Jorge Méndez Blake
Una manzana y una retícula
This exhibition originates from an archive image: The architect Luis Barragán eats an apple while taking a walk through the site that will later be known as the “El Pedregal” residential complex in Mexico City. The image shows an indefinite landscape made out of volcanic rock, eventually it will be covered up and delimitated with concrete walls and other construction materials. The photo shows a primeval land, a newly discovered Garden of Eden. The apple, a Western symbol of fresh beginnings (good or bad), functions as a certain poetic premonition that resonates along with the fertility of the volcanic soil.
Jorge Méndez Blake creates a timeless bridge between the modernist seedlings that Barragán planted within his volcanic garden in the 1940’s and one of his first residential projects in Guadalajara, the Casa Franco built in 1929. The artist uses the checkerboard design of the original floor of this house and reproduces it through the walls of the residence and as a departure point for other works of tautological nature.
The checkerboard pattern used for flooring has a great and long tradition within the arts. Of the 31 paintings that have been attributed to the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, 13 of them show checkerboard floors. Pieter de Hooch also painted this motive repeatedly in works that depicted everyday life scenes of the XVII century. Some historians have argued that there is a representational mistake in these paintings, in the way they displayed the interior of these proto-bourgeois households in Holland and the rest of Europe.
The checkerboard flooring was normally executed with black and white marble tiles, which could only be afforded by the aristocracy and the church. Vermeer and de Hooch probably reproduced in their paintings the flooring of the New Church of Delft. The gridded floor came to represent in the pictorial realm the ultimate challenge for representing perspective and creating two-dimensional compositions with depth. Using this kind of flooring guaranteed that these architectural spaces would be portrayed with great precision and detail.
The grid produced by the checkerboard floor not only suggests an order and a certain disposition of things, it also implies the existence of a content. The grid is “inhabited” by opposite forces (thus complementary). A pattern is a way to ensure the correspondence between a group of elements, therefore proportions are consistent and can be represented in a variety of contexts. Creating a grid is a way to assuring the possibility of indefinite repetition. Whatever thing that is located within the grid can be replicated afterwards preserving its original characteristics. A clear example of this are the Persian gardens that have been designed following the chahar bagh pattern (square shaped gardens, that are sub-divided in four parts by ponds or passageways). This grid can be reproduced ad infinitum; it is the earthly materialization of a cosmovision that is translated as geometrical order, representing the four gardens of Paradise which is descripted in the Quran.
Another example of this is the hortus conclusus or “enclosed garden”, a popular pictorial motive throughout medieval Europe; in the same way as the chahar bagh this sort of garden implied the existence of a grid and a geometrical order; normally a fountain functioned as the center, and the rest of the garden was oriented based on this.
This exhibition brings together a series of possible scenarios and potential characters. The architect and the poet struggle in between praxis/action and contemplation. The garden is drawn and erased within a grid delimited by walls; extending itself, unfolding itself; creating bridges and closing doors. Barragan’s volcanic garden is now “enclosed” by the urban grid of Mexico City, a modern example of the hortus conclusus.
Travesía Cuatro is pleased to present an exhibition of recent works by Vicky Uslé, the artist from Cantabria in Spain, mostly comprising large-format paintings on paper hung on walls painted in carefully chosen colours, like deep red, which, taken together, simulate the changing colour of the leaves of a tree ablaze in autumn.
This show of paintings also includes a short video in which one can see, over and over again, the vast monumental embrace-cum-dance between the wind and a tree whose top leaves reddened by the fall move in such a way that they recall shimmering flames of fire while the sound brings to mind the crackling noise of a blazing bonfire.
The artist made the video and the large-format paintings in her studio in Saro (Cantabria), located in a striking setting surrounded by massive trees of all kinds, almost like a botanical garden that includes the red maple which lends itself as the core theme that shapes the content of the overall body of work on show in this (magnificent) exhibition.
In her paintings, colour slowly takes on paramount importance on extremely delicate and intense surfaces. Presence and body of colours and gesture merge into forms then break up again only to rediscover them powerfully, through evocative and categorical wefts, in atmospheres of powders and pigments. Forms that grow, redolent and complex, that float, advance and reassert, unfolding in large open spaces like seeds and suggestions that become deeper and more emphatic forms, often bound to recollections of nature. The overall whole is, to my way of thinking, a climactic twilight of vibrant colours.
The artist belies the clichéd conventions on the use and treatment of pastel, generally wed to small formats, and reveals herself in its use to show us an equally fabulous and surprising inner landscape, like a colossal artist’s glass, which, like a diamond, eye and unexplored planet, invites us to free our gaze in an exercise that is free, dynamic and also reflective.
These latest works, larger than her previous output, are the conclusion of a slow process of maturing and refining. They are made with a deft use of elements, as if looking through a magnifying glass at details of prior works, getting closer to their core, and enacting a joyful celebration of the language of painting, a true invitation to set out on an adventure without prejudices, continuing her exploration of the possibilities of painting, yet without outrightly rejecting the tradition of formalism.
Her new images are also slower, even more silent and more concentrated. They suggest perhaps that we ought to pay attention to more subtle changes, but in our interior as well as in our surroundings. Take for instance A.B.1 a work in which the image opens up like a gigantic red crest that folds back on itself, possibly evoking the head and the beak of a bird or turning into a vast blaze of fire. The intention in saying this is not to delimit interpretation, but to demonstrate that these ambiguous and forceful forms invite us to slow, attentive contemplation full of suggestive readings.
Vicky has double Spanish and US nationality, and lives and works part of the year between Saro and New York.
In Canada, a country whose flag features the silhouette of a maple leaf and which is ruled at the moment by a progressive government very much at odds with the ultraconservative leader of the USA, there are huge forests of Freemanii Autumn Blaze trees, a species whose gradual change of colour in autumn creates truly impressive visual spectacles. The proposition, implicit in this exhibition, not only invites us to take pleasure in a vibrant spectacle of colours and forms in transformation, but also to keep alive the flame of hope.