HERENCIA DE UN NEOCONCRETO

Luiz Martins

Artist

Sao Paulo, 2018

HERENCIA DE UN NEOCONCRETO Cuando se escribe y reflexiona sobre arte concreto, arte geométrico latinoamericano, siempre nos viene la herencia de artistas como Jesús Soto, Torres García, Helio Oiticica, Cruz-Diez entre tantos que podría citar en este texto, el arte concreto para nosotros no es sólo una la referencia de estética que nos ha sido heredada de los constructivistas rusos es una reflexión sobre la vida, sobre los sentidos de dentro y fuera, vacío y lleno, y en estas obras del artista Gustavo Mendez-Liska lo que siente es una gran influencia del arte de su país, y como todos, fueron ganando alas en otro continente en este caso el Gustavo posó su pensamiento en la lejana Austria, y allá desde 25 años viene desarrollando su pensamiento sin perder de vista sus orígenes. Acompaño el desarrollo de su trabajo desde los bocetos en madera cuando se dibuja no con el lápiz y papel pero con maquina y herramientas sentimos toda fuerza de la forma occidental de pensar y actuar. Conviviendo desde la infancia con el geometrismo del arte, Gustavo fue posteriormente adoptado por Viena, y desde entonces el artista explora combinaciones geométricas en obas de madera recicladas, ensamblajes que remiten a estructuras gráficas de sus maestros del movimiento Stijl, embrión del neoplasticismo y de la escuela Bauhaus. No por casualidad que en esta serie de dibujos monocromáticos vemos una obra con referencias directas a las composiciones en rejilla de Mondrian. Todas derivadas de la matriz constructiva que siempre guió el trabajo de Gustavo.

El soporte cambió, pero no desapareció el cuerpo de la obra, desmaterializó y renació en una nueva materialidad de dibujos monocromáticos en la cual el artista nos demuestra total seguridad y libertad con la línea, con el espacio, en esta formas esculturales planas, su contexto, la fisicalidad palpable y la función operando como un recuerdo permanente del cuerpo que, en realidad, confirma de muchas formas la presencia del artista en una ausencia evidente. Gustavo aborda su actual comprensión del cuerpo de su obra desmaterializada algo raro de verse en una artista en la que transita de la tridimensionalidad al bidimensional, cuya materialidad, por su permutabilidad, se vuelve secundaria, reforzando su percepción y presencia en una sociedad que, no tiene nada que ver con su habitar, sino que se ha convertido en obstáculo por la terquedad, la gratitud y la persistencia de un hombre fuerte. En este proyecto busca la primacía evidente de una herencia que él dejó atrás y que surge aquí nivelado con otros elementos, a través de estratégicas compositivas, inversiones y repeticiones que sugieren una identidad permutable. Me gustaría concluir, subrayando la contemporaneidad cultural y social de la obra de Gustavo presente en este conjunto de obras, sus trabajos reflejan su condición personal y colectiva de interrogar sobre lo diferente, del otro y de los límites de sus relaciones con esta sociedad, y también o es quizás mejor repensar el mismo concepto de límite, volviendo nuevamente a la raíz de la palabra Herencia, no sólo como un pensamiento que influye y transforma pero que fortalece bajo la óptica de un inmigrante que separa, pero que simultáneamente puede y debe unir permitiendo un diálogo abierto y solidario.

 

Tectonic experiences and spatial relations in the work of Gustavo Mendez-Liska

Miroslava Urbanová

Kuratorin

Vienna, 2018

Throughout the years of his artistic practice Gustavo Mendez-Liska has gradually reduced his means of expression to basic geometrical forms. That is how he can deliberately convey his fascination with the tectonic experiences – with the structures of all kinds, their interplay and tensions.

The diasporic background of the artist has undoubtedly a great impact on his searching for the geometrical forms, which come to him as a part of universal language. At the same time, he is aware of their particularity concerning different cultural backgrounds and sensibilities. He focuses his attention on the gaps and niches, on the things, that remain unsaid, on the pause or breathing in in-between the composition. Such structural experiences are in general common for everyone.

On the first sight, his compositions on paper remind of the architectural sketches. The architecture of the city, its spatial relations in the matter and its lack, the play of light and shadow between them, were in fact a crucial starting point of Mendez-Liskaʼs dealing with the tectonics of the (spatial) experience. However, while looking at his latest series, as well as artist´s oeuvre as such, one cannot oversee the overlaps with the forms and structures, that can be found in the musical scores or visual poetry as well. Such reading opens the further levels of the multilayered experience, which although it is exclusively visual, remains definitely not quiet.

Moreover, his drawings are often one of the stages for the further development of his sculptural artworks. By the latter, he prefers to use natural materials, prevalently wood and natural pigments. The natural structure of the wood with all its imperfections and scratches becomes a pattern, an aesthetical quality, that simultaneously refers to the history of the region from which the material came from. The pigments that he uses for his paintings, as well as for the objects he creates, bear a certain reference to the Austrian millieu. The yellowishness of the carpenter’s white that he uses in his series Viennese delicacies and Windows is such case, that oscillates between homage and inner joke of the artist, who became a trained carpenter as well.

Movements create free space

Thomas Mark

Artmark Galerie

Vienna, October 2008

From a very young age Gustavo Mendez-Liska perceived the world around him in a bi-polar way. He grew up in South America, in the City of Caracas, Venezuela. Today he lives and works in Europe in the city of Vienna, Austria. He knows the beauty of the Amazon forest and the laws of nature that at some times might appear cruel. This is why Mendez is aware not only of isolation but also of the communicative life in a city with all its job and leisure opportunities. He knows how to survive in nature and in a city; he loves the forest and appreciates the urban jungle.

One can observe this bi-polarity in Gustavo Mendez’s artwork as well. Today he works as an artist but has also cared a lot about music since his childhood. Music runs through his veins and those of his family; his sister is a well-known jazz singer. If melody gives music its spirit, it is due to the division into measures that creates its individual form, its dynamic and its rhythm. Both the musician and the singer can interpret the music and give it its own form, making it his or her own by shortening or prolonging the notes.

In Japanese Zen philosophy the MA has an eminent meaning: it lies between two worlds with no beginning nor end, the brake that is crucial to so many things. In music, the moment or duration of what is in-between, the pause, is what brings it to life and gives it rhythm. The succession of sound and silence or non-sounds builds up the tension in music, its ups and downs. If the rhythm of music succeeds in moving the audience willingly to give in or go with the acoustic flow, this can result in an inner movement. In common language one could say: music moves me. While in jazz music one would say: this music swings. If this interaction between sound and pauses is written down, a graphic piece with a highly aesthetic sound, a score of movements, a back and forth, a build-up and build-down of amplitude and emptiness is created.

Greatly influenced by the sound patterns and rhythm of Latin-American music, Mendez began sensitively transmitting this succession of peace and activity – so very well known to him – into his artwork. He almost always chooses for wood as an image carrier. Due to his experience in the restoration of antique furniture, Mendez has a manual and technical aptitude and know-how of this material. He uses pieces of old closets, cases or boxes that can no longer be restored. He grinds or cuts some parts, grounds them, sometimes creating collages with peaces of textiles, grinds the pieces again, applies cold encaustic wax, lets them dry, polishes them, shapes them again until parts of the wood texture re-emerge, scratches, cuts, paints, dyes, waxes, polishes, …His work is a time-consuming process.

The colors Mendez uses are colors of nature such as brown and beige, earth or mud colors, green and ochre in grass and plant shades, puce and light-grey in bark shades; in his recent works white is the predominant color, held in stone-, mist-, froth- and cloud shades. The material, the wood structure, and the colors create a melody. The measures and therefore the rhythm are transcribed into visual objects through his graphic composition. The woods of the rain forests are his favorite subject. Gustavo Mendez initially takes a very naturalistic approach at the beginning. The good relationship with his family and the rain forest is reflected in titles such as “father-woods, brother-woods and the Amazon virgin forest”.

The trees of the rain forest stand beside each other, dance with the light winds, are bent by the strong winds, but always leave enough space to the neighboring tree by appearing to sway to Latin-American music. The density of the woods creates volume, different levels that build up consecutively and create depth. The spaces between his “trees” are not “planted” continuously like in nurseries or orchards, no – the distances vary highly. Short distances, nearly unified trees, larger distances, almost resembling glades, create his images of spaces, his own stage for displaying his tangible objects in space. The trunks appear as supporting columns to him and to human kind. The horizontal plant arrangements sometimes seem like a healing cicatrization that guarantees further mobility, sometime similar to a human column, which is shown in one of his pictures titled “rip and column”.

The lines of the log are seldom drawn parallel, instead they head in different directions, change and curl around something, cut through other image layers further in the back, create different spaces, cover, rebuild, dissolve, and yet leave spaces to be shared between each other and for themselves. For Gustavo Mendez, trees are a symbol of human beings living together. His message is to be more tolerant. As trees – even in strong winds – leave enough space between them by bending into one direction and cushioning the gusts, Mendez invites us humans to give each other more space and support. By being a bit more flexible like trees, we can step up to one another and let go, thereby avoiding or resolving confrontations and disputes. In other words, he invites us to approach each other without consuming or crowding one another, for the freedom of each person ends where the freedom of another is hampered.

Mendez demonstrates his philosophy through his way of communicating with all social classes as well as through his artistic installations of huge old cases cut into trunks hanging freely in space by ropes. With different distances to one another these trunks not only divide the space but also invite the observer to find his or her way – and not merely a gap. He wants him to look behind the bulky façade for whatever reason and to discover new horizons. In his recent images, Mendez reduces his artwork to only a few lines, to the structure of the material, and to pure white. It seems he has found his own personal free space; he is approaching something different now, something bigger. He is heading from an archaic, down-to-earth foundation towards a meditative, tangible, cosmic space.