This art exhibition is composed of 12 works. It begins with the photograph of Sebastiao Salgado, ‘At times, only the tails of the southern whales are visible’ (Valdés Peninsula, 2014), and considers the dialogue between what is seen and what is not.
The stillness that surrounds the whale, represents the desire of stop motion that is so clearly depicted at Francis Bacon’s ‘Pigeons of flight’ (1889-1890). The fluttering of the birds wings is revealed by the mingling of their feathers. The whiteness of the leader pigeon is beautifully broken by the dark spots on the other pigeons’ bodies. They are flying freely and being very aware of their position in the group; they are drawing a ‘V’ shape in the air, just as the whale does. The way that the two of them look at/interact with the photographer humanizes them; and their shape leads me to think about a group of native Americans donning almost ceremonial headdresses in the city, enjoying the afternoon as the sidewalk is for them.
There is a moment of freedom created by the movement of our gaze following the little boy in ’Rescue the flag’ (1961) by Herbert List. Fast and light as if nobody could catch him, his left foot suspended in the air… His other foot is nowhere to be seen and we get the impression that he is flying. This desire for freedom is also provocatively framed by a the anxious feeling created by the two wheels and the strength of the lines created by the stones on the pavement. I can’t see what’s going on behind him, so a number of scenarios run through my imagination and I feel his body trembling with excitement.
In ‘Untitled’ (2013), Ben Berlow combines the lines and curves of distinct blue and pink paper to create separated and contained fields. There is an exquisite curve on the brown craft paper which references something imagined. It becomes a riddle, and it is up to us to figure it out.
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (Spain, 1746 – 1828). ‘Perro semihundido’ (Half-submerged Dog). 1819-1923. Oil mural plaster transferred to canvas. 131.5 cm × 79.3 cm (51 3⁄4 in × 31 1⁄4 in) Credit Line: Current Owner: @Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
The gaze of Goya’s ‘Dog’ (1819-23), looking candidly out of the frame, conveys defenselessness and mystery. The total absence of context in this scenario without perspective, creates an enigmatic atmosphere. An aged background of intense gold appears to be a sand storm, as if a giant monster were hidden behind the sand and the dog expected him to approach. Maybe ready for death, maybe ready to follow the monster, the master…
The paint scratches on the walls of ‘La Hija de los danzantes’ (The Daughter of the Dancers) (1933) by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, draws tears in this intriguing scene starred by the languor of this young girl. Her white dress as a symbol of purity, her naked feet, and the subtle position of her tiptoes, adds more intensity and mystery to the enigma of what is happening on the other side of the window. I wonder why she is relaxed and unaware. Surrounded by the labyrinthian lines and shapes of the wall, her hat and arm makes me think of a Mexican version of Alice in Wonderland and she is about to fall down the rabbit’s hole.
You also sense fragility about to break at ‘Study of Birch Tree’ (1895) of John Bullock. The stripes of the trunk bend down in the opposite direction that the wind is blows the ferns, and creates a suspense intensified by the darkness on the ground. There is contradiction in the strength of the ‘birch tree’ that looks vulnerable, and the flimsy ferns that look powerful, acting as a shield to protect it. The forested background envelops the entire moment and evokes a dreamy and mysterious scene.
IIn ‘chaos cup’ (1997) by Wolfgang Tillmans, at first glance the reflection of this big tree without leaves has crystallized on the surface of the tea. The liquid becomes part of the reflection and vice versa. The materiality becomes melted, like Dali watches. The handle of the cup becomes the tree trunk, the smallest is the biggest and the strongest the weakest. The darkness on the trunk mixes with a mysterious shadow around the tree empty branches. This tonal game follows a line out of the cup where is a tea bag, a little element able to create this dense and intense atmosphere.
This is an underlying theme in most of the pieces we have been looking at. This unpredictable and quiet suspenseful world takes me back to Salgado’s whale. It belongs to this unknown world that remains unexplained. The elements in the composition and the gestures of nature that surround, it makes us understand a moment that is happening far away but feels so close.
This is a feeling I had when I first saw the photograph of ‘Equilibrio Inestable’ (Unstable Equilibrium) (Tarragona, 2010), by Juan Manuel Castro Prieto. It was around Christmas, time, and my Dad was at the end of a long illness. Castro Prieto sent me this photograph by email as a Christmas card. It came as a relief to be immersed in this tiny and content Victorian universe, so far away from mine. The weirdness of the naked doll with white socks and painted black shoes and the light around her, draw me close to this special being that brought me a sliver of light as an omen. One week later my Dad passed away in such a peaceful way. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I had ever had. Keeping this photograph in my cell phone is like having my dad’s guardian angel always with me.
We encounter the same play with light in ‘Are We Stardust’ (2014) created by Amy Friend. It works by narrowing the distance between the fragile quality of the vintage photograph itself and the fragility of our lives. The pose and the relaxed open arms of the little girl sitting on the bench, her hands suspended tenderly over her lap, the bench in darkness, create this wide, empty, and suggestive space. It starts an imaginary long wave in the air that is filled up with the light from the stardust as the group of fireflies that surrounds her take us to a fairy tale state of mind.
The most beautiful part of the daguerreotype that Henry Fitz made in 1839 is the corrosion. It is probably one of the first portraits with eyes closed because of the need for longer exposure time. But is in those beautiful signs of time on the image that I find enchantment, Henry seems to close his eyes in order to be sprayed by light and time in an antique barbershop.
I am going to end this exploration with my piece “Hair 1992″ (2014). I have kept my braid since I chopped off my locks at 16 years old; it looks like the whale in Salgado’s photograph. This walk along time has brought me to live intensely with her (my inanimate braid). I have photographed her at the studio, I have drawn her, I have played with it …until I realized that I had to reconnected with what it was that I was letting go of back then. The freeing ritualistic enactment of cutting my hair and shaving my head was something liberating when I was 16 years old. And re connecting with that symbolic ritual while scanning the hair of that old braid now in New York has made that happened again, sparks included.
The experience of these images allowed me to discover a world of guessing beyond what the eyes can see. A world that reveals itself between two winks of an eye or perhaps deep inside a braid.