Art Rouge Gallery. Miami.
Catálogo exposición “Box of Mental States” Galería Art Rouge, Miami. Noviembre 2008.
THE ABSENT HAND
José Manuel CIRIA
A simple mark with charcoal on paper, a twisting line,
the wandering of the hand that unexpectedly simulatesthe outline
of a head. Vermilion oil paint. A drawing with a figurative reference after
many years dedicated exclusively to abstraction. And then another one immediately
after it. The Cabezas de Rorschach (Rorschach Heads) series has just been born.
Shortly afterwards, in Tel Aviv, that iconography would be incorporated into two-by-two meter,
rechristening the group of six paintings with the name Victimas (Victims). Some of the later pieces
would return to paper. Giving up and a new beginning in New York: Cabezas de Rorschach II
(Rorschach Heads II). Occasional exercises that would eventually become a recurring motif
somewhere between the head and the mask. Structures Heads Schandenmaske…
From the book “Cabezas y Máscaras” (Heads and Masks).
The La Guardia Place series was beginning to seem tedious. I wasn’t having as much fun as I used to. Despite all the positive feedback, I couldn’t get away from the feeling of being tired with it. It’s evident that there were a lot of things still to be said in that series. I had a good-sized pile of drawings and sketches and while working on it I’d left a lot of “open windows” that made possible, at least apparently, a nearly endless multi-faceted expansion of La Guardia Place at a formal level. The return to drawing, line, and structure in my New York work had given me a rich and evocative iconography. But, the complexity of it demanded, in much too high of a degree for my personality, “slow” painting, rigorously respecting form and contour. I felt a need to make work normatively less demanding, to go back to a less rigid structure that was more permissive in how paint could be applied. More free. I decided, after having made around one hundred and thirty pieces over the last three years that I needed a little “vacation” before getting back into it. Strange thoughts that go through an artist’s head.
I had an American comic book in my hands. It was an expanded book version of the first issue of The Fantastic Four, with every panel reproduced without margins and some of them even in two page spreads. I remembered my late childhood and teenage years reading the adventures of those totally implausible heroes. My eyes, sadly enough, weren’t the same, and the impossibly naive story didn’t interest me in the least. What struck me was the lavishness of the edition and the “enlarged colors”. A travesty of color, packed with oranges and blues, greens and yellows, black and big white spaces, pinks and vermilions…
The momentous end of La Guardia Place was marked by the “new” introduction of red, some kind of auras in green (an unheard of color in my work), and the timid appearance of orange, which I hadn’t gone back to using since Lisbon in 2004. Three “unexpected” pieces: Dark rainbow, Bloody Mary duplicado (Bloody Mary duplicated ) and Cabeza sobre fondo verde (Head on a green ground), all three painted in March of 2008, clearly showed that tendency towards using color that had appeared in my work only occasionally but which was, surprisingly, brought together here on the same plane. I had always mistrusted those artists who needed to make use of the entire chromatic spectrum to express themselves, with the obvious exception of Matisse, Miró and, being indulgent, perhaps Chagall. I always preferred a reductionist palette. I always admired that really “Spanish” darkness of Zurbaran, Sánchez-Cotán, late Goya…
I hadn’t been sleeping well for days, constantly waking up, trying to get over the accumulated “jet lag”. A painter friend of mine showed up at my studio in New York with a “Pop-Art” book. While we were having a beer I was flipping through the pages pretty “apathetically” without paying too much attention to all those images that I’d already seen hundreds of times. Aside from a couple of interesting things, Pop Art has always turned me off. Wesselmann, Lichtenstein, Warhol… all their charm seems to lie in their banality (“bananality” as I managed to write on one occasion).
Between one series and another there is usually a sort of, shall we say, “desert”. A desert that a lot of times ends up being productive. You’re out hunting for new formal and conceptual solutions where you can reinvent yourself or give a new turn to the screw. You do a lot of experimentation and tests, and most of them are useless, but others, surprisingly, open a door to unknown territory. Suddenly, a drawing appears, a line, a painting, a little miracle in which the “muses” take control of your hands and guide them into making something relevant, something that gives you ideas, something you’re interested in exploring…
On the table was the huge Four “Fanatics” book, and next to it a book about Pop Art, a beautiful Josef Albers book, and a Sol Lewitt book, with those colors that are so “studied” and “measured”. My friend Darrell Nettles had mentioned that he was surprised by the “savage” use of color he saw in fragments of some of my paintings. The violent, clashing colors…
One morning, I woke up, and the day was especially sunny. One of those New York summer days when the only thing you feel like doing is to have breakfast as fast as you can, taking a shower and run outside to wander the city. To my surprise, I had a vision! On my work table I found the big tubes of paint perfectly lined up and filled to bursting with oil paint, all ready and with the perfect texture. The “muses” must have really put themselves out the night before. Black, medium gray, light gray, white, red, orange, pink and a florid green. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Next to the table there were around twenty small canvases perfectly primed and with different versions of silhouettes of heads or masks drawn on them. I don’t remember the expletive that came out of my mouth. Somebody, or something…was pushing me into making those small paintings. Without really being all that keen on it, I gave in to their (its) demands and began working, painting by painting, day by day. All of a sudden, after a month of struggling with all those little surfaces all at the same time, I’d managed to make twenty “masks”. I looked for a title for the series or suite in Google. I finally ended up using the German term “Schandenmaske”, whose translation is something like –burlesque mask–.
A “structure” reduced to the limit, a simple contour, a silhouette. An enormous space where the painting can be allowed to play itself out spontaneously without having the restrictions of the previous series. It was also a new distance to go through, to investigate, to experiment with…
Forgetting an appointment I’d already made, I laid out the small paintings that were already dry on the floor and started looking them over, painting by painting, to see what was going on in them. Clearly, color was dealt with with total indifference. There was no attempt at harmony in any of them, just the opposite; there was a pursuit of the greatest possible contrast. What I had in mind was to hide those pieces in my small collection of “oddities”. And then suddenly the doorbell rang. It was Jo Ann Perse, my art dealer from St. Louis, who had come with a collector from Arkansas. The collector had come to find a particular piece that had been reproduced in one of my catalogs. Showing him the painting, he thought it was a lot better than the photographic reproduction he’d been able to see before, and so he decided to take it. We were talking for a while about the situation of Art in the United States, cultural policy, the lack of a “MoMA Modern” and how the capitality of Art was slow in coming back to Europe, in particular to London. All of a sudden, he got up, crossed the space that separates the sofas where we were sitting and the area next to the windows where I usually work and put three of the small “masks” that had been lying on the floor against the wall. And the only thing he said was, “They look so fresh”. The next day I started three new pieces to replace the ones that had been sold. I’d decided that those paintings were for myself. Later on, I changed my mind.
Not long afterwards, the “muses” made another inexplicable appearance. With a morning hangover, and not seeing what was around me, I went into the kitchen like a zombie. While I was having my tea and toast with olive oil and hummus for breakfast, a chill went down my spine. Again, on the table, were the perfectly lined up tubes of paints, and five canvases: two-by-two meters each, with the silhouette of gigantic masks drawn perfectly on them! Rubbing my closed eyes, hoping that when I opened them it would all turn out to be a hallucination, I realized that it was all really there! There were the canvases all primed with Epoxy and Behr paint, in my favorite color, “Spanish parador”.
After a couple of days of uncertainty, insecurity and not feeling like it at all, given the difficulty of translating the surface resolution of a forty-by-fifty centimeter surface to two-by-two meters, I got up the nerve to start the first one. I’ve always thought that painting is a way of focusing the mind and a bit hypnotic even. As far as that first big painting, I didn’t have that mental focus or that distraction either… there just wasn’t anything. I remember picking up the brushes and the tube of black of paint. But, there is no trace in my memory of what happened until the painting was finished and leaning against the wall with the spotlights keeping guard on either side of it. An unremembered excursion into an unknown limbo.
That night, I got one of the tall chairs from the kitchen table, and I made myself comfortable in front of my painting, poured myself a bit of Malta, and then sat down confused at what was appearing before my eyes. I don’t know why, but the first idea that crossed my mind in front of that minimal structure was that the hand was absent, (as it probably had been in all the rest of my work from the last fifteen years). There was no trace giving even a hint about how the work had been made. There were no brushmarks that showed that kind of language that comes out of the way a stroke is made. The hand wasn’t visible. The only thing that I managed to deduce was that some sort of battle had taken place. It was as if the whole painting had colors violently dragged over each other and the brush movements that had been used in their making had disappeared without leaving a trace. The absent hand and the mind in an inexplicable limbo.
I uselessly tried not to lose control of the strange situation I found myself in. Ever since I made the “leap” to abstraction, I had been preoccupied with giving my work a conceptual base to sustain my formal experimentation with theory. All of a sudden, it wasn’t as if I was working without a direction, which can sometimes be quite gratifying, but rather that I wasn’t even conscience of the act of painting itself. The masks, “Schandenmaske”, began to cover the , without exercising any conscious control or interference in the matter given that I wasn’t conscious of making them. I just let myself get carried away by painting, while the “muses” kept refilling the tubes of paint for me. A comfortable situation, surely, given that whenever a color ran out, it would magically be completely full again the next day. I have to insist, that during those days I checked the locks on the doors and the windows more than once. The “muses” must have moved into my house, given that aside from the colors that had been mixed and the prepared, on more than one occasion I noticed that there was food missing from the refrigerator and cupboards and liquor missing from the cabinet. “What gluttonous and alcoholic muses “, I thought to myself without daring, logically, to say anything about it out loud.
The days were flying by. I slept soundly, I woke up relaxed, and after having breakfast I got to work. At this point no longer paying attention to the fact that the tubes of paint were perfectly lined up or that my painting tools and implements were in a different place or a different arrangement. Surely, the only job that must have been unpleasant for the “muses”, given their indisputable status, was cleaning my brushes. That dirty job always ended up being mine. But of course, I didn’t complain.
One morning, I found myself with the first three two-by-two meter paintings leaned up against some chairs and lined up next to the big east facing windows. I truly didn’t understand what they wanted to tell me now. I stayed there looking for hours, only to come to the conclusion that the “muses” hadn’t quite been convinced of what they had seen yet. It was clear that the smaller pieces in the series had a different temperature and “fluency” that was difficult to bring to a larger format. I snatched up the first one again and laid it down on the floor to start painting over it. Back to limbo and the absent hand… But just before I started, there was one detail that stood out. Right there in the middle of the table, a lone tube of pink paint had been placed. In the to and fro, up to then, between one color and another, without being very sure of anything, given that I wasn’t conscious while the paintings were painting themselves, I hadn’t used pink once. Now I understood what they wanted to tell me. Shit, I thought, thinking about my dislike for pink. I stopped. I stopped for days.
In order to get my courage up I looked at Pop Art paintings with pink. I didn’t find an answer. Even in comics I didn’t find that color being used with an acceptable level of resolution. It wasn’t until I got to Trenton Doyle and his “Mounds” and of course to Guston, always infallible for me, that I was able to reconcile myself to such an effeminate and loathsome color. The two-by-two canvases remained on the floor waiting for me, and I think the “muses” were also impatiently waiting in expectation. I’m telling you all this because every time I had an appointment or a lunch or a dinner, or I had to go to the supermarket or simply go out to see “My dear friends” the “muses” kept getting in the way; doing anything from hiding my pants to making the keys disappear…
Don’t leave any brushstrokes. Make it so that the first question that someone asks when they see the paintings close up is, “How was that painted?” What technique did he use? How did he use those textures and still keep the form? Did he use brushes? Did he paint it by hand? Maybe, the painting just painted itself and the only thing that has to be done is to let it express itself. Years ago I wrote in a text that I’m not a painter, that what I do is try to organize a “scenario” where things happen in the painting. It’s chance that paints my paintings, not my hands. The medium itself takes control in order to try to express itself. It’s my mind at the service of an event, in the same way as the brushes, the oil color, the tubes of paint, the tools, the varnishes and oils… Working that way found a name early on, “The technique of controlled chance”. Relative control, given that the paintings finish themselves, giving texture to the surface, dragging, and the splatters and drips, are all completely out of the control of any kind of confining decisions. I’m not referring to “manner” (in the sense of the Italian term referring to language and facture), but, can this property of painting be called the absence of the hand?
The motif or composition is previously organized in a plan, which might be a small sketch or drawing, or it could be an image that appears in the mind. Sometimes, many times, the supposed initial idea changes over several sessions of work and it’s the painting itself that speaks, demanding what it needs. All this seems rudimentary for a painter but it tends to sound strange when other people hear it.
I suppose that having gotten this far and at least partly in touch with the way I work, we could pose a question. If the motifs aren’t obsessively “fixed”, which can also happen, and they’re usually allowed to evolve, and if the techniques that we use to create their representation aren’t “rigidly” controlled, how is it possible to get results? How can a language be configured? How can the work be recognized or a series be put together? Generally speaking, perhaps everything included in what we call “style” doesn’t really exist, and what artists do is the only thing they really know how to do, repeat the same thing countless times trying to reach something that manages to transcend us. Along the way “miracles” as well as “miseries” happen. Everything that happens outside of the studio, with some exceptions, tends to be sectarian, interested, corrupt, commercialized. Apart from getting your hands dirty, painting, simply put, is thought. Thought in its “pure” state.
Splattering, splashing, pouring, drips, runs, dragging…rhe brushes move over the surfaces loaded with thinned-out paint, leaving visible marks behind their movements. An orgy of color engaged in the invasion and blurring of edges that were supposedly made for containing the surfaces of the different tones. The urge to mix themselves beyond any logic, every color trying to dominate but without any one of them ever managing to do so. An extenuating situation of changing brushes and ranges, sweat and speed, respecting nothing but the contour of the “mask” and the ground, compartmentalized with geometric planes. My head wants to get away, go on vacation, or go into limbo, all at the same time, letting “instinct” be the only thing to manifest itself. At the end of every session I feel exhausted, my arms and legs trembling. Barely ably to close the tubes of paint and wash my brushes. A couple of days later, when the pictorial surface is stable, I lift up the big canvasses and leave them facing the wall, waiting for the paint to dry completely. Only to lay the down and begin once again after they’ve dried. Session after session, the paintings absorb every mark, every attempt, every vibration, every accident. In the end, I don’t know whether it’s the painting that tells me that it’s done or, perhaps, it’s me who gives up and says, ‘I can’t follow you any further’.
All of a sudden, I realize that for the first time I’m in a desolate terrain that vaguely reminds me of the early years of my career. I don’t have any theoretical bases, conceptual basis or analytical “hat rack” to justify or back up these “Schandenmaske Masks”. It relaxes me to think about what I’ve been preaching for years…
ANOTHER POSSIBLE BEGINNING FOR THIS WAYWARD TEXT
Also a kind of “STATEMENT”, (because for the time being calling it a MANIFESTO just doesn’t sit right).
The answer to the question I asked the muses, about the door
that leads to life and liberty, always played upon reducing everything to two
opposite poles: truth and lie. One muse always told the truth and the other one
always lied. The answer turned out to be a mixed-up hunch yet easy to understand.
Let’s imagine a different scenario. Could the lying muse have perceived something
different from reality and, consequently, coinciding with what she thought was real?
After all, the muse was supposedly divine. Or maybe she was an outcast, a child out of
hell itself? What might happen to us, these days, in an artistic society so intertwined and
”“contemporary”, if the muses reached an agreement and they both lied, in response to
some kind of inscrutable sectarian interests? Perhaps artists these days ought not pay so
much attention to false muses, gurus and the charlatans of hermeneutics, and should
concentrate on our work, our intellectual development, on giving our work content, on
our own responsibility…if what we want is to do is escape from the gateway that
leads to death.
From the book “Pinturas inexistentes” (Inexistent Paintings).
Throwing buckets of paint out the window…
WHERE WERE WE? AH, YES, WITH THE MASKS, THE SCHANDENMASKE MASKS AND THE LACK OF INTERPRETATION.
A prince, who needn’t be named, has a face that’s deformed
and is confronted with a huge problem.
Like in every story, this one too has a beautiful princess,
and he falls desperately in love with her. This princess, of an unmatched beauty,
lives in a neighboring kingdom not too far away.
The prince got the chance to meet her during a short voyage when
he was struck by her singular charm but, he didn’t dare approach her for fear of being rejected.
Desperate to win her love, he searched the whole kingdom for the best metal smith
and ordered him to be sent to the palace.
Once he was alone with him, he appointed him the task of making the most beautiful “mask”
ever before seen and asked him to emulate, in that “custom made face”, the most graceful qualities,
the most exquisite forms and the greatest allurement his hands could devise.
But, most importantly, this new “face” needed to be fabricated from materials so flexible
that they would adjust perfectly to the prince’s face so that nobody would be able to discover
that it was covering his face.
The metal smith spent many long months shut away in the rooms
that had been given to him, completely absorbed in his task.
They were long months of longing for the prince.
But, he knew that he would have to wait if he wanted to hold
that precious object in his hands with which he could, at last, set upon the task of winning
the heart of the one he loved. At last, after nine months,
the metal smith finished his work and he presented it to the prince.
The prince was taken aback by the beauty that the mask radiated
and also with the materials, which were so ductile and malleable that they were effectively a second skin.
He slowly placed the mask on his face, and once he got used to wearing it
he immediately left to go and see the woman of his dreams…
When she saw him for the first time, she was completely dumbfounded
by the rapture that he inspired. What strength and allure!
What beauty and harmony like has never been seen before!
Not long after getting to know each other and spending time together,
she became aware of the qualities that went along with the prince,
and she decided to get married… But, happiness didn’t last long.
The prince, on the one hand, was happy sharing his life with the one he loved.
But on the other hand he felt sunken by deceit and with the restlessness
about whether or not she would be able to love him for what he was beyond that masquerade.
Several years went by in that way, in which the prince debated within himself
about what decision to take. Finally, one day he decided to tell the princess the whole truth.
He was willing to confess that he wore a mask and that it wasn’t his true face.
So, at nightfall, he came up to her and he confessed to her the ploy that he used in order to win her,
and after that, he tore off the mask that had accompanied him during those long years.
After a long pause he said, –”This is my face.”–. –”I know”, – she answered.
He showed her the mask that he had in his hands and insisted
–”But this is the mask I used to win your heart” Don’t you care that I’ve deceived you,
that I’ve lied to you and used a mask to disguise my ugliness?”–.
The princess replied,–I didn’t know that you wore a mask,
but in reality it’s the same, it’s identical to your face! –.
Then, the prince ran to look at himself in the mirror and,
he touched himself, he stroked and pinched himself.
He couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing!
His face had changed into the very same mask that he had been wearing.
16th century. Anonymous
We artists constantly have to make an effort in the expression of our work and our values, the same ones which might have that mask-like quality in the beginning, the ones which will be foreign to us, that will be “faked” until they’re finally interiorized and they become an unconscious source, an extremely useful habit at work inside of us without our hardly being aware of it. To the extent that we go about creating those new “paths” inside of ourselves, making the way and “clearing” the ground, we can move more freely towards new more highly-resolved work having the clearest intention to have more enriching relationships with the “universal”, without giving up what makes us individual and, perhaps in the long run, with that thing that turns out to be truly essential. I firmly believe that what you work on constantly, train, analyze, experiment with, and study….as time goes by, gets stronger and takes charge.
Many years ago now, in Rome, I wrote something about masks. “Máscaras de la mirada” (Masks of the gaze) was the series I was working on around that time. Forgive me for quoting myself, “The concept of Mask is translated into a triangle that multiplies itself into a polyhedron, as pertaining to intentionality, objective results and an eventual personal interpretation. But not just regarding the creative act in itself, but also the triple referentiality dwelling inside all of us, in the artist, his work, and in the viewers themselves. We are what we are, and also what we’re not, what we think we are and what everyone else thinks of us. Because whenever a painter produces the evidence of a stain on a canvas, it’s impossible for him to foresee or quantify the personal, emotional, or aesthetic associations that that gesture might be able to create in any given viewer. The disguise, concealment, the confusion between masking and unmasking, pain… make possible an ongoing game, unavoidably, and we can see right away how the mask conceals or reveals and through that, its structure that tightens or loosens making its own language. It’s a position which each language uses to legitimate itself, and in which the viewer is ultimately implied.”
Coming out of these initial observations on the mask, on language, and on interpretation, I uttered what was probably the best sentence I’ve ever said in my entire life and which I think has a considerable relationship to the paintings I’m making right now; “Is it possible to unite in one technique, and just one gesture, Ernst’s method in three times: abandonment, taking conscience, and creation? For a lot of people, this pretension will seem like painting in the dark with a flashlight. Nevertheless, at the other extreme, or at the same one, we find Pollock who considered painting to be the residue of action, which thought was added to later on.”
The muses seemed to be satisfied at last. I went back to taking walks in Union Square and my inevitable visits to the Strand bookstore. And when I turned on the light in the entrance of my house-studio, I saw that all the “Schandenmaske” paintings had been placed in plain sight. The five two-by-two meter ones I had finished and the twenty small ones. On the walls and columns, the radiators, the stacks of canvasses, the legs of the chairs, on the cabinets…I could see them all moving around me. Taking a slower look, I came to notice that leaned up against the wall next to the pillar closest to the table where I work there were eleven new canvasses perfectly primed with several coats of white Epoxy, and covered in turn with the sandy grayish Behr color. The bag I was carrying with the book I had bought fell out of my hands and a cold sweat went down the back of my neck. Yes, the muses must have been satisfied, but they were pushing me to work beyond my capacity. On top of the table, this time, the line of tubes of paint was arranged in a circle (?). I warmed up some Campbell’s Won Ton Chicken Soup, Campbell’s, it couldn’t be any other, and a piece of meat that was left over from lunch. Before going to bed, I entertained myself by making some pencil drawings in a big sketchbook with thick paper. It seemed strange to me how, one after another, all those sketches had circular forms, each and every one, as if something had seized my hand and was guiding it, making circles with varying degrees of resolution. When I woke up the day after, I wanted to see those drawings. I couldn’t believe it! All the sheets had been torn out! I instantly understood. The “naughtiest” muses had “stolen” all the drawings and they’d hidden them somewhere. I was sure that someday they would pop up by surprise when the time came to make them into paintings. I didn’t have to be too smart to realize that what they wanted was for me to keep making masks and that, for an instant, they had let me get a look at what the next step would be. To myself, I was convinced that when I was done with the Schandenmaskes, I would go back to the La Guardia Place series. But it seemed like “they” had a different plan.
What worried me just at that moment was that after spending years trying to give my painting a complex theoretical basis, conceptual content, analytic bases…D.A.A. (Deconstructive Automatic Abstraction), afterwards A.A.D. (Alfa Alignment Dynamic)… I now found myself naked, making work that was just a straightforward formal exercise. I’ve seen endless colleagues in this situation throughout the years. And I’ve always put it down to a lack of “rigor” and not being demanding enough and to the fact that, in many cases, we painters aren’t really taken seriously, we’re almost treated as if we were stupid, dedicated to making a kind of work, painting, that’s totally despised, and that any other kind of work could be defended with any pseudo-conceptualoid “provocation”, even though the arguments for that defense are always supported by work and theory from the 60’s and 70’s, as if it were impossible to develop “contemporary thought” through hermeneutics.
It’s a lack of interpretative capacity in which artists today “shirk” responsibility, given that “there’s nothing to interpret”, giving rise to a situation that provokes a deep crisis where self-absorbed attitudes are accentuated. That split, which touches all kinds of work and ways of approaching Art, makes people try to find an outside paradigm, rather than engaging in the indispensable formal, theoretical and critical exploration required to find a resolution for their own thoughts and analyses, passing over professional readings that might be made later on by professional hermeneutics, philosophers, art critics or historians.
But despite all these trials and tribulations, day after day I kept working on my “masks”. The “muses” never stopped pushing me on. The absent hand, staying in a limbo without being conscious of what was happening while I was painting; colors, a lot of colors, and the sincere hope that those paintings that were the “residue” of action would manage to include thought and analysis; waiting for the gold mine of answers…
When I went back to Madrid for the summer I had all those ideas going through my head. I’d left around twenty prepared there, two-by-two meter panels of insulation with their silver baked enamel metal frames. Obviously, the first thing I did was to get my new range of color in polyvinyl paint and get started on painting a Schandenmaske mask. It’s impossible to replicate the effects of oil paint with polyvinyl, so, why not adapt myself to that medium. The result couldn’t have been more encouraging: “Máscara del relámpago” (Lighting Mask). And then another and another and another. With polyvinyl I didn’t have to wait between sessions, I worked in the morning and the next day the surface was dry and ready to keep going. I had the feeling that the “American muses” were with me and that they’d come to Spain to keep a close eye on me and do a bit of tourism on the side. One day, I could tell they were still “playing” with me when they put each a tube of paint in each corner of the studio just to make sure I would notice that they were there. Or, all of a sudden, they would put one of the that I thought I’d finished, but that they hadn’t, back on the floor.
Since late 2006, a sketch book and a little box of 6B and 8B graphite sticks have traveled with me. In this “travel notebook” which has been called a Box of Mental States (Caja de estados mentales) from the outset, I’d been giving form to mask contours just for fun, page after page, long before the Schandenmaske masks saw the light. Maybe inside of us there is a premonition dwelling, an intimation, a rudimentary kind of hunch about something that might happen at a later date, independently of the muses, or quite possibly directly caused by them. Nevertheless, the last drawings I made in New York and then continued in Marbella and Madrid had some very different properties. I wanted to keep doing “masks” but, to my amazement, they turned into something else. The last eight drawings in the series had a more constructive idea, as if the mask had opened up in three “disjointed” planes, leaving voids, big holes or cavities as the “silhouette” developed. It was as if the masks, suddenly, required a transversal reading to unravel their clues. A new creative system that explored the “voids”, antithetically opposed to the first formal approach of the drawings. One word fell like an axe inside my head, “De-occupation”. Automatically I thought about Jorge Oteiza, that grumpy old man whom I’d known from my summers in Zarautz, with whom I shared, aside from some common interests and priceless conversations, an exquisite photograph taken in Zumaia a couple of years before he passed away. I thought of his “Experimental Proposition”, his mysticism, his yearning for transcendence, his tumultuous scandals, and the scarce recognition of the importance of his work. I said to myself, “Don’t I relentlessly try to provide my work with a basis in methodical and analytical activity? Isn’t what I’ve always been looking for to reach higher levels of knowledge and deepen my analysis of pictorial space?”
In the end, opposite from the story about the Prince, there wasn’t anything left behind the mask. (…) La Guardia Place, Schandenmaske Masks, De-occupations of the mask… The muses prod me around at their whim, I stopped being a person years ago to become painting and pictorial thought. I wear an enormous disguise for my friends and family, even though deep inside I believe they all suspect that I’m a scarecrow, a rag doll, a puppet whipped around by my work, and that the person behind the mask doesn’t exist, that he disappeared a long time ago.