In medicine, "mechanical ventilation" is a method to assist or replace spontaneous breathing. In New York City, right now, is the concept behind an intensively provocative solo show by Colombian artist Luis Roldán, currently going on at Henrique Faría Fine Art.
The cleverly put together exhibition, curated by Juan Ledezma, manages to beautifully orchestrate what could have been a clash of titans, generating instead powerful interactions between iconic fifties works on paper by Brazilian artist Willys de Castro (1926 - 1988) and recent pieces by the Colombian artist, in his third Big Apple solo show.
Where de Castro masterfully makes his statements on matters of geometric abstraction and interaction; Roldán - unexpected, clever, poetic and even humoristic - enhances a common understanding of abstractionism, by liberating form and context. The spectator (or user of the experience) encounters many chances for exploration, participation and ideation.
Willys de Castro is almost sacred in Brazilian art, and a very important figure of Latin American art. But besides that, his movement, the way he conducted investigation and processed art, is very small. He worked on it so much and so well, that the space to generate dialogue implicates risk, any way you slice it. And that is the beauty of this show: It is always on the verge. Depending on how you manage that type of situation, you may find yourself in absolute contemplation, breathing normally, or hyperventilating with the prospect of discovery and adventure.
Roldán might have approached Rio de Janeiro's Neoconcrete's group emblematic figure by bringing to the conversation his marvelous contemporary paintings, to demonstrate in minimalistic terms the deep quality of his art while establishing connections. He could have stayed close to de Castro or directly play with opposites. That would have been safe, but too obvious. Instead, Luis Roldán decided to "bring him back to Earth, to the here and now, by establishing some contact points", as he expressed in a recent interview with us. "Transforming this very sacred figure in an everyday situation of this century and, in a way, messing with his academic tidiness".
So where de Castro proposes hybrid objects in the intersection of painting and sculpture, using geometry to both propose and dismantle form, and modularity to construct and deconstruct; Roldán uses multiple mediums, modularity and assemblage, to subvert modernism with artifacts that require a certain technical mode of perception but -in words of Ledezma- "no longer presume a collective engagement with the technical reorganization of life". Using a decidedly analog technique and a certain personal cartography, he indexes found objects in a minimalistic way that is poetic in its insistence on a personal materiality.
According to the Colombian artist, "You need many bad ideas to generate a good one... a lot of bad ones. That humble approach to the investigation process is truly appealing to me, because the work that is always on the verge is good. To grab something and work with it in a way that can be a failure is exciting. I've been working with detritus for a long time, which works on my favor because I have the capacity of playing with objects until a conversation sparks. That is innate, intuitive to me, a sort of gift that I am lucky to possess."
It is exactly when the intuition meets de Castro's rationality that Roldán is able to propose a sort of "rational intuition", to the point where there is a lot of intellectual processing but an intuitive flavor in the show that allows subjectivity and speculation. Not everything is closed and clearly defined, as de Castro would have solved it. Where de Castro closes an idea, Roldán redefine the points to make sure his idea of the "active object", in the here and now of the exhibition, is an open idea.
And this is true not only in masterfully elaborated pieces such as La pared, Wash and Wear, Respiraciones, Cantos and Numerales, but also in the actual configuration of the pieces in the gallery. Like a rotating "generating space" that pays homage to the "active object" idea, an imaginary line suggests the rooms can be hypothetically navigated across the walls and ceilings.
In our chaotic New York life, Luis Roldan's Mechanical Ventilation: Interactions with Willys de Castro, presents an oasis that must be experienced, while you can.