The practice of appropriation is to apply an ecological sense to art, to recycle signs and forms from the past, often with the intention of desecrating icons, subverting canons, resignifying what used to be true in distant times. Javier Díaz Guardiola, Carmen González Castro and Nino Maza, a triad of curators of which the latter two also participate with their pieces, invite ten artists to “rewind and remaster” tongue in cheek.
The hair of the Duchess of Alba’s lap dog has become frizzy. This is not unexpected, because Goya’s muse was given to make the poor thing a woolly yo-yo. Patricia Mateo, using a print that reproduces the famous painting, has only had to tie a string to Doña Cayetana’s index finger and fluff up that little ball of hair with legs. Maybe the yo-yo is a metaphor of how the dissolute aristocrat played with the painter.
Patricia goes along with Duchamp pranks (remember his mustachioed Gioconda), desecrating museum prints to look for a double meaning.
Esther García Urquijo is also skilled in iconographic deviations. She uses digital intervention to study how aesthetic trends influence sexual behavior. She dresses Eve (from Bosch’s Garden of Eartly Delights) in sexy lingerie, or dye the Botticcelli’s Venus hair to a jet-black colour, the colour of lust associated with Lilit. Them are part of the project De Santas a Putas, fruit of her reflections on the turn that the pictorial representation of women experienced in the late nineteenth century, when Virgins, goddesses and mothers confined to home are replaced by Salomés, Lilits and other lascivious creatures reincarnated in the contemporary femmes fatal, so-called those who began to break the patriarchal patterns.
Susanna and the Elders, biblical theme that would be used as a pretext for so many Renaissance and Baroque painters to increase the voyeuristic drive of the male spectator, making him drool next to dirty old men seeing the beautiful woman who bathes (without knowing that was being spied), is taken up by Juan Francisco Casas but from the female and feminist interpretation that Artemisia Gentileschi proposed in the 17th century.
Francisco Casas appropriates the representation of Gentileschi, with Susanna suffering the harassment of the elderly protected behind a plinth, but in this case the scene is in the background, occupying the foreground a proudly naked young woman, who in the heart of the 21st century little understands about shyness of yesteryear. She responds to the voyeurism and double moral of the Jewish judges with an exhibitionism without falsehood, as she address to chaste Susanna to forget about her fears and take advantage of her charm.
Busts of Roman patricians with faces splashed with semen and columns that are erected with their sinewy shafts finished off with Corinthian-glans capitals, to call them as if them were a new architectural order … belong to a series of irreverent collages that its author, Nino Maza, included in his work “Ideologies of desire”. The title Seminary reminds us of the peculiar pedophile pedagogy that the Greek masters adopted with their young disciples, and that Romans adopted in their own way, perverting the prior moral ideal.
Perhaps Nino didn’t allude to it in particular, but with his symbiosis and visual gags he invites us to release the signs of its univocal meanings, to deactivate the ideological load that the icons carry, conditioning our values and constructing our desires.
David Trullo filters in fine faience’s pieces homoerotic iconography extracted from beefcake magazines, competing in refinement with the antique tableware. They are photographs transferred to ceramics but simulate subtle hand-painted works like those that decorate those dishes destined for the most affluent houses. Queer menagerie continues in the line of Souvenirs and Queer cabinets, pointing to the disenchantment that follows the revolt, decades of struggles reduced to memorabilia …
The word “menagerie” couldn’t be more appropriate, if we think that the royal porcelain factories born at the same time of these shows of exotic animals, captives in stately gardens.
But, at the same time, Trullo refuses to accept that emptiness of meaning of the icons, so he will continue (figuratively speaking) to sneak into bourgeois homes, disturbing self-righteous mindsets, replacing the boring bucolic prints of their tableware with desires that seem to jump off the plate.
Bringing the inside out, a process that we can relate to medical practices (x-rays, eviscerations…) that serve Marina Vargas, Carmen González Castro and Angeles Agrela to endow their iconographic appropriations with renewed sense.
The Venus Esquilina by Marina Vargas is covered with viscera. The white marmoreal smoothness (here resin) contrasts with the rugged and pink flesh, the Dionysian interior overflows the Apollonian harmony… The sculpture work Nor animal neither angel is based in these kinds of collission and integration of opposites, which endows the static Greco-Roman canon with alchemical mutations inspired by Paracelsus. Thus, the body recovers its triple condition: carnal, astral and psychic.
In Carmen González Castro‘s drawings (With the inside out 2015), decontextualized bodies (taken from Michelangelo’s sculpture, or Titian, Tintoretto and Boucher’s paintings) are interrelated with organic textures that, paradoxically, instead of subtracting sensuality from the beautiful nudes is seemed to share some kind of erotic experience. Fluffy and serpentine forms that break the body stiffness and open it up to endless playful possibilities.
Angeles Agrela Vanitas betray patrons and painters aspiration of eternity. The first paid to leave to posterity their aristocratic image while giving the latter the opportunity to gain a foothold in the art history.
Agrela deprives the portrayed ones of their status or mystical halo, be they princes, dukes, the Infant Jesus or the young lady of a pearl earring. She X-rayes bodies, shows them flayed and even uses guts as a hat or a bleeding heart as a head.
On this occasion it is the turn of a damsel of Vermeer, the one to whom a conqueror impels to drink wine to soften her heart. Agrela isolates her, focusing on the portrait, to whose cap she adds a second headdress, gloomy and mocking, made with the lady’s ribs. It seems almost like an inverted vanitas, warning us not only about the banality of pleasures but about the ephemeral nature of life. A carpe diem addressed to this young puritan.
Throughout history, art was a powerful tool to enduring the canonical dictatorship, until publicity took over. From Platonic philosophy to ecclesiastical dogma and mental colonialism, the notion of canon imbricates ethics and aesthetics, morals and ideology. Mateo Maté transformed a collection of copies of Greco-Roman and neoclassical models to subvert that notion, calling for a broader diversity (in age, gender and ethnicity) and extra-Apollonian beauty concepts.
In this point of the article, it has already become clear to us that the history of art is a serialised novel narrated by and for heterosexual white men. One of his evangelists was Ernst Gombrich, author of the textbook par excellence for art scholars. Griselda Pollock and Rozsika Parker were the first to see the flagrant absence of women artists in this extensive compendium of the history of Western art.
This pair of historians titled their essay Old Mistress (1981), evidencing the sexism inserted in the language itself: the old masters become old lovers in their female counterpart.
María Gimeno, after reading Pollock and Parker, would soon find a solution to those immense gaps in Gombrich’s History of Art. In a conference-performance (which was followed by other ones), she took a kitchen knife and dissected a copy of that book, and inserted new chapters, those corresponding to ignored artists. She called the project Queridas viejas, resulting of each conference an extended version of Gombrich investigation. One of her art-books can be consulted in this exhibition.
Rewind & Remaster
in Galería 6más1, Madrid
until 30th November 2017