol statement on fame, which he says takes only 15 minutes?

Perhaps it is Cy Twombly’s peculiar relationship to the history of art and the kind of life that allowed the artist to constantly change over long periods of time and without breaks. This allowed him to be more consistent and to fully establish his identity as an artist. His relationship to history – even his own – is not short-sighted. It does not rely on the gradual results of his present fascination.

His series of paintings which can later be separated completely into individual pictures without changing the concept of the work significantly, are sometimes the culmination of monthly researches, investigations, analyses, and other preparatory work. History is for him a mature and permanent present.

In 1509 Raffaelo da Urbino was received most graciously by Pope Julius II in Rome. There he presented in the Camera della Segnatura a painting of how the theologians sought to unite philosophy and astrology with theology, and in such picture, according to Giorgio Vasari – “all worlds are portrayed, which in different ways relate to each other.”

On the side you can see some astrologers who write all sorts of definite figures on tablets and the writings of the art of astrology and they are sending them through some beautiful angels to the evangelists who explain them. Diogenes with his bowl lies on a staircase; Aristotle and Plato, has one hand with the Timaeus, and the other with the ethics, see the semicircular school of philosophers. Not to mention, the beauty of astrologers and mathematicians, who draw a lot of figures and signs on the boards with the compass. Furthermore, Federigo II, the architect Bramante, Zoroaster, and Raphael himself, the artist of the ‘School of Athens’,  arguably one of the most inspiring works of art in the history of art.

Twombly’s ‘Scuola di Atene’ was finished in 1964 and is exhibited right now at the Centre Pompidou. It has come a long way from the scandal with far-reaching consequences it has caused for the owners of the gallery which originally exhibited it..

In those days, Twombly had confronted his audiences about their lack of knowledge of the history of art behind his works. Although Twombly has since become less controversial with his paintings, a large audience still ignores them or are intolerant of them: Just because it does not conform to the idea of how art should look like, because their often invoked and by now should be infamous “five-year-old daughter ” can also do it.

But perhaps his art, which does not look like art, is a starting point. According to Walter Benjamin true dialectics takes an object as carefully as a cannibal prepares for a baby. First of all there was and at the same time there was no style for Twombly. Or better yet, no pattern can be fully extracted, understood and described.

School of Athens, 1961. Oil, Oil-based house paint, coloured pencil and lead pencil on canvas, 190,3 x 200,5 cm
School of Athens, 1961-64. Oil, Oil-based house paint, coloured pencil and lead pencil on canvas, 190,3 x 200,5 cm

The images are very rare, there is no basic recipe that could make the artist’s work easier for the viewer’s recognition. Neither the art history nor the present are definite concepts of the Here (or There), Now (or At that time), So (and not otherwise).

For his strange limbo state within time, he chooses a certain geographical zone, a mood, perhaps, or an atmosphere. He is as calm as Rafael is provocative, as opposed to the photo-realism of today.

On a public appearance in Berlin, John Cage was asked by a locomotive caller after the concert, if that was not all Dadaist shit. Cage replied that he had always behaved correctly against DADA. The same is Twombly’s casualness. It is not his indifference, his disinterest or ignorance. Histories are sometimes more important to him than a visit to museums, some films, books or poems are more important than galleries and pictures. But how could an artist be so surely moving in the present and in his locale, if his pictorial utterances were not of a comparable kind?

At first he fails to appreciate the style and thus the certainty that may be embedded in something comparable. He was not a pop artist, not an action painter, he is not an informel or a realist of the present cut. Furthermore, there is almost never a large-scale and manageable composition, no division into individual zones, thus also no central figure or a ‘hero’. At all, nothing is really solid and quiet in its place – most clearly perhaps recognizable in the seemingly quiet dark pictures with the Allusions to concrete geometry, but, if one were to examine them, nothing is true. Allusions are once again clearer than the one formulated at the end. Instead of static uniformity and measured paint application, there is an overpowering movement, sometimes casual, sometimes rushed, sometimes in an almost calm state.

At the moment something is fixed in the picture before it dissolves into complete confusion. A free flow is apparent, but this flow has direction, the various picture details are related, they seem to be independent of one another, seem randomly placed, but they get energies and impulses from other places and pass them on. Processes emerge and sink and passages, made up of multiple additions of indifferent things.

Tearing signs flow over the whole, differently distinct and differentiated in the color, which often approaches the non-color by superimposition. Presence of color, but not applicable to a single color. In other painters, a basic tone, a predominant coloring, with Twombly, it is a kind of color space, bright, white, silvery, dark, almost black. The images are often ‘unfinished’ and then have a partial character, justified in the demand to the viewer to accomplish something that has not been formulated to the end. The sensitive attention of the beholder then leaves the eyes at some point, with clear passages, with a nervous-hurry gesture, with vehement or calm colors, or with frequent glazes, which appear to cover something which was not there at all.

The chronological sequence is reminiscent of reading processes or musical connections. The formal arsenal used has become a meta-script, which is not suited to general-purpose information, or even allows an appointment to meaningful ciphers or letters, which is, however, to the extent that ‘Scripture’ is never the sign itself, Whose carrier it is. Twombly writes and writes, he introduces series, proportions, which can often be disturbed. According to 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, 6 does not necessarily have to follow – for perhaps now the 7 would be more adequate; It is not a question of counting things, but of counting them – and then the disturbances do not mean a logical break. In some recent pictures one could think of problems of  minimal-art (if Twombly was not conscious of such styles), for example, to Donald Judd, in whose works 7 boxes are different from works that have 11 in one room.

In both artists, what we see does not exist and what really exists, we do not see. Perhaps a brief reference to the structural method of C. Levi-Strauss helps us. According to him, the fine arts are based on organized conventions to be understood as art. This concept of art is connected with two systems, the first being based on the ability of the viewer to organize sensory experiences, the second is a learned system of visual values.

Both of us are burdened by education, experience and the environment. In contrast to eastern calligraphy, abstract art is an important language and communication, saving itself with contextual meanings, art history, criticism, and biography. Signs (not only in structural linguistics) have such a flexibility that they are both neutral images and active concepts; The artist manipulates signs in such a way that all possible new permutations arise, the circumstance that they are subject to new arrangements, changes their forces and their potential future behavior. But what happens in a picture, which is scribbled, written, painted or blurred? It is arranged for the producers as well as for viewers in a process that runs across the entire image surface, not just fixed on fixed points.

The perception runs over an ultramarine memory – which fixes nothing – into the short-term memory. Only now, after a short period of evaluation, do actions and perceptions go into that long-term memory which allows us to experience and learn processes at all. The painter would have erased them, and we could not claim to have seen anything of it, although we have seen it. To most of us, Twombly is known and familiar – but can we really succeed if we are not constantly dealing with it again? It is a retrospective of contemporary adaptation.

The Art of Repair

Kader Attia at the Frankfurt MMK

“Show the wound, because you have to reveal the disease that you want to cure.”

Kader Attia, Los de Arriba y Los de Abajo, 2015. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Courtesy Kader Attia, Lehman Maupin and Galerie Nagel Draxler. Photo: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst / Axel Schneider
Kader Attia, J’Accuse, 2016. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Courtesy Kader Attia and Galerie Nagel Draxler,. Photo: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst / Axel Schneider
Kader Attia, Chaos + Repair = Universe, 2014. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Courtesy Kader Attia and Galeria Continua. Photo: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst / Axel Schneider

Joseph Beuys words speak so strongly to Kader Attia. The Algerian-French artist is also concerned with injuries and scars, which are written in individuals and societies, but also with healing and “repair”. This is also documented by his great exhibition Sacrifice and Harmony at Frankfurt’s MMK. In contrast to Beuys, Attia, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection, appears less as a mystic and alchemist. His focus is much more on factors such as politics and history, on the power relations that make the present state of the world.

The first work of the exhibition directly confronts the visitor with one of these power relations. In the central hall of the MMK, Attia, who grew up in the suburbs of Paris, installed a walk-through metal corridor. It feels depressing to go under the low, garbage-covered grids. But for the Palestinians in Hebron, this is a bitter everyday reality. They protect themselves from the garbage which the Jewish settlers living in the upper floors throw at them to drive them out of their homes and businesses. Los de arriba y los de abajo (The Above and the Down) makes the brutal division of a society perceptible.

The corridor draws the visitors into a video room, where interviews are conducted, which Attia held with scientists and historians, but also imams and priests. The talks deal with reality and virtuality, religion and spirituality, mental illnesses and Holocaust trauma, but above all, possibilities for healing. Cultures follow very different paths, which are increasingly colliding with one another in our globalized world. Attia shows that everyone has their own truth – the psychoanalyst, the school physician, the shaman, the clergyman.

At one point, everyone agrees: the repression of the past so popular in the West does not contribute to healing. That the ghosts of the past return time and time again shows Attia’s Installation J’accuse in an impressive way. He borrowed the title of a feature film, produced in 1938. In it, director Abel Gance shows how the fallen soldiers of the First World War rose from their graves to warn the succeeding generations of an impending war. Among the performers were also survivors of the bloody battles of Verdun, who show their wounds in the film: their most cruel mutilated faces. A detail of J’accuse can be seen on a large screen. A collection of wooden brushes installed on rusty metal frames serves as an audience. The busts were made by carvers from Senegal. They served as photographs of distorted survivors of the First World War. Their sculptures are inevitably reminiscent of the works of Expressionist sculptors, who owe their vocabulary of form from African art.

“It is very important for me to really remember,” says the artist who was born in 1977. “And the West has often committed the historical error of trying to hide its wounds, its injuries, its scars, and not speak of them any more.” That is why in the West the repair mostly follows the ideal of perfection. It should be invisible, otherwise a broken object will simply be replaced by a new one. In the process however, the story behind the object is erased or disposed. For Attia, artefacts from ethnological collections are particularly interesting. He often incorporates them into his works. This is also the case with his widely acclaimed installation  The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures at the documenta 13 (2012). Seams and breaks, traces of time and history remain visible in the installation.

Fractures can be aesthetically displayed. This is demonstrated by the installation of a ball made of mirror pieces cut with copper wire at the end of the exhibition hall. Their different colored backs form the outer skin. It is only by looking at this globe that one sees the mirror surfaces – a glimmering, infinitely appearing world of constantly changing light reflections and reflections. Attia has named this work which begins with destruction, Chaos + Repair = Universe. It is through the process of recomposition that the world becomes palpable in all its dimensions and beauty.

MMK Talk with Kader Attia and Gerhard Kubik
Tuesday, May 10, 7 pm at the MMK 1
Kader Attia talks to the ethnologist Gerhard Kubik, an internationally renowned figure in the field of intracultural African cultural research.
In English. Admission free. Supported by Deutsche Bank Foundation.

MMK Talk mit Kader Attia und Gerhard Kubik
Dienstag, 10. Mai, 19 Uhr im MMK 1
Kader Attia im Gespräch mit dem Ethnologen Gerhard Kubik, der zu den international renommierten Größen im Bereich intrakulturelle afrikanische Kulturforschung zählt.
In englischer Sprache. Eintritt frei. Gefördert von Deutsche Bank Stiftung.

Kader Attia. Sacrifice and Harmony
bis 14.08.2016
Museum für Moderne Kunst – MMK 1, Frankfurt am Main

Translated from the Original German Text from the Deutsche Bank Foundation by Geronimo Cristobal, Jr.

Flower Power

on Michael Lin’s ‘Locomotion’ at MCAD
18 February – 21 May 2016

Figure 1 Untitled Gathering, Manila, Installation View

The recent and impressive exhibition of Michael Lin at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design called into question the evolution of work practices and exhibition designs of artists first identified with relational aesthetics in the 1990s. Michael Lin’s explorations on the shifting looks of the domestic mundane rather than the political currents shaping the public sphere gave way to his exploration of a so-called grandmother’s technique of floral pattern making and textile printing. His first creations were pegged from floral motifs and shapes of four traditional pillows. It is not difficult to appreciate the works of Lin since the design patterns are familiar to Philippine visual culture by way of Taiwanese imports of bed sheets from Divisoria. Because of this, the works have become politically and culturally resonant in their presentation in Manila.

Michael Lin engaged, perhaps unwittingly, a historically-charged location by painting flowers on the walls of the MCAD, located inside the De La Salle University campus; the site of one of the most furious battles during World War II. The place was a silent witness to a spree of beheadings at the tail end of the battle of Manila. I can’t help but relate Theodore Adorno’s comment on the barbarity of continuing to write poetry after Auschwitz by reflecting on the thought of painting flowers with art students on this former battleground, which in recent years has become a ragtag neighborhood of slums, sidewalk vendors punctuated by blundering high-rise developments. But the mixture of beauty and barbarity may have been the most profound effect of Michael Lin’s engagement, an offshoot of being situated in this poverty-stricken and war-damaged city.

Rather than bringing in discrete, portable, autonomous works of art that transcend its context, the paintings of Michael Lin are entirely beholden to the contingencies of its environment and audience. He envisaged his audience as the common people in the surrounding areas and set up a situation in which they are not just addressed as a collective, social entity, but are actually given the wherewithal to create a community, however temporary or utopian this may be.


Figure 2 Installation View of Banners created from tarpaulins of pedicabs

I can only think of another artist who engaged in this kind of art: David Medalla, who grew up in the same neighborhood of Ermita and Malate. Medalla was a poet, painter and performance artist, a self-declared wünderkind, who was 17 years old in 1957, when he held performances in his Le Cave des Angelis, a pseudo-cafe in the shell of a bombed-out building on Mabini street, not far from where the museum is located.

In the vein of Medalla, Michael Lin understands that his brand of participatory art not only organizes the artistic space but may also develop a practical life importance by serving as tool for social integration. The role of his artworks are no longer to form imaginary and utopian realties, but to be actual ways of living and models of action within the existing real situations in advancing of a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural and political goals introduced by modern art.

The monumental floral-patterned murals, ‘Autumn Gold, Deep Ravine, and Dragon’s Fury,’ together with ‘Untitled Gathering, Manila’, a sitting area with 240 similarly painted stools which dominate the cavernous exhibition hall of MCAD, are open-ended, interactive, and resistant to closure, and in the truest sense of relational aesthetics, appearing to be a “work-in-progress” rather than a completed object.

Its mad whiff of color runs in contrast to the blight outside and the gray of the impending rainy season. The artistic activity goes beyond painting flowers on the wall. Lin addresses and exposes the semantics of his activity in the context of participatory art from a calculated device for recipient participation. He invited students of the art school at the College of St. Benilde, as a reflective performance in which the viewer perceives the structure of the painting as no more extraordinary than any other job, and expands the identity of the work through the invited “co-operators”.

The pedicabs are treated like artifacts withdrawn from a loud and restless community.

Working in situ and inside the museum affected the outcome of exhibition immensely. In this manner, the painting patterns gives in to the domains of instinct and to a more natural way to work and to see the work. With last minute variations on the scale and the decision to show the traces of the creative process, the artist reacted to what happens in the room, which one has used over a certain period of time.

Some interesting details in the time-lapse video posted on the museum website shows the artists eating hamburgers, discussing and marveling at the progress of the work more than actually painting it. It’s not just about how the work is influenced by the space, but also to the possibility of developing something outside the institution and the museum. While it depended heavily on the judgment of the artist, Lin has shown openness in his conceptual trajectories. When he came to Manila, he did not even know how he was going to call the exhibition, or if he would describe it as an exhibition or a project. In a sense, he has shown that he trusted the process. Allowing the process to develop its own strength and to have relationships with people and ideas.



IMG_0920Figure 3 Installation View of the banners created from tarpaulins of the pedicabs

The three banners hung like quilts on flagpoles were crafted from the pedicabs’ former tarpaulins that were exchanged for those which bear Lin’s design. They call to mind decollages by Jacques Villeglé, where the ripped posters weathered naturally over time resemble the faded designs of the pedicabs. As in the gesture of the whole exhibit towards its location, the work pays homage to a more visceral artistic expression, which Michael Lin has uncovered; Filipinos have been known to mark or personalize objects, which are the source of their livelihood. This is more evident in our jeepneys. By piecing these canvasses of folk expression, Lin has displayed the genuine artistic quality of the quotidian ways of the community he absorbed.