- Eva Wilson, 'Dust and Shadow and Afterlife', 2014 | ENG
“Afterlife” | 45 Art Basel | Arratia, Beer Gallery
Published at "Afterlife", co-edited by Arratia Beer and Beau Dessordre Press, 1st ed. 2014
At the beginning of the 20th century, Aby Warburg constructed his famous Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek in Hamburg around a classification system that was haunted by different categories of afterlife. As Georges Didi-Huberman explains, Warburg understood “Nachleben” as a structural term, not as a chronological one. He was interested in how antiquity lived on, resonated in different ages, sometimes by way of misinterpretation or complete reversal of original connotations, sometimes in iconoclastic clashes reacting to a sense of uncanny energy emanating from a work of art. Warburg “anachronised” history, folding time onto and into itself. Can a work of art die, does it have to die in order to have an afterlife, and what does this afterlife look like, encompass, entangle?
For his new series, Pablo Rasgado has delved into the depths of catalogues raisonnés, into the Bibliothèque Kandinsky at the Centre Pompidou and other fathomless archives in an attempt to recover lost images. You may argue that every research is an endeavour to retrieve or discover something that is lost or at least unknown. In Rasgado’s case however the objects he pursued had to remain lost in order to be singled out and reclaimed.
Rasgado was searching for the blind spots of art history: The images that his serendipitous investigation has disclosed were those that have gone missing, that have been misplaced, destroyed, forgotten, or stolen at some point in their biography, whose provenance expired into the status “present whereabouts unknown.”
This uncertain status was the uncanny energy that set Rasgado’s method into motion: as revenants, as undead images stemming from disparate moments of the past he anachronistically reanimated these absent paintings by producing replicas, forgeries in a way, or mimicries based on their photographic reproductions in books and catalogues. Together with an assistant, Rasgado set himself the task of repainting these works in their actual size and as close to the original as possible. In the absence of the paintings as models for the replica however the new images mimic not their originals but rather their surrogates, the photographs, in regard to the amount of detail and most importantly their colour palette: most of the re-painted works adopt the greyscale of the photographs taken at some point over the last century and transform the reproduction into an oil grisaille.
Accordingly the paintings chosen by Rasgado necessitate two predicaments: that they are nowhere to be found, and that at some point before their loss they were photographically recorded. Rasgado collides the media and genres of painting and photography and with them their many complex evocations of the absent, of their status as emanation or representation of something that they are not. He also collides two distinct chronologies: The paintings date back to the 1440s up to the 1960s, but their photographic records follow a different and independent timeline, as well as a very distinct phenomenological status.
A painting renders its object visible and tangible in a very different way than a photograph does. Rasgaldo calls to attention images that only survive grace to their translation into another, more mobile, more ephemeral medium (the Latin translatioindicates the removal of relics from one place to another), thereby adopting a spectral presence flowing through unlimited printed reiterations. Their reincarnation once more as paintings obfuscates identities on several levels: that of the painting itself (it is alike but it is not alike), of the author of the image (the painter, the photographer, the forger), and of the status of the new work: as original, as reproduction, and as palimpsest.
Volcanic eruptions and Aeolian flows (the movement of matter caused by wind) stir the dust of aeons. Dust consists in part of human debris, animal hair, pollution, or pollen. Other elements of dust are burnt particles of meteoroids, space dust, interplanetary matter. Rasgado, after recreating the lost paintings by Bellini, Velázquez, Léger, Balthus, etc., placed the canvases in a palatial building in the centre of Paris, in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple near the Archives Nationals, its heavy wooden door adorned with the head of a Medusa. The building is partly abandoned and has been left in a state of slow decay for many years. Occasional building works and solitary figures moving through the Baroque parlours and crossing the intricate marquetry of the halls disrupt the dust of ages resting stoically on golden stucco and blunt mirrors and set it into gentle motion.
Rasgaldo’s paintings, placed nonchalantly on the floor, along the Palais’ walls, and in remote corners, acted as attractors to this dust, binding it to their surfaces by virtue of an adhesive, working their magnetic forces over the course of several weeks. A thick layer of grime, grit, of ashes, smut, of time, life, and death, of meteor dust and cosmic components, of the abject, of excretion, of entropy and decay now clings to the cheeks of Philip IV, to Bellini’s Madonna, to Goya’s Stone Guest.The paintings have camouflaged themselves under a veil of dirty matter, adopting a new skin and a new amalgamation of archaeological continuity compressed into debris. In their exposed placement on the palace’s floor, the paintings attracted over patrons, too: A snail calmly traversed the still life after Mondrian and left behind a glistening trail in its wake (Vanitas. After. Pitcher with Onions).The Léger replica fell victim to a stray dog’s attempt to mark its terrain (Pissed. After. Nature Morte).More intentionally, a portrait after Whistler has been kissed by a muse, Rasgaldo’s girlfriend leaving the marks of her lips on Dr. Isaac Burnet Davenport’ssmooth forehead. A few of the paintings even went missing–stolen maybe, removed, or cleaned away much like Beuys’ famous fat corner, and might—who knows—reappear as originals someday, somewhere.
Rasgado himself then took to reworking the remaining paintings obscured under the veil of dust—working blindly through the thick blanket and unearthing traces, elements of the images, cleaning, excavating, exhuming the canvas, carving out an image and thereby employing the technique of a classical sculptor much rather than that of a painter. The forms laid bare by his manipulations differ greatly–sometimes they seem to be casual wipes across the surface, in other instances they are highly geometric and premeditated. Bellini’s Madonnahas been rendered comically absurd, only eyes and mouth drawn into the dust to create minimal smiley faces, reminiscent as much of Cecilia Gimenez’ infamously botched attempt at restoring an Ecce Homofresco in Zaragoza as it is of Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis of faciality being the eternal iteration of the “white wall / black hole system,” of surfaces (signifiance)defined by apertures (subjectification).
Several still lifes or natures mortes lurk under the coat of dust in Rasgado’s series. As a genre, they reflect the ambivalence of the nature of painting: While arresting nature and life into a static, immutable form and playing with symbols of decay and death as memento mori,they also transubstantiate a moribund object into an immortal artefact, dodging the bullet of temporality. Dust, as the ultimate reminder of transience, similarly can be reinterpreted as a perfect fertilizer in Rasgaldo’s Afterlife:as the white slate that facilitates the productive force of iteration, of anachronism and recollection.
- Willy Kautz, 'Ojo por diente', 2013 | ENG
Introductory Text | "Ojo Por diente"| Galeria OMR
27.09.2013 - 30.11.2013
Allegory is in the realm of thought what ruins are in the realm of things.
Cultural history, seen as a setting for architectural transformation, can be understood as the flow of forms destined to decay, as if these typologies were a natural consequence of social, economic, and political orders. Regularly thematized by the discourses of modernity since the beginning of the 19th century, these civilizing processes of transformation were initially assimilated by the theory of evolution, which dismantled the opposition between an irreversible cultural history and a cyclical natural history. This imbrication of cultural and natural historicity with social theory experienced one of its most suggestive moments when the age of archaeology and imperialist expeditions encountered the theory of evolution, the moral thesis that justified the domination of the weak by the strong. Since then, the function of cultural forms has maintained a narrow, often merely analogical, relationship with nature. Ojo por diente(eye for tooth), a sculptural project by Pablo Rasgado, preserves the narrow relationship with these debates concerning the “naturalization” of social forms. More than an allusion to the struggle between the strong and the weak, this in situ installation touches on a subsequent aesthetic sense in cultural history – its relationship to the erosion of the functionality of objects, in this case of buildings. With Diente por ojothe artist proposes an interplay among precariously exhibited forms, that disappear into thin air without clearly revealing at first sight if they constitute traces of the civilizing mission, allegorical fragments, or interstitial objects that are as much cultural as biological vestiges.
The theme of the project is based upon the transformative processes of form, as a consequence of the irruption of a new function over a previous decadent one. These historical processes are seen more clearly in the context of architectural transformations, just as with the dismantling of ancient temples, a fortunate metamorphosis in which great sculptural objects survive only as fragments, as ruins. In this sense, the ruins should not be viewed as the synthesis resulting from the tension between culture and nature, but rather as its dissolution. The problematic loss of identity for “the cultural” and “the natural” is reminiscent of the work of Pablo Rasgado who, re-using extracted materials from a house in renovation –a sumptuous building dated from the beginning of 20th century–, to create fossil-like forms that eventually become debris. In this procedure, the work is seen to playfully inhabit the tension between contingency and stability, which allows the phenomenological approximation towards the symbolic constitution inclined to allegorical fragments that recall archaeological or paleontological discoveries.
In 1863, the allegorical poet Charles Baudelaire made the following characterization of modernity: “Modernity is the transitory, the fleeting, the contingent that makes up half of art, the other half of which is the immutable.” Baudelaire allows for further reflection on the fossilization of the symbolic. In terms of cultural historicity, the tensions between the eternal and the fleeting are sometimes seen as the accumulation of fleetingness as superimposed fragments. This leitmotivreverberates with our approach to urban formations, showing that all construction carries with it future ruins. As if a cycle, this unchaining that tends to synthesize or fossilize the architectonic as the natural is seen as a vestige of time, in the same way that, paradoxically, it cannot be seen as a recuperation of the past. It can only be seen as an allegory, just like the fragmentation of the urban in modern life.
In general terms, the analogy between culture and nature that lay at the center of most thought in the 20th century – above all under the Hegelian notion of the Philosophy of History and the zeitgeistof every age – promotes a phenomenological and, therefore, metaphysical bias that when applied to objects with symbolic and temporal relevance shifts perception toward appearances of “being-in-time” that are rather slippery or paradoxical. Nature, in this sense, is understood as the history of cultural forms in the process of petrification, equivalent to the dialectic of the eternal, once it is understood as a timeless repository for cultural vestiges. The project of Pablo Rasgado, who addresses these symbolic transformations of form, can be considered part of this line of thought that has its beginnings in an archaeology of current culture –both modern and urban– as if history were constituted by layered architectural fragments. In this transformation of the past as cultural history of the present, a framework for the passing and appearing of sculptural “fossils” is articulated and, in the context of Pablo Resgado’s project, causes figures to reverberate in an inevitable disappearance: from brick to dust, from eye to tooth, back again to brick, in an apparently natural cycle.
The title of the project Ojo por dienterefers to the biblical passage “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” which means that everything has its equivalent. This is out of line with the modern dialectic that considers culture and nature as opposites in search of a stabilizing synthesis. The processes of naturalization of a cultural event that articulates the artistic proposal, that is to say, the form in which we refer to the processes of “eternalizing” the estate commodity in its transformation into a fossil, are signaled in this case as consequences of the erosion of functionality. More than establishing equivalences, the work of Rasgado refers to the conversion of one into the other, contrary to the abandonment of “culture” and “history” to the natural order and its eventual entropic transformation into ruins.
Take a case that is reminiscent of and simultaneously opposite to the remodeling of the OMR Gallery: there is an almost-contiguous house, one of those bourgeois mansions from the beginning of the century, in which during previous years its decadence was obvious –as is the case with many abandoned houses in Colonia Roma– owing its complete abandonment to fate, and consequently, to its future as ruins. Despite being located in the heart of Mexico City, the invasion of external, natural factors made its ruined appearance conspicuous, situated among grass that grew and fragmented the architectural structure. In the case of the project undertaken in the building of OMR Gallery, on the other hand, the ruined appearance comes from the economic processes of remodeling and, therefore, the sculptures that are located there anticipate the imaginary of “fossilization,” that is, the natural transformation of the cultural. As a spatial strategy emerging from a specific site, the series of decaying sculptures that the artist molds from the rubble –the “excesses” of the original building– are made from intrinsic factors, that is, stimulated internally from the efficiency of the gallery itself. This garbage can be understood as linked to the abandoned, whose deterioration is caused by external, natural factors more than economic or aesthetic factors. In this sense, these two buildings can be considered parallel processes: while one is the result of a natural fate, the other is of a destiny not so different, that is, the fate of a culture that renovates itself in order to present itself differently from within. This other cultural form reveals an ontology of fleetingness in the superimposed architectural layers, a symbolic becoming in the time between forms that, paradoxically, rules itself in relation to financial processes and the pragmatism of “the useful”.
Between those invisible fabrics, Rasgado offers a project of a paleontological nature, based in geometric and architectural forms that seem ancient, as well as geological and/or human figures. These precarious figures sometimes appear as mutilated corpses to such an extent that we do not know if they are sculpted from dust or if there are human remains mixed in with the rubble. Just as entropic processes decompose solids, the sculptures transform into others, creating a narrative of temporal linkage between signs that come into being and melt away into others from the material itself. This arrangement, therefore, happens in a manner akin to natural processes as much as other, cultural, aesthetic, social, and financial processes, in that the fossil-like sculptures do not petrify in a natural “eternity,” but rather are constituted by temporal factors. In the resulting interstice of one solid becoming another solid by these architectural processes, such an outbreak of sculptural forms is an intermittent phenomenological display of figures that dissolve successively into the air, that is, insofar as they become unusable debris.
In its archaeological eagerness, this sculptural project treats the present as a continuum, an appearing and disappearing of things that might leave traces just as much as they might simply evaporate into thin air. This auto-destructive mechanism established by a modernization that reifies and commercializes social forms while simultaneously subsuming lifestyles to the decrepitude of use-value and fashion, although this is the framework that allows Pablo Rasgado to develop his prop0osal, does not delimit the discursivity of the project to a critique of the commodity. The well-worn quote of Marx and Engels in their Communist Manifesto (1848) [“all that is solid melts into air”] in this context can be understood in relation to the processes of “ruin-ing” without implying forms of social relation derived from the means of economic and symbolic production for historical events. The fetish of the estate commodity, as a vestigial fossil, opposes market logic to “the natural,” a contradiction inherent in the financial practices of capital, as an instrumental procedure. Nevertheless, in the passage from the useful to the symbolic there are a series of negotiations that regulate and enclose the criteria for preservation and/or disappearance of things, which even when they have the transformations regulated by the economy as a backdrop, do not always auto-referentially speculate about this condition inherited from modern reflections on the economy of capital.
Solids become ethereal to the extent that the flow of signs depends on the transfer of the “useful life” of one merchandise to another, that is, its decrepitude contrasting with the timelessness of nature, which in final instance regulates the disappearance or the perpetration of a thing as a petrified, ruin-ed, fossilized cultural fragment. The installation of Pablo Rasgado interrupts this normativity for, instead of placing this very process in a scene, he situates it in an inescapable scenario in which symbolic phenomena, even the most fleeting and almost metaphysical one, appear. All commodities are condemned to obsolescence, unless they are reconsidered for their cultural value, overcoming metaphysics even beyond the determinations circumscribed by their exchange value. Their redemption, that is, the liberation from that which in final instance would signify their disappearance as an absolute gesture, remains delayed. The forms that Pablo Rasgado sculpts avoid the natural fossilization process and the forces of the sublime in the work of art, that search out the absolute and the incommensurable in symbolic experiences. The sculptures that Rasgado creates are not objects. Rather, they are the image of a paradoxically temporal fossil.
Working between these flows of construction and its eventual abandonment, has also been a ground for a melancholic reflection on modernity in the sense that it activates mnemonic and historiographical processes from their symbolic sense of destruction. Walter Benjamin reinterprets the allegorical method of Charles Baudelaire to analyze the way in which “solids” come undone, a process that inscribes all commodities insofar as the object is consigned to auto-destruction. Close to the allegorical tradition of the baroque poets, Benjamin views the object in a fragmentary and, above all, transitory, way. Thus, just like any other commodity, the ruin is the image of capital –its destructiveness in which we only see fragments of things that transform into other things. So, in this process, auto-destruction becomes an analogy for a natural trajectory. Nevertheless, if rubble becomes allegorical –the conscious gesture of transforming something without value into a symbol–, we can think of a countercurrent movement. The consideration of value in the work of Pablo Rasgado has to do with the meaning of the form, its appearance as garbage, or the reconfiguration of the insignificant undoing in an artistic form. Emerging from the aesthetic activity confirming the meaning of the form, his sculptures go beyond utilitarian value, at the same time as they are the final vestiges of the surplus, the cadaver of that which was once useful before its evaporation into the air. Nevertheless, in his aesthetic outlook, detritus takes on another meaning. Now, more than the accumulation of garbage –bricks and drywall– it is a sculptural apparition that forms a photographic record of the apparition itself. Its precariousness, left without any way to petrify within the timeless course of natural history, is a simple, melancholic fragment, lacking structure or solidity –only a fleeting image caught between the flows of fading that affects all solids.
Like a fictional paleontologist, Ojo por dientegives meaning to forms of “fossilized” character, as if they were phantasmal traces, but without support, without a physical referent that might empirically verify the course of disintegration of the object or of the body. These sculptural images appear as if emanating from “sedimentary rocks,” as if the scene of ruins within an art gallery that is being remodeled might enable the meaning of these findings. But, as is clear, these forms created from the earthy texture of thin vermillion brick wall also assume the appearance of a solid, the petrification of the natural by means of a footprint of beings from another time, beings who are not even ghosts since there are no records of something that had a cultural past before becoming a vestige. Therefore, the dialectical structure of cultural/natural dissolves. At the same time we discover that the sculptures are not forms of past life, rather they are dust molded by the contemporary artist.
By avoiding links with natural history, these images are signs that form other signs, by means of a flow without conflict: a phenomenology of the symbol that appears out of the debris. Here, solids come from the air and, therefore, disappear leaving no trace in nature. Meanwhile, the natural appearance of the sculptures becomes a temporal archive of forms in a continual process of re-symbolization. In this dynamic, the eyes can easily “fossilize” into teeth since there is no object that determines their trajectory –in the same way that a house can acquire a new function and form without losing its shell. In this dynamic, neither the eye nor the tooth are vestiges, nor the architecture stalked by the abandonment or the remodeling. Rather they are fossils without a history, like a ruin without an object. Paradoxically, the allegories are left intact in the sculptural fragments, until the air dissolves them, since the debris lacks solidity, and they become ruins once again.
La casa es la galería OMR localizada en la plaza Rio de Janeiro, Roma Norte. Tal colonia fue uno de los desarrollos urbanos de la burguesía de la Ciudad de México a principios del siglo XX.
Susan Buck-Morss. “Naturaleza histórica: ruina”. Dialéctica de la mirada. Walter Benjamin y el proyecto de los Pasajes. La balsa de la Medusa, Madrid: 1989. p. 182.
- Revista Código, Ojo por diente, 2013 | only in ESP
Entrevista a Pablo Rasgado
La serie de esculturas que presentas en Galería OMR parece traer a la sala de exhibición el proceso natural de desgaste de los inmuebles y los individuos que forman parte de una civilización. No obstante, el título hace referencia a un proceso más violento que el paso del tiempo. ¿Se trata de procesos opuestos? ¿Es tu intención hacer referencia a ese contraste?
El paso del tiempo es violento, aunque en algunos casos posea una temporalidad de mayor aliento. Todo sujeto u objeto por igual —e incluso aquellas cosas construidas para perdurar pese al paso de los siglos, como la arquitectura— experimentan cambios inmanentes en su forma, función y concepción histórica. Cual castillos de arena. Castillos de cal grava, ladrillo y arena.
En otras piezas has abordado la materialidad de la arquitectura y su relación con el espacio y el tiempo. Esta vez, los cuerpos humanos parecen mostrarse como un vestigio arquitectónico más. ¿Buscas hacer patente alguna similitud en ese sentido?
Vivimos en un mundo compuesto de estructuras, ya sean sociales, biológicas, lingüísticas o espaciales, y es interesante pensar cómo esas estructuras son delimitadas por sus habitantes y viceversa. Esto da como resultado un organismo (uso la palabra organismo desde la amplitud del término que bien puede referirse a moléculas, personas, instituciones o ciudades) permeado por las acciones que se llevan a cabo dentro de sus esqueletos, paredes, etc.
Las edificaciones pueden decir mucho de aquellos que las habitan. La forma del espacio es definida en función de las acciones que se llevan a cabo dentro de sus muros y los cambios que suceden a esas estructuras semi-estables cuentan de las facetas que experimentan aquellos que viven el espacio. No hablo de manera figurada, la relación es muy clara, directa entre estos cambios y los cambios que experimenta un organismo.
En tu serie Arquitectura desdoblada, convertiste fragmentos de muros museográficos en ruinas o rastros que se ensamblaban para crear composiciones pictóricas. En Ojo por diente, las ruinas vuelven a hacer su aparición. ¿Hay alguna continuidad entre estas dos series?
Es importante entender que no es mi intención ni mi procedimiento el convertir nada en ruina. En el caso de Arquitectura desdobladay esta exposición Ojo por diente, la situación ruinosa de los espacios estaba presente ya. Pero debo admitir que tengo cierto interés en esta condición ruinosa y estos dos proyectos que mencionas reflexionan sobre los despojos de nuestro pasado más reciente.
Las piezas de Ojo por dienteparecen evaporarse en el aire. Pese a representar cosas que habitualmente asociamos con perpetuidad y permanencia, tienen una apariencia de inestabilidad y de fugacidad. ¿Cuál es tu intención al desplazar de este modo las ideas de permanencia e impermanencia?
Dentro de esos procesos que suceden a un espacio no hay nada sencillo, la permanencia y la fugacidad son sólo fases de ese cambio constante y dependen enteramente del momento histórico en el que uno se posiciona.
El que las esculturas estén hechas de arena hace que no sean sólo una representación de los procesos de desgaste, sino que éstos sean visibles y sucedan en la galería. ¿Es tu intención que los visitantes noten los efectos de su presencia sobre las piezas?
Las esculturas que componen la muestra son figuras inestables que, al no poseer aglutinante alguno que mantenga la forma, seguirán cambiando a medida que el tiempo de exhibición avance. Me gusta esta idea de una exhibición en la que el objeto no está quieto, que continúa creciendo, acumulándose y mutando durante esos meses en relación a una situación que atañe al espacio, en esta caso la remodelación de las salas de exhibición. Ésta es una exposición donde la secuencia narrativa sucede durante un tiempo más largo y las sutilezas (muchas de ellas violentas) dentro de la muestra serán notadas solo por el espectador atento que no se contente con una sola visita y se vuelva partícipe de esa constante mutación del espacio y de la obra misma.
- Carlos Palacios, '(Arquitectura desdoblada (Sobreposición))', 2012 | ENG
Published at '(Arquitectura desdoblada (Sobreposición))' | Los Irrespetuosos Exhibition | Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil
11.30.2012 – 05.12.2013
(Arquitectura desdoblada (Sobreposición)) consists of a display mechanism for the exhibition Los Irrespetuosos / The disrespectful / die Respektlosen. Pablo Rasgado’s final design is a superposition –as the title indicates—of at least seven museographic designs conceived and carried out in previous opportunities in the second level of the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil.
Stemming from this idea, which in principle derives from a strategy similar to that of the celebrated artistic projects of Michael Asher (who by using the internal structures of common temporary walls made of sheetrock, accumulated previous museographic projects for specific museums), Rasgado proposes a piece that contains seventeen works from Los Irrespetuosos / The disrespectful / die Respektlosen, certainly distancing himself from the exclusively visual and conceptual presuppositions of Asher in order to operate from an extremely practical functionality at an architectural level. In this sense, Rasgado’s proposal implies two facets of museal nature: the installation, with which the artist participates in the show, and on the other hand, the museographic design. However, in this case, the former is privileged over the latter, for the resulting spaces derived from the addition of museographies do not correspond to any spatial logic, but rather simply to a disposition –considerably random and accumulative—of the walls and the exhibition sites from previous moments in that same exhibition room. This collection generates some areas and small spaces that are very expressive for the projection of videos or for the exhibition of “material“ works to be observed from visual axis that are practically useless according to canonical exhibition design practice. These "axis“, as the artist calls them, suppose a series of accumulative gestures that makes the “space of reunion” visible, that place where old museographic walls emerged and ended up. From there, the artist reconsiders pieces of walls which from one axis to another will be suspended by emptiness, by not finishing them. These remnants of the addition of walls compose bodies of great expressive force, from a sculptural and volumetric condition, which absorbs the resulting space between the axes created by the artist.
(Arquitectura desdoblada (Sobreposición)) supposes the simultaneous accumulation of the history of that level of the museum through the ephemeral constructions that defined and granted visibility to the exhibitions. To reinforce the historiographical tactic of this museographic essay, the installation reutilizes old temporary walls from all the exhibitions that the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil has housed within a period of a year. This sort of décollage grants the entire piece, and to a great extent, the exhibition itself, a "ruined“ condition. Rasgado proposes (from the same strategy of his latest works titled "Arquitecturas desdobladas“) a spatial answer from the existent residues of the museum, making a parody of the idea of the institution as ruin, and scorning the appropriate demands that spatial purity and clarity impose on the "correct“ installation of works of art.
- Published in the 'When Attitude Became Form Became Attitudes' exhibition catalogue. Curated by Jens Hoffman
Ed. by CCA Wattis Insititute for Contemporary Arts, 1st ed. 2012 | ENG
Presented at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, 13.09.2012 - 01.12.2012
and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit 01.02.2013 - 31.03.2013
Pablo Rasgado is a painter. Rather than applying paint to canvas, however, he applies entire preexisting layers of pigment from anonymous rough and worn-out street walls, or from carefully designed and highly maintained museums walls, and presents the canvases as “found paintings.” But “finding” these works is only one step in a complex process that includes selection, physical appropriation, transportation, and reassembly. His Unfolded Architecture series, for instance, is made from recuperated fragments of drywall that the artist selected from various art venues, reconfiguring them to form flat rectangular compositions that resemble-and indeed become- abstract paintings. Rasgado´s work takes the idea of painting back to its basics ( paint on a surface) while still pushing it to its limit by removing all traces of his hand and intentionally ( at least in the traditional sense) from the process. There is also a hint of humor and irony in the idea of bringing into the art world the efforts of unidentified workers who share with the artist the title of “painter” but do not enjoy the same professional standing.
Rasgado is profoundly interested in investigating the past and how materils serve as evidence of the passage of time. Avenida Corona del Rosal #1, #2 and #3 (2011) might look like unremarkable abstract paintings, but they are in fact fragments of real walls in Mexico City that for years were exposed to pollution and whether. In the layers of accumulated automotive exhaust and dirt, Rasgado sees the history of that avenue and, ultimately, a document of contemporary urban life. Using the strappo technique, a process developed during the Renaissance to move a fresco from one location to another, he extracted the top layer of the wall and applied them to a canvas backing. This process of dislocation creates a tension between realism and abstraction: The works have the appearence of abstract painting, yet they present something real, but nonrepresentional, and not even artistic until the artist deemed them readymades.
- Bartolome Delmar, FUNDATORI QUIETIS, 2012 | ENG
Introductory Text | "Pyrrhic Victory"| ATEA
04.05.2012 - --.--.----
If someone asks about Pablo Rasgado, at least one thing must be said: he's always sought to take a hold of time; to own time. To record each and every one of his steps with the trappings of a Spiritist, the patience and discipline of a sharpshooter, and the somber humor of someone who seems to be planning to live forever. As if time were pliable, material, and eternal.
In this context, it's obvious that the Monumental would cross his path; a monument is nothing more than a tangible mark in time, filtered by the institutional dynamics that decide, as Pablo does, where to sew the seeds of the Historic―time that only exists because of our decision about when and how to delineate it.
Nevertheless, not all of the Monumental is interesting. If Rasgado's most basic act consists in the formsof recording a given chronological succession, at least up until now, we can suppose a renewed interest for the whyin historic memory in these pieces: before, we discussed an effort in archiving; now we're debating the aesthetic quality of the work under study.
The idea of an Arc de Triomphe, given its implication in the collective memory of society, given the necessarily bloody motive for its construction, is categorically poetic. It's the architectural embodiment of heroism, the living voice of a civilizing trait that, for better or worse, keeps us alive. The Arc, on the Monumental-Historic spectrum, is a reminder of martyrdom. It's now Rasgado's turn to elaborate on these ideas.
Thus it's far from gratuitous that the Arch of Constantine pays homage to the Roman Emperor as a 'founder of peace.' The phrase immediately connotes enormous effort: the founding act of a peaceful life supposes the containment, surely painful, of the outbreak of war. Founding peace is no other than annihilating confrontation: something dies, it’s martyrdom; and all the victories become Pyrrhic victories.
Representations of the Monumental, simultaneous representations dictated by a historic moment, do nothing more than position us with respect to questions about the passing of time. The founding of peace is a moment in which our chronologies are anchored―or at least the telling of them is―and thus Rasgado's voice assumes that of an overarching poetic narrative rather than a directed political commentary. Even if the Arch was forged with the blood and sweat of memorable figures, its existence still fails to assure us that time is our time; that its is the eternal one; and that transcendence ceases to depend on one or another arbitrary moment.
All that is Monumental, then, represents a Pyrrhic victory.
EL ENEMIGO GENEROSO ('THE GENEROUS ENEMY')
Magnus Bardfor, in the year 1102, undertook the conquest of the kingdoms of Ireland;
it's said that on the eve of his death he received this greeting from Muirchertach, king in Dublin:
“May gold and the storm serve in your armies, Magnus Bardfor.
May tomorrow, in the fields of my kingdom, your battle be blessed.
May your king's hands weave wicked the cloth of your sword.
May those that oppose your sword serve as nourishment for the red swan.
May your multiple gods satiate you with glory, may they satiate you with blood.
May you be victorious when dawn comes, king who sets foot in Ireland.
May none of your many days shine as bright as tomorrow's.
Because this day will be your last. This I swear to you, King Magnus.
Because before your light is obliterated, I will defeat you and obliterate you, Magnus Bardfor."
Jorge Luis Borges, 'El Enemigo Generoso' ('The Generous Enemy'),
Historia Universal de la Infamia.
We also find ourselves in the right conditions to comment on the Symbolic as a synonym of that which is pertinent in historic terms; that's to say, translating all that which has been able to transcend its defined temporal limits to become a universal sign; like a fountain, both a meeting point for the city of Antigua and a point of distribution for water as a fundamental resource, now the romantic material idealization of its original utility.
Or a Fountain, a tangible moment in the history of contemporary art when the simple act of decontextualizing a recognizable symbol (or many symbols) transformed the logic of knowing and getting to the heart of the aesthetic phenomenon. Duchamp reformulated the dynamics of historical definition; the cards that he put on the table have been handed down over time to find, almost a century later, an unbeatable solution.
Rasgado's contribution to the Duchampian game, however, does not betray his bedrock principles in the creative interest of commenting on a hallowed debate. In some way it's thinking about the discussion in and of itself: the Fountain of this Pyrrhic victory is a flourish on the transgression of Duchamp's famous urinal, intervened on with the leftovers of a triumph of yesteryear, the remains of trophies rusted by the passing of time as if Duchamp's 'triumph' continued to be one, although now worn. Ultimately, gold withstands the strains of temporality like few other elements in nature.
Thus, the marks of History are incorporated into reflections on Monumentality at other levels, adding yet another layer to the hermetic character of the exhibited work: the marks of History must accompany their own historical marks, exploring a labyrinthine set of reflections touching on Borges's creations and Duchamp's reflections on the extended spaces of the third and fourth dimensions.
In this sense, the fertility of a historical sign (commonly a symbol) does nothing other than reinforce its mythological condition. As more is said about any given Monumental object, more are the reasons to confirm its position in time and the ways in which a representation of the Historic reinforce, justifiably, our idea of 'the Historic.'
As with a fountain―a living metaphor for Heraclitus's river and a basic idea in Vico's thinking―time flows in iterations that depend on one another, acquiring new meanings that are always subject to the preceding ones.
Time that marks a symbol as a symbol, that sustains its name, that dresses it in its cloth in favor of uniformity, chronological linearity. Congruent time, which never betrays, always infallible until it stops doing so and betrays itself. The unmarked Monument.
The public character of the Monumental seems to be necessary. Social peace isn't achievable without some method of consensus, that of the inert symbol set in the town square for confirming the narratives of the social contract. The Monument as a historic agreement, immobile and tidy. Until it ceases to be.
What to say, then, of a hidden arch, faded and in an indeterminate stage of construction? Is it an esoteric manifestation, a gate of illumination for only a few? What happens when the Monument is taken from the hands of all, the democratic hands that decide for themselves their path and history? Rasgado is prohibiting something, or at least hinting at a past censure that continues to wound us.
Is monumental victory an illusory product, in contrast with our current realities? Have the manifestations of triumph taken over the town square, although now in the forms of decapitated heads, hidden threats, and the heat of lead? How does one depict the founding of peace in today's Mexico other than a distant and torn image of what History once made its responsibility to spread?>
In the collision between history and blood, there are many indeterminate moments; murder cannot be assuaged without first inflicting its most cruel hours. The dead. Not knowing when the dead will end.
The hidden symbol of victory obscures its apparent end. At some point it will be a public event, an arch for all. Then History. Then the Monument as an agreement, immobile and tidy. Until when, again, it ceases to be. War is the mirror of infinite time.
DEL RIGOR EN LA CIENCIA ('ON RIGOR IN SCIENCE')
On the replicable and the technical behavior of imitation:
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography achieved such Perfection that the Map of a single Province took up an entire City, and the Map of the Empire an entire Province. Over time, these Disproportionate Maps no longer satisfied, and the School of Cartographers drew up a Map of the Empire that had the Size of the Empire and matched it point by point. Less Addicted to the Study of Cartography, the Following Generations understood that the huge Map was Useless and they Impiously delivered it to the Inclemencies of the Sun and the Winters. In the Deserts of the West, Ruins of the Map live on in ruin, inhabited by Animals and Mendicants; in no other part of the Country are there any other remains of the Geographic Studies.
Jorge Luis Borges, 'Del Rigor en la Ciencia' ( 'On Rigor in Science'), Historia Universal de la Infamia
Life in its ruins. Conditioned. Finding peace in a face mutilated by the city. The weight in one's lungs. Place.
No promises of charm. The robes, burnt petrochemicals. Over there is a religious space. Curtains. Sweat on the feet. Looking somewhere. Finding yourself at some point.
Life in its ruins. I've thought about my place. Before. It came out differently. Dead cells. The car like a wasps' nest. Different, for it isn't the same surviving as thinking in other ways. The sky is for everyone. A tragedy when the tragedy nearby. An episode. The slabs of all the dead. Raging heat. Piety. Clemency and piety.
The inclement city, the merciful city, the forgotten city, all of the city, the city in your arms, all in the city, the city and sex, crime, everything disoriented, we've ceased to be here, I've though about my place, we've ceased to be here.
Clemency and piety. Fire.
In the annals of the history of magic and deceit, there's no better and more representative tool than the mirror. From its conception and first use, it manipulates the principles of representation: what's there, is in reality nothing more than the illusion of that which is being represented.
If to this we add the millenary exercise of all its possibilities where an optical illusion becomes, like in Velázquez, the construction of a fascinating and opulent metaphorical organism, then mirrors serve more as a gate to a labyrinthine and dreamlike infinite than the faithful translation of our realities. Needless to say, all reproductions are a mirror. At the very least, they're trying to be.
Whether in the form of a historic mirror, as in the Monument, or a mirror of mirrors, as in Rasgado's exhibition, reflective paths (always reflection) are symbolic and altered worlds that seek, by their unwavering mystery and magnetism, to wake us up.
In the totality of this Phyrric Victorywe find ourselves facing the mirror of time. With the trace of its imaginary―or tangible―paths, with its adaptation to analysis in the contemporary age and the presence of its meanings. That's why if someone asks about Pablo Rasgado, at least one thing must be said: he has, with his work, always sought to be a mirror for time; to own time. To record each and every one of his steps with the trappings of a Spiritist, the patience and discipline of a sharpshooter, and the somber humor of someone who seems to be planning to live forever. As if time were pliable, material, and eternal. As if it weren't a simple reflection.
- Barolome Delmar, 'A Wall', 2012 | ENG
Published at Unonuevedos Magazine
Number 21. April-May 2012
I wonder if anyone feels anything while in front of a wall. A white wall; the object is so common that it is hardly considered an object in itself. Rather, it is a sort of container And the objects, vehicles of meaning, in turn transform an ordinary wall into a container of meanings. Our histories can be found behind walls; personal histories, collective histories, the histories of material objects. The walls are then objects of the objects, if everything is an “object”, that is. But we hardly notice. Few of us feel anything when facing a wall.
The work of the artist is to underline stunning and secluded observations. Pablo Rasgado has succeeded, nowadays, in talking to walls. Talking about history, as well as of spaces and their relationship to time, but also about painting and its exercise, and the ripeness of contemporary art, while paying attention to all its other ideologies, that is how one speaks about walls; it’s that complicated. These are the implications of writing about a shell of stories: one has to talks about the shell as well as about the stories.
Clearer: Rasgado composes illustrated frames with the remnants of museographic walls. That is how he creates paintings. In other cases, he confiscates the paintings, the textures and the accidents of a trivial wall, using renaissance techniques used to transfer frescoes from one place to another. His work is about walls. That is undeniable. But it is also about history, about the passing of time, of space, of the logic of art, amongst many other things. At first I asked Pablo if he thought of it as a rather hermetic kind of work, just as abstracted within the references of the art world as inaccessible to the general public. Just like a piece of jazz, music that can only be appreciated by those who are musicians. In a way I was trying to search for a sensible justification to why I found these pieces so strange, and incomprehensible.
He emphatically told me about all that’s been said here, and which I now understand. About how the passing of time is very important. About the “unfolded” walls, confiscated, transformed, inhabiting stories. About those in museums discussing the state of the medium within art. About all its symbology. I brayed with stubbornness and pointed out, very sure of my brilliant outburst. “¡But there is less arid symbology, Rasgado, more appropriate for the eye!” Why choose a wall as a symbolic tool, if it is easier to talk about the thorns of Christ? Pablo, restrained and brilliant, never lost his cool. He understood what I was saying, and he added to his own thoughts: the materiality of things was also something to be commented. The walls, now paintings, had been the backdrop for other paintings. Our everyday can be seen in other ways.
Pablo Rasgado has exhibited in Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City, at galleries in Germany, the United States, and the Mexican state of Nuevo León. He has also participated in artist residencies in countries as diverse (and unalike) as the United States, Canada, Nigeria and France. He has not faltered during his short, yet very successful, artistic career. He is young. He will be one of the great signatures of the Mexican scene, and with luck, of the global scene as well. I promise you this, just as I promise you that he knows, always with humility, what he’s talking about.
In contrast, I argued like a terrible yelling teenager. “So then there is no indifference when you chose a wall as a starting point for this work? Because you used to be a painter, and painting is about will, and then you worked with astronomy, and you’ve always surrounded yourself with the subject of time, which is poetic, by definition. Why walls, then?” I was talking about that indifference indifference commonly mentioned in Duchamp, that of choosing an object which lacks in essence any aesthetic character, as an artistic representation. Rasgado understood, explained, and overtook my ideas in every lane.
“It is also painting. Even if it’s indifferent, even if it’s random, it is also an exercise in material, and composition, and paint. Many times I go back to the places from which I took the walls, in the cases where I transport them from one place to another, to see what people used to do with them”. .
Ideas accumulate as my stubbornness diminishes. Hours pass by, we observe the piece. It grows; every minute adds a new dimension to a project that I first judged inaccessible to a greater public.
Even if rhetorical implications matter, for Rasgado nothing is explained in the end. The piece is nothing more than an accumulation of symbology and conceptual short cuts, of retinal creations and dislocations of beauty that enlightens through intelligence (spotless, round, subtle) and its commitment to delve deeper every time. To wring multidimensional meanings from a wall is the labor of genius. In the following installment we could be talking about circuses, libidinal operations, or cuisine from Puebla, but Rasgado would succeed just as well. That’s what he’s capable of, and that’s why, in the multiple shows that he will exhibit throughout this year, we will see the revelation of one of the strongest cards of the future in art.
Here I am, talking so much about walls. Only a few can achieve that.
- Carlos Palacios, Painting in Ruins, 2011 | ENG
Published at Arquitectura Desdoblada/Unfolded Architecture, Beau Dessordre Press, 1st ed. 2012
and Tierra Adentro Magazine, Num 170 Jun-Jul. 2011 2011
“Only a miracle will prevent it from ending.” This fatal prediction from Douglas Crimp, the famous art critic, summarizes his iconoclastic attitude toward painting as printed in the pages of that '70s and '80s bastion of conceptualism, the also-famous Octobermagazine. It's no coincidence that the name of the article containing this phrase, published in 1981, was also as much of a death sentence as the blade of a guillotine set to fall: The End of Painting.
But this wasn't the only episode in his personal war against this technique. A year before, Crimp published a classic essay on postmodernity in the same magazine, titled On the Museum's Ruins.Based on a critique in The New York Timeson the new galleries of 19th-century paintings at the Metropolitan Museum, the author reflects on the postmodern works of painter Robert Rauschenberg and on the 'death' of the museum: an essayistic tour taking in Flaubert as cited by Michel Foucault, Flaubert's own Bouvard et Pécuchetand his readings on Manet, and even André Malraux's Imaginary Museum.The trip is replete with quotations and literate references, arriving to the conclusion that the text announces in its epigraph, signed by Theodor Adorno: "museums are like the family sepulchers of works of art."
Death, sepulchers, ruins. Categorical words that in the works of Arquitectura Desdoblada ['Unfolded Architecture'], painter Pablo Rasgado's (Zapopan, Jalisco, 1984) latest series, acquire echoes of renewed intent and bet on the survival of painting from its currently ruinous state. Efforts that arise from the picturesque but are not by definition paintings. Visual gestures created from a work of restoration―never put better―but which do not attempt to recover anything useful in their appearance. Propositions in which the remains hidden among ephemeral works of architecture make themselves visible in museums, works from other artists from other eras.
And so, Pablo Rasgado's strategy in Arquitectura Desdobladaof assembling the remains of false walls that at some time were raised in museums and art centers bears the twin-purpose of reinsertion and recuperation. On one hand, the artist fosters the traditions of modern painting―its death knell is worth remembering here―and on the other, he rescues the museum's ruins (paraphrasing the title of Douglas Crimp's famous article) using construction materials discarded by the ravenous machinery of expositional production, banking on the elegance of the visible to exercise a type of institutional critique.
With respect to the recovery of the picturesque, the artist revives the modernist traditions of assembly: the direct inheritance of the avant-garde hallmarks that are collage, and its counterpart, décollage.In this way, in his latest works the artist draws on a prior sequence of explorations that he has been working on for some years now as part of another series of works; he uses a restoration technique ( strapo, with which murals are taken off their former surfaces) and relocates bits of unremarkable urban murals with zero creative intervention. In this type of décollage, Pablo Rasgado does not intend―as is the case with new-realist pioneers such as Raymond Hains, Mimmo Rotella, and Jacques Villeglé―to deconstruct a cumulative and random collection of urban materials, but rather presents the fragile skin of foreign and anonymous paintings: an effective mechanism for reappropriating that relativizes painting techniques and deems a painter as less someone who makes 'paintings' and more someone who produces what a semiologist would call a 'semantic calque' around the 'picturesque.'
Along with the rebirth that Pablo Rasgado intends with his avant-garde processes, in Arquitectura Desdobladahe takes aim at gestures that extend beyond the simple layers of paint and arrive to the elusive border between chapters in the history of art and, as mentioned above, the so-called institutional critiques. As these assemblies refer―on a formal level―to a certain deconstructive reading of abstraction (evident in the large piece of old partitions from the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts), they also depict ruins as a protagonist in the history of painting.
And it's here in particular that the works in Arquitectura Desdobladadisplay their greatest strengths. Pablo Rasgado does not treat the adjectives that are traditionally associated with ruins and have to do with 'how picturesque' a work is or how much it deserves to be painted: the romantic value of ruins in a landscape (the remains of an age-old temple in a forest is a good example) isn’t emphasized; rather, ruins become more a 'real' than a metaphorical resource. Their taxonomy within the classical form of two-dimensional painting and the abstract supposes the partial rewriting of the history of institutions from whence these architectural remains proceed. Each work is built with the remains, legible or not, of a work whose statement is inscribed in its respective title, evidencing a certain fragility to institutional memory as well as the speed of a museum as a producer of ruins from a materialistic perspective.
Finally, a good image from the 18th century crystallizing Pablo Rasgado's 'picturesque' strategy can be found in the reflections of priest, educator, artist, and essayist of landscape paintings, William Gilpin: “A construction built following Palladio's rules was harmonious, proportionate, and elegant, but in order for it to be of pictorial interest, one part had to be destroyed and the other torn down, leaving the mutilated remains abandoned. Then we would have transformed a tidy building into coarse ruins and no painter that could choose between the two would have any doubt about it.”
- Tobias Ostrander, Unfolded Architecture, 2011 | ENG
Introductiry text | Unfolded Architecture Exhibition | Museo Experimental el ECO
Published at Arquitectura Desdoblada/Unfolded Architecture, Beau Dessordre Press, 1st ed. 2012
The current presentation of the work of Pablo Rasgado, titled Arquitectura desdoblada(unfolded architecture), includes five works from a series of the same name. Each work is made from drywall recuperated from several museums, pieces of this material left over from specific exhibitions. These fragments have been reconfigured into flat rectangular formats, which in scale and composition reference abstract paintings. Having previously been used to create three-dimensional spaces, the two-dimensional structuring of this drywall performs an ¨unfolding¨ of the previous temporary architecture; a large-scale, origami in reverse.
Trained as a painter, this series forms part of a larger project by the artist, involving ¨found paintings,¨ which include a series in which Rasgado uses a fresco-related technique to create transfers of grafitti or dirt configurations found on urban walls. The resulting artworks, like those of his Arquitectura desdobladaseries, formally reference a history of gestural abstraction. Both bodies of work however, critically distance themselves from the subjectivity associated with this artistic tradition, the idea that expressionist brushstrokes convey the emotions or psychic energy of the painter. The post-conceptual approach of Rasgado celebrates the accidents, coincidence, and chance involved in the use of found, everyday materials. His configurations are not devoid of aesthetic choices, but rather celebrate the limits imposed on these decisions through the use of pre-existing forms. Re-contextualization additionally plays a strong role in this artistic practice, with new meanings created as these materials move from one physical and temporal site to another.
The five drywall paintings presented at El Eco each evidence their previous contexts, displaying a variety of decisions taken in the design the exhibitions of which they were the physical support; such as the various colors of the walls, vinyl or photographic murals used, or the fonts engaged in the wall labels. These elements are often involved in curatorial and exhibition design strategies that consciously or unconsciously present museum spaces as atemporal, conveying permanence or the feeling of a space outside of everyday time. The pieces by Rasgado deconstruct this temporal structure, revealing museum spaces as ephemeral, in constant change, with each exhibition having its own lifespan.
These ideas take on a poetic charge in two of the works that use walls taken from the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, from exhibitions of the artists Helen Escobedo (this great friend of Mathias Goeritz) and Mario Rangel Faz, each of whom died during or shortly after these presentations. The fragility of these broken and temporary museum walls becomes equated with that of the human body and its mortality. This impermanence however, is delayed through these Arquitectura desdobladas, as Rasgado recycles these symbolic materials and give them a new form, prolonging their duration through their new status as works of art.
There is also a tautological and humoristic play articulated in this series. When viewed within a museum context, they read like aged mirrors of these spaces, setting up a “before, after and potential future” dialogue with the walls on which they are hung. Their relationship to architecture is also both conceptual and funny, as the thought of a physical building actually being unfolded is a fantastical idea and represents conjecture that goes against the weight and seriousness with which architecture is often discussed or explored. Within the context of El Eco an interesting relationship is implied between these ideas and the Emotional Architecture of Mathias Goeritz, described in his manifesto published in 1954. The German artist called for a critique of Functionalist architecture, through structures that sought to convey emotions. Perhaps irreverent and playful compared to the gravity with which Goertiz approached these questions, the unfolded structures by Rasgado nevertheless offer a contemporary form of emotive architecture. His artworks additionally dialogue with the reduced forms and monumentality promoted by the founder of El Eco, while provocatively constructing new relationships with painting and formal abstraction.
- Tania Carrera, 'Provitional Poem' | ENG
for Pablo Rasgado
Winds of seed swelled up a circumference:
It had a hard skin, kind of thorny, kind of prickly.
You saw the fresh juice,
the voice that begged for texture.
Like a fight amid bubbles,
like desires for sand.
All the glasses dried up as time went by.
All your letters sought other letters, alphabets with better tones.
—The lightness of not lying
I you like the word "seize“ because it is verb full of roads.
Forty five degrees is the angle of the sun
You don’t see it anymore,
but it heats.