Author: Achille Bonito Oliva
Title: Emperor Sculpture
Publication: Javier Marín Terra
Project / work: Exhibition Javier Marín Terra: Material as idea. Palacio de Iturbide, Fomento Cultural Banamex, 2015.
Published by: Fomento Cultural Banamex / Terreno Baldío Arte
Achille Bonito Oliva
The history of Western sculpture recounts the relationship between man and the space surrounding him, presenting this relationship in language that expresses consciousness of the figure’s creation. The sculptor is the craftsman of a visual artwork realized through a process of delimitation, who puts a bit of space, a piece of the world, into an enclosure where the materials that concretely occupy that space offer their skin to our gaze.
Sculpture becomes the scenario for the conflict between inert matter and the man who seeks to impress a divine trace upon that matter. The impossibility of that task forces him to consider the limitations of form and the incapability of effecting an outcome that is equal to the substance of his inspiration.
Javier Marín takes on the challenge of putting a spin on sculpture’s dead language by means of a language well equipped to confront all its specificities and resolve the acuteness of contamination, assembly and the system of combinations within a three-dimensional realm that underscores the dynamism of its relationship to the world. The artist’s sculptures—whose nature he would proverbially seem to want to block or obstruct through weight of matter, the speed of ideas and the impalpable character of emotion— are fired, like nerves, by their need to move forward and to act within the rich complexity of their times. The artwork asserts itself as a sort of silent, “circular” border within which relationships of true displacement that refer above all to the creative experience are fulfilled. Their constituent component is tension in the artwork’s fundamental complexity. Nothing is true-to-life anymore. The artist, acting alone, keeps working until he manages to construct an artwork that confronts a relationship with technique in search of something different from the everyday, yet still attempts to use the same, familiar materials: bronze, marble, clay.
In Javier Marín’s case, art remains techne—a confirmation of creative knowledge that comes from the Roman gravitas, reiterated throughout Western art history.
In any case, sculpture is a genre that seeks forgiveness. This has to do with its inevitable “footprint,” as volume, that at times responds to the sometimes positive demands of public art and contemporaneity. Artists have created numerous works as institutional commissions, a tradition that reached a zenith of splendor during the Baroque.
Javier Marín the artist accepts the challenge of monumental work. Through the economy of his language, he reestablishes the ethics of a creative process that reiterates, and above all expands, the distinctive character of sculpture and its history.
In the 1960s, sculpture established itself as an expanding, three-dimensional object in space that replaced using traditional materials with quotidian elements. Faced with sculpture’s dissolution, Javier Marín responds by revisiting its courtly tensions and exalting them through elaboration that includes his tenacious craftsmanship.
He discovers a gold mine—a source of ongoing activation—in art history’s iconography. Navigating the ambiguous chaos of the present, Javier Marín acts with a singular and signature temporality, committing himself to the virile grandeur of classical statuary.
In his ongoing wanderings around museums, churches and monuments, in his continuous approach and distancing, Javier Marín is magnetically attracted to the forceful authority of sculptural portraits whose presence is cemented to a formal definition of marble. Clearly this is no attempt at predatory emulation; instead, these reflexive pauses suggest to the artist his ars combinatoria, assembly and disassembly, as literature—as in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—might have suggested.
We can imagine Javier Marín bursting into museums, armed with his signature compositional technique, his vision of the whole and knowledge of all the details. It is Javier Marín who is at the helm. Previously unseen form families can be identified in his oeuvre.
Concreteness of form and the weight of its matter celebrate the masculine. In this group of artworks there is no trace of the feminine as conventional beauty ideal or time’s illusory flight. They represent the triumph of endurance, the exaltation of a non-quotidian time that is expressed precisely thanks to the exalted temporality their execution demands.
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