The sum of darkness
Gustavo Pérez Monzón
The recent work of Gustavo Pérez Monzón is a query that the artist poses to the old signs, or the imprint that sheds some light on a reading of his present state. The abstract works at Cibrián prolong the story that began more than three decades ago, they’re part of the same work in progress. That work is Timeball, the game of time, or the theater of the world once reality is sublimated and reduced to a tarot deck of arcana and pictograms. Gustavo shuffles his own symbols and stands at both ends of the board, as inquisitor and fortune-teller. That secret dialogue leads to a work of art is the problem that has absorbed the artist from the beginning of his career: the elaboration of the materia prima, call it oil, pigment, projection dust or hyle. The message of the work never falls far from its medium. Just as in Piet Mondrian’s Blossoming Apple Tree studies, here lies an objectivity that’s condensed in the lowest common denominator. The operation requires successive firing, burning and cohobations that the viewer can distinguish if he knows where to look. Each spatial conformation – each square or cell – is another station from where the sum was banished so that the respective parties could speak. What is pursued in each section is the form of the presence, the expression of some final theory. Maurice Blanchot, paraphrasing Mallarmé, concludes that “in authentic language, speech has not only a representative, but also a destructive function, it brings about disappearances: it renders the object absent, and annihilates it”. This symbolist phrase could serve as an epigraph to the pieces exhibited at Cibrián.
After a long detour, the art of GPM arrives at sensualism. The numerology of the first epoch is transformed into Platonism, and abstraction returns as a remix of a deceptive Jugendstil. There is an accuracy derived from the excesses of the baroque and an imagery that is the collateral effect of ornament. Finally GPM’s language escapes the influence of Frank Stella or Sol LeWitt, those old stars that it had orbited.
After a constructive scattering of divisions, the threads are embroidered, visible only in needlework: they become a process. They are a change of state that is passed through the spinning wheel. It’s the same principle of Vilos (a work from 1981 reconstructed in 2015 for Fontanals-Cisneros), but now the construction retreats to a two-dimensional plane. At one time he painted in a river current, aided by a group of children: Now Gustavo uses the embroiderers of Tenango de Doria, in the Sierra de Hidalgo, and an ancient craft tradition.
If Vilos is freestanding – a sculptural installation – embroideries draw with yarns a static figure against a delicate puzzle. The pieces are, at the same time, calligrams and bibelots: they belong to the art museum and to the market stall. Its sophistication is strictly folk, protected in a thousand years of practice and not in the vagaries of an aesthetic current. Their high practicality and their metaphysical ambiguity are indistinguishable. Gustavo has arrived at a synthesis.
Nestor Díaz de Villegas