Author: Michel Draguet
Title: On the fragment in the sculpture of Javier Marín
Publication: Javier Marín Corpus
Project / work: Exhibition Javier Marín Corpus. The Beauty of imperfection. Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, 2015.
Published by: Terreno Baldío Arte
On the fragment in the sculpture of Javier Marín
Something rather disturbing affects one’s spirit upon entering any space, preferably solemn and immense, impressive and laden with history, where the equally monumental figures of Javier Marín are found, interconnected in accordance with a carefully calibrated dramaturgy. The impression of unity leads one to assume that they came to be there naturally—that they have always been there—before that disturbing sensation suggests an ancient order, collapsed and heretofore unknown, conferred by a world just as ancient and no less unknown that has entered into a dialogue with ours. Somewhere between the two, the possibility of knowledge is established: an understanding that suggests that beyond our finitude—which is nothing, after all, but the symptom of our unfinished condition—we belong to an order that, in and of itself, is destined for ruin. Thus, we see ourselves as fragments derived from systematic loss: our world, trapped by its own past. Vanquished by its own destiny, our world of no tomorrows turns to its past in order to exhume any shred of possibility.
Therein lies this perspective, one that breaks away from the modernity modeled by the 20th century. Having transformed “the denial of tradition” into a “tradition of denial,” we would then have to fall back on the repertoire it offers us in order to break away from the apologetic tendencies inherent in the avant-garde—the inescapable theme of death in art as beneficial to philosophy—and in a race toward innovation characteristic of a modernity attained through the industrialization of culture. By sublimating its own death—a theme at the core of Javier Marín’s work—artistic creation must seek through tradition the means to overcome modernity. To gain access to this postmodernity.
Fracture and wound
As a vestige, the fragment becomes an end in and of itself, transforming its consummate failure into a modern need for incompletion. This defines the selfsame condition of the image in the past. Thus, the sculptor binds the wound that every fragment bears to a moral purpose that transforms each of his works into a postmodern avatar of the memento mori of the classic era. History experienced as catastrophe is duplicated there with a sensitive experience brought down to a human scale. This is shown in his way of connecting the shattered bodies one by one, denoting a form of cruelty that goes beyond a lucid gaze at human barbarity.
While not immediately noticeable in most of his installations, this violence is at the heart of works such as Rod Man from 1998, or its peers from 2007. The fragment responds here to a sculptural work that, without breaking away from the integrity of the form, decomposes it in the organic sense of the term. In a single movement, clay translates into the destruction of the body and the putrefaction of matter. One and the other threaten the past of the form. In response, Javier Marín has cut through the form with steel rods taken from construction sites, all the better to “assemble” the flesh with, as if it were no more than friable concrete, fragile if not ephemeral. But this crossroads, while bringing into play end to end the geometric linear arc of a circle in conflict with a twisting body, ritualizes a form of torture that appears regularly in his oeuvre.
The same painful sensation is felt before Suspended Woman, completed in 2000. Beyond the evocation of Christ on the cross—due to the delicate superimposition of the legs and the motif of the perforated foot—a woman witnesses the pain of a body manufactured piece by piece, where fragments alien to one another are connected forcefully, if not aggressively. Through lock washers, plaques and screws, the demiurgic willpower of the artist—as cruel as that which caused Frankenstein’s monster to come to life?—recomposes itself as a whole. This has a price that humanity has consistently paid over the course of our existence. A pain that, distanced from philosophical exercises, pierces the body and that only a sculptor can express with such force. Reorienting modeling towards assemblage, Javier Marín brings new purpose to the work with the fragment that started with Rodin. It has less to do with essaying new poses than with bearing witness to the human condition in all its diversity, taken to negligible extremes.
The discourse of Javier Marín is never univocal. Other works that employ comparable effects will, on the contrary, express the liberation of the body. Such is the case with sculptures like Upside Down, from 1995. There, form is transfigured in bronze upon losing its wax. Once again, the final form contains its share of the memory of an absence to which the artist returns, especially in his highly skilled work with resins. Thus, bronze does not escape this poetics of the fragment. In this case, the survival of casts and orifices will bear witness to this emancipation, which does not represent sparing oneself from loss. A loss that becomes descent, like a lifetime depleted from the moment of birth.
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