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Carlos Delgado. Madrid III.

Carlos Delgado. Foundation Carlos de Amberes. Madrid. III

(Continuation of ‘Carlos Delgado. Fundacion Carlos de Amberes. Madrid. II’)

Within the context of his recent return to referential iconography, the figure has been presented, (as already seen in the “Post-Suprematist” (“Post-Supremática”) and “La Guardia Place” series), as a stimulus for open interpretation that, even in its most figurative facets is oriented towards defining the essential features of the contour of an icon submitted to various levels of metamorphosis.


Once the morphological appearance has disintegrated and the idea of a specific subject and its being in the world (as Merleau-Ponty said) has gone along with it, the figure loses the moorings of its identity. in “Twenty years to go back to painting a female nude” (“Veinte años para volver a pintar un desnudo femenino”), Ciria resolves the figure with line drawing and some discrete descriptive features created by the light that falls on the skin of an already opaque self. In this way, the artist seems to be defining the image starting from the ruinous vestiges of time and memory, which is to say, of the cognitive functioning of the human mind that does not accumulate information and which forgets a great deal of our referential information.


In pieces like “Strange Woman” (Mujer extraña), “Bather” (Bañista), “New Bather With Rounded Forms” (Nueva bañista de formas redondeadas), “Contortionist 1” (Contorsionista 1) and “Contortionist 2” (Contorsionista 2), the metapmorphosis determining the almost total loss of recognizibility is accentuated and the superimposition of variable forms on top of fixed ones is accompanied by a complex tension in the ambiguity of the meaning which we have already mentioned. Certainly, José Manuel Ciria’s projects relating to the genre of the portrait/figure are resolved through what Rosa Martínez-Artero denominates -between interrogating signs- new constructions of the subject. “A feeling deeply rooted in contingency and fragility (the undefined), as opposed to the security provided by naming (the hierarchizing order of the ‘one’), producing an ‘I’ subject that is not easily described pictorially”(76). That difficulty arises in Ciria’s work because it deals with a body penetrated by multiplicity, by dismemberment, “organs without a body, skin without flesh”(77).


José Manuel Ciria has engaged in experiences with different conclusions in relation to the landscape throughout his career, even if the work presented in the “Monfragüe” show. “Abstract Emblems on the Landscape” (“Emblemas abstractos sobre el paisaje”, 2000), is the high point of his interaction with the genre. On that occasion, the artist’s approach to any particular landscape did not include the intention of reproducing it for contemplation, but to suggest the strata that such vision produces in his memory through a constant concern for light As a result, “….for José Manuel it was never a question of reproducing, which is to say, translating the physical into art, but of allowing that. Based on a “found” formal analogue in a Duchampian mode, his method of working was to be made up of formulas for deriving sensations deposited in his memory during his passage through the park”(78).


Confronted by the exuberance of nuance of those compositions, in José Manuel Ciria’s recent work his interest in the formal sign as well as the absence of any context has led to a notable reduction in the variables of the devices by which we can understand the landscape. The artist’s concept of it as a ‘cutout’ is now accentuated. Intellectualized and modular space that flees from the absolute of Nature to reveal itself as what it really is, a “cultural construction”(79) which our artist reveals, like the last Miró, through scarcely indicated lines and signs in a void activated only by periodic gestural marks.


A work like “Masks on Crossing” (“Máscaras sobre el pasaje”) shows us a high degree of volumetric, chromatic and figurative withdrawal that the artist applies in the superimposed horizontal bands, a recourse often used with slight variations in numerous pieces from the “La Guardia Place” series.


The marked horizontal format, as opposed to the rigid regularity of the rest of the pieces, as well as the presence of a compartmentalizing mark that acts as a horizon line becomes, despite the ambiguity of the title, “Penélope l’amour”, a complex and beautiful post-landscape. There is no sign that represents (substitutes) a specific space in nature. We find, thus, a large central presence whose morphological structuring is evoked in itself. It turns, flows, slides, reveals itself and hides itself behind the horizon line…there are no sufficient indexes to determine what lies behind this formal reference. We are sympathetic to nature despite, or precisely because “the work of art is incapable of reflecting or documenting nature as something previous to human judgment, given that nature is the reflection of an idea, which is to say, the consequence of an ideation and/or a discourse”.(80).


On the Gaze, or How to Invoke Doctor Zaius


The complex lines of division presented by Ciria in his current work and the difficulty in following them due to their mobility speaks, in the last case, of the artists efforts to continually rethink the mechanisms of his painting. A rethinking that, from the outset, shows itself in the artist’s return to certain devices and themes from his early work and plots its trajectory in a circle with time as its perimeter. New creative dimensions emerge out of this complex revision. For example, those we have indicated with the name “rare paintings”, in allusion to a kind of pictorial construction that remains in its uncooked, unfinished state, where the artist locates his work between the image and the event as a strategy conscious of being estranged by form and meaning. We have also made it our business to analyze “post-genres”, new constructions for decoding sensory information from the world established by the pictorial tradition. Talking about the complexity of Ciria’s painting at this point in his career also implies reflecting on the hypothetical attitude of the viewer in front of that work.


Ciria, as completely banal as it seems just now, recently mentioned in a conversation, “I want the viewer of my work to become like Doctor Zaius from The Planet of The Apes. Where they get vertigo, feel afraid and distrustful and they want to kill me because I’m from another planet, I’m threatening and I paint these paintings”(81). If we look into the latent observation that lies behind this joke Ciria is making a claim for the idea of the painting as a “minefield, appealing to something beyond mere contemplation”(82) What he hopes for, therefore, is a reaction that alters the deposition of the gaze, a response to a dramatic appeal, like what Freud touched on in The Interpretation of Dreams, “(…) can’t you see I’m on fire?” But we will begin by analyzing the gaze itself as an object lost to the scopic drive.


Lacan includes the study of the gaze in the chapter entitled “The Gaze as object a lowercase” of the 11th seminar, where he defines the painting – as we have already indicated – as a Trap for the gaze. But we should now ask ourselves: What is the gaze for Lacan? He makes a distinction between the eye and the “schizoid (gaze) in which the drive is manifested at the level of the scopic field”(83). Following Maurice Merleau-Ponty he situates the gaze outside the subject, (“we are seen beings”(84)), to locate it “in the spectacle of the world”(85).


At a certain point during his seminar, the doctor drew on the blackboard the classical cone of vision that emanates from one geometric point (subject) and forms a real, tactile, transitable space, and then culminates in the object. But this geometric space of vision is judged by Lacan to be an issue of spatial, not visual, demarcation to the extent that “a blind person can perfectly reconstruct or imagine it”(86). There is another, complementary, model that Lacan opposes this one to which can be used to capture what escapes from the optical structuring of a painting. And in this way, we can superimpose on the first cone another inverted one whose vertex emerges from the object itself (point of light) and that creates a libidinal space, where light is refracted and diffused and where the painting-image is ultimately configured.


A displacement of the subject emerges from the interrelation of the cones (before, when we were judging only the first cone, located on the vertex of the perceptive field) to locate itself in an outside which is, in its own right, at the very center of the subject. Therefore, the subject is also under the gaze of the object, he is spectator and image: “At the back of my eye, without a doubt, the painting is painted. The painting, truly, is in my eye. But I am in the painting”(87). On one side, the subject sees, while on the other side, he finds himself in the gaze.


An intermediate point emerges from the superimposition of the two cones that functions as a mediating element between subject and object, and which Lacan calls the ‘mirror-screen’ – an ambiguous term that has given rise to many interpretations. Rosalind Krauss locates the subject on the mirror-screen: “we are the obstacle -Lacan used the term “mirror-screen”- that by blocking light, produces shadow. We are but one variable in an optics that we will never come to dominate”(88). For Hal Foster, the subject is an agent of the mirror-screen, not one with it, in what he defines as “the cultural reserve that every image is an example of. Call them conventions of art, schemes of representation, codes of visual culture, this ‘screen’ mediates the objects gaze for the subject, but also protects the subject from this gaze of the object. Which is to say, it captures the gaze, (…) and it tames it to convert it into an image”(89).


The painting is also an agent of the mirror-screen that acts as a trap for the gaze. But this gaze that traps the painting is not the subject’s gaze, but rather the savage gaze of the world, therefore, “art is a strategy that belongs to the symbolic to trap something (the Thing, das Ding) that pertains to the Real. A strategy invented by man for (con)forming the gaze. For this reason it is said to be a trap for the gaze, because in some way that gaze of the world, that real gaze, that is outside (but also inside), remains there, “shown”. This shows what cannot be shown. Therefore, “un-show” teaches that that which shows is not showable and that that which is shown is only a signal, a “decoy” Lacan would say (90).


The gaze is defined as something that does not precede the eye and, therefore, is an absence, object of the lack and the cause of desire. Does the painting, then, present itself to Lacan as simply a trap to catch the gaze? The painting holds the gaze of the world in a visible point at the same time as it tries to satiate the scopic drive, the desire of the gaze, as nourishment for the eye. “One could think that the painter, as actor, is trying to penetrate us through our eyes, that he desires to be seen. I don’t believe it. I think there is a relationship with the untrained gaze, but it’s more complex. The painter gives something to whoever sees his painting, at least in most painting. It could be summarized like this: Do you want to look? It’s right here, look at this! The eye is provided with its due rations, but it also invites whoever is in front of the painting to abandon his gaze, as one abandons weapons. This is the pacifying, Apollonian, aspect of painting. Something is given to the eye, not to the gaze, something that entails an abandonment, a deposition of the gaze”(91).


This last reflection has been the point of departure for theorists such as Hal Foster to signal the rejection, on behalf of a large part of contemporary art, of this old axiom of pacifying the gaze. Through its link with the abject, the traumatic and the obscene with the gaze as it is conceived in the perceptive scheme described by Lacan, Foster suggests that artists like Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Andre Serrano, Robert Gober, Paul McCarthy or Mike Kelly, manage to tear, through their work’s “traumatic realism”, that place of mediation between the subject and the gaze.


But contrary to this strategy of excessiveness there are other paths for the deception of the gaze. In this direction Miguel A. Hernández Navarro has indicated that the art delimited by Foster only presents one side of the coin He then proposes an art of the invisible “where excess is by defect transformed, ‘seeing too much’ becomes ‘hardly seeing anything’, in reference to certain work by artists such as Martin Creed, Teresa Margolles, Santiago Sierra and Josechu Dávila(92) Two visual poetics like two sides of the same coin. Two distinct modes of approaching the Real, by default or through excess (“disappear or vomit”(93), strategies for emptying or thinning the mirror-screen.


In the group show “Impurities: The Painting-Photography Hybrid” (“impurezas: el híbrido pintura-fotografía”), the curators had already analyzed the work of José Manuel Ciria from this point of view. They considered his work hybrid, where he superimposed a violent painterly gesture on the advertising image, as work that disrupts the balance of the imaginary-symbolic decoy through excess. In this way, the artist then manages to show the residue of the Real and “probe the contemplative petrifaction of the subject, unsettle it, shift it from the center to the periphery, from the pure a-temporality into the impure temporary, to rhizomatic and nomadic wandering”(94).


Before the visual excessiveness of those pieces, Ciria’s recent work has gone though a process of expressive cooling down born of the formal demands that we have been describing in the previous chapters. Neither domesticated by excessiveness nor dominated by the void, the artist’s current work opens an intermediary vein between the two forms of deceiving the gaze that we have just outlined.


Form, understood by the artist as a linear structure from which uncertain meanings pulsate, traps a libidinal urge in its interior. The body seems to become dismembered and disintegrate in a fluid movement. The skin of the real has been stripped away and the body emerges altering the intelligibility of its form; “what is pulsating under the skin is no longer another skin, but something completely different, totally inconceivable, flesh like thick magma, halfway between liquid and solid”(95) Mercedes Replinger directly says “dismemberments”(96) when referring to the “La Guardia Place” series. She brings out the destroyed and reconstituted characteristics of the body through patches, live and emptied fragments that try to reorganize themselves in a dramatic dialogue. From this perspective, a piece like “Table of elements” (“Tabla de elementos”), analyzed in the previous chapter in its relationship to the tradition of still-life, and specifically with Holbein’s “The Ambassadors”, now presents itself to us as a dissection table, truly, a horrible vanitas.


Are we then in the territory of the abject, in that “traumatic realism” that Foster referred to? In reality, Ciria never pauses to examine the injury (of the trauma, in its etymological sense) nor, for that matter, in the subsequent negative connotations of sickness, ugliness and death. This dismemberment that we have been referring to is the correlate of a pictorial theorization that does not hinge on the public experience of the body. If painting the object/body is to “represent it as being lost”(97), Ciria chooses to present it directly disintegrated, before the “I” is produced, in the mirror phase where the ghost of the fragmented body emerges. But, at the same time it avoids atrocity -it neither dissimulates nor camouflages it- to construct matter as a visual reflection around composition, line and color. Is it icon or formal sign? Is it figuration or abstraction? It is, ultimately, hybrid, its ambiguity acts as a mirror-screen. Far from the excesses of “traumatic realism” but without approaching the “seeing nothing” of the anti-visual, José Manuel Ciria’s current work presents itself as an uncomfortable short-circuit between both extremes.


We shall now turn to Lacan for the last time. For the doctor, we are beings seen by the object a (Other), during the vigil, the gaze of the Other is eluded, thus positioning the subject in the comfortable role of voyeur. But, what happens when the Other shows something, or acts? Lacan says; “The world is omni voyeuristic, but it is not exhibitionist- it does not provoke our gaze. When it begins to provoke it, then our feeling of estrangement also begins”(98).


The change in the pictorial concept that we have been describing in Ciria’s work is a movement from pure abstract expressionism to raw, unfinished work. There is a play with the tradition of genres in order to unhinge the last bastions of its structure. The complex symbiosis between form and meaning, in short, the conceptual complexity that supports painting, are elements that seem to alter, without, as we have already seen, entering into the territory of the abject that crystallizes its rejection – that “Apollonian” extreme of pacifying the gaze that Lacan bestowed on painting. As much for the observer who is familiar with the artists career as for one who is seeing the work for the first time, José Manuel Ciria’s work provokes, without a doubt, a strange amazement.


This is the moment when the hypothetical viewer (art critic, curator, gallery owner…) can become the tyrannical Dr. Zaius, Minister of Science and Chief Defender of The Faith in ape society, who during the trial against the human, whose capacity for reasoning he refuted during his trial, concedes to him, at best, the ability of mimicry or meaningless repetition. Perhaps, is it not the self-proclaimed destiny of painting, an atavistic medium and useless artifact, to engage in always creating the last painting? In the case of José Manuel Ciria’s current work the threat emerges from a painting molded on a conceptual solidity that is usually considered appropriate to other mediums. Evidence of a solid dedication to painting on the part of an artist who does not define himself as a painter “but as someone who observes and analyzes the elements comprising painting and experiments with them”(99). His defense is born out of a process that explores the limits of the medium as much at the margin of traditional cataloging and hierarchies of painting as well as in the principal divagations that have managed to pass through the arbitrary filters of the enormous biennials of recent decades. Without a doubt, Dr. Zaius would have something to say about this artist who, by transference, would immediately put himself in Taylor’s role as the bright eyed hero whose voyage has been in reality a circle with time as the perimeter. It seems an apt comparison.


Alfa Alignment Dynamic


In London, In 1753, Analysis of Beauty (El análisis de la belleza) was published, in which William Hogarth reviewed the basic principles of aesthetics as they had been codified since renaissance disegno. At the same time, he interspersed this analysis with certain touches of the Roccoco aesthetic to derive a favorable judgment of undulating lines, whose beauty resided in their function as guides, and which were agreeable to the eye along their entire form. Hogarth assumed at that time that ocular movement was continuous, uniform and that it could be guided by certain arrangements. Despite the numerous studies that have subsequently demonstrated that the movement of the eyes is irregular, that it does not follow the edges of shapes or objects, and that its activity relating to the object depends on the viewer’s ideas, the majority of the formalist approaches maintain this over-estimation of the capacity of line, form and color to direct the movements of the eye during the receptive process(100).


Conscious of the disparity of possibilities in the receptive process of a painting, but motivated nonetheless by the utopian nature of being able to suggest the path of vision, José Manuel Ciria has kept this line of reflection alive, even though he knew beforehand that it leads nowhere. “I have mentioned on occasion, that it would be fantastic to be able to dictate the order of the reading of a painting, I mean, that central element that absorbs our first glance and then the following points or stops that call our attention within the path of vision. (…) To be able to direct the path of vision throughout the contemplation of the painting, would surely be an impossible task. But flirting with the possibility is nevertheless exciting”(101).


The emotion the artist is referring to comes from the working reflections that are born out of and parallel to this flirting. At any rate, it is not in the artist’s final intentions to determine the way in which our gaze travels though his work, but on this horizon, the possibility of discovering those nodes of interest that ask the viewer the major questions arises. Nodes that, contrary to other points in the image, would completely alter the character of the image if they disappeared or were moved in any significant way, those points that, independently of their iconographic or narrative value, constitute the autonomy of formalism in visual construction.


These reflections, which are nothing new in the creative imaginary of Ciria, have recently been reactivated in light of the process of rethinking the painting that he finds himself immersed in. Once again, the artist traverses his own theoretical concepts with fluidity to formulate new fields of research. Now, without stopping working transversally, those premises that supported his well known D.A.A are projected into an analytic space where the acronym is maintained, except in a different order A.A.D. (Alfa Alignments Dynamic), and that the artist has explained in the following way. “I’m calling Alpha Alignments those basic tensional structures in a pictorial work, that is, that within all painting, excepting minimalism and its offshoots, there are a number of primary configurating elements that create tension in the composition. This can be found in the entire history of painting since the Renaissance and Baroque up through abstraction and contemporary figurative painting, passing through Romanticism and Cubism, Suprematism, Constructivism and American Abstract Expressionism”(102).


This first definition reduces the true implications of this new field to its essential. For this reason it must be specified, before continuing the investigation of his conception of the structural search the artist is referring to, that it is not based on a study of lines of composition that determine the position of shapes or forms in the painting. His interest is even more specific, as it is founded in the localization of key anchor points that determine the functioning of the dispositio or pictorial composition, beyond the inventio (iconography) and the elocutio (the formal calligraphy)(103). A function that, furthermore, without being a pre-established code, frequently appears in pictorial works ascribed to quite different discourses, artists and periods from Western Art History. In this way, these basic or primary alignments, which the artist calls “Alpha”, are constituted as such through dynamic repetition.


The artist, in his analysis and search for these elements, does not extract formal similitude out of formal creations but rather seeks the recurrence of specific graphics that function like roof beams in the visual structuring; “I’m not talking about how Bombardment by Guston might look like “The Plague” by Beocklin. If it were possible to reduce to some basic lines and gravitational points, like a mere diagram, plan or map, a composition such as “The Centaurs”, for example, to keep with the same symbolist. We see that the Boeklin, rotated 90 degrees, coincides with extreme precision with one of the “Elegies for the Spanish Republic” by Motherwell. I don’t mean to say that Motherwell, who travelled through Europe, was directly inspired by that work, simply that the coincidence is telling. Many artists from different epochs and periods throughout history use a series of markers, lines of tension and distributions of weight that are constantly repeated, even though their work may be diametrically opposed”(104).


If D.A.A. ended up defining itself as a response to a question (Is it possible to bring together in one technique and just one gesture the methodology of three of Ernst’s periods; abandonment, becoming aware and realization?”(105), the field delimited by A.A.D. emerges from a process of latent reflection that had been slowly marinating until it found its specific frame of action. In this way it is interesting to remember the project the artist carried out during his stay in Rome when he was there as a result of winning the Grant for the Spanish Academy in Rome in 1996. Under the title “Time detained” (“El tiempo detenido”), Ciria set upon dissecting the retention of time in Giotto’s and Ucello’s paintings through his abstract formal language. At that time, the artist disengaged the mechanisms of the figurative context and operated through the stain in a complex searching of shifting notions. Without acquiescing to the work of the Renaissance masters, Ciria resolved his paintings with a subjectivity directed towards autonomous formal ends. In any case, that experience that was oriented towards delving deeper into his own formal-theoretical concepts created a dedication to a profoundly meditative analysis of the work of Giotto and Ucello. In his search for discovering the mystery of the work of those “two glorious manipulators of the deceleration of visual reading”(106) Ciria tried to make the skin of the paintings transparent, to empty the landscape and figures, revealing the vertex that gave order to time.


The specificity of the research that accompanies A.A.D is directed towards another vertex, very different from the one he was looking for during his experience in Rome, even if at that time the artist already showed a keen interest in “adjusting the devices for reading the formal writing of a painting”(107) and that implied becoming conscious of the recurring indexes for reading paintings throughout the History of Art. Along these lines a piece like “Second Dream Image” (“Segunda imagen del sueño”, 1996), forming part of the series, “The Dream of the Gaze” (“El sueño de la Mirada”), was created through a detailed analysis of the dialectical possibilities of visual compensation and it was resolved with certain visual operations that had an earlier model, as Ciria himself has indicated(108) in the Max Ernst painting titled “The Kiss” (1927), from the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice. Essentially, in his reorganization of various elocutive levels Ciria directed the stains and drips towards a spatial rebalancing, quite similar to the Surrealist painter’s work.


That experience pointed towards an intuitive development of what the artist today defines as the Alpha Alignment Dynamic. The pertinence of this example has been determined by Ciria’s recent recovery of the aforementioned piece by Ernst in order to explain some of the questions and possibilities generated by his new field of research. In this way, during the course of his interview with José Estefa Freire (which constitutes the most extensive written-transcribed documentation published to date with reflections by the artist himself on A.A.D.), the artist mentioned once again how this work’s mechanisms are exemplified. It is also interesting how these quite suggestive reflections made by the artist invert the utopian interest in directing the viewers reading that we indicated earlier in order to position himself as subject-receiver, and reconstruct the creative process of a painting made by another artist. “In this composition we can observe a couple in front of a horizon line, with a sky that does not reach the two-thirds mark. The feminine figure seems to be holding a baby and is simultaneously merged with a bird figure, typical of that period of Ernst’s career. The colors are intense and complementary, resolved with strong orange tones and earth tones and electrified cerulean blues. We can guess with a certain ease how the process of configuring the piece went. Once the compositional lines of the figure had been organized, the artist began to add tension to the piece through the dark areas created by shadows, a tension that is not even attained in the area with most light when he covers the shoulder and arm of the man with black. The painting is beautiful but it is not resolved. Ernst dares to paint the woman’s foot in the foreground in the lower right corner of the composition in a whitish flesh tone, and he automatically understands his ‘error’, given that it becomes the unrightful protagonist of the entire piece, with a certain nervousness, the painter seeks a solution to give balance and tension to the painting once again, he resorts to putting a little white paint at the top edge of the composition and then he later removes it with a brush or rag. It is amazing how everything is articulated, acquires magic and finds its place”(109).


This broad dissertation makes evident the extent to which Ciria deconstructs the History of Art and, by extension, his own work. Through the complex conceptual creation carried out with D.A.A. Ciria keeps demonstrating a theoretical enthusiasm that solidifies the basis of his pictorial creation, a conceptual reflection that implies the openness to complexity and the proliferation of discursive alternatives.


As we have already seen, the re-reading of earlier formal models is a constant throughout the work of José Manuel Ciria, who values historical knowledge and the assimilation of tradition, as much as renovation through the experience that comes through practice. Among the key points of his artistic doctrine are the following; “We can affirm that there have been many artists and theorists that coincide in affirming that the history of art is a history of plagiarism and appropriation, advances and regression, the paternal and the filial, and this, despite how it may seem, is not at all negative”(110).


Nevertheless, when it comes to determining the dynamic of the key points of “Alpha” the artist finds himself seduced by discovering unconscious processes, beyond premeditated quotation or appropriation, that recuperate certain devices and strategies. These “Alpha” thus act almost as structures preceding the collective imaginary, determining strategies used in the pictorial tradition as fitting for visual writing. And, in the same way, within the framework delimiting figuration and abstraction that the artist is stretching in his latest work, Ciria shows a particular interest in those diagrams that find consonance through very different pieces in their referential attitude.


In this predilection for dissecting a painting, regardless of its style, iconography, period or author in order to take apart the mechanism that activates it as visual writing, Ciria has come to fantasize about the possibility of a computer system capable of dealing with a pursuit of this type It would be a machine capable of catching “Alpha” structures beyond the movements and rotations inherent in their dynamic mechanisms: “I would love to be able to make a computer program capable of reading painting, and which would also be able to strip the painting bare leaving only those lines and gravitational points that configure the web of the composition; what we see in detective films about looking for fingerprints comes into my mind. We would be able to observe how a lot of apparently very different compositions contain a common structure and soul, given that the lines and points of weight exactly coincide or have a very similar form”(111).


A machine with the power to reject obvious matches and find a line that crosses time, space and memory. The result is that when the artist takes up the Alpha Alignment Dynamic as the conceptual basis of some of his work he is not following in the footsteps of appropriation. On the contrary, he is entering a much more complex current that flows through the dismantling of the mechanisms that make up the pictorial image in order to take them apart and then build them up again. It deals, therefore, with an archeological and deconstructive investigation posterior to the intelligible strata regulating the formal relationships of the painting.


The artist finds himself at the beginning of a fascinating process of research, backed up by his ironclad ability to successfully explore the various epigraphs that footnote his evolution. And thus, at the end of this voyage through the work of José Manuel Ciria, we have returned to our starting point, which is to say, the field of conceptual reflection as the nexus of formal creation, a process begun with D.A.A and now transformed into A.A.D. Only a slight change in the acronym seems to separate both fields. However, what is at play is not a simple name change, but a display of painting’s resilience in the complex field of contemporary art, in addition to its flexibility as it continually traverses new conceptual spaces.

1.Arthur C. Danto has pointed out that such declarations have always been made, paradoxically, at times when painting was in quite good health. DANTO, C. Arthur, “Lo puro, lo impuro y lo no puro: la pintura después de la modernidad”, cited from, Nuevas Abstracciones. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona, 1996, p 15.
2.LAWSON, Thomas. “Last Exit: Painting” Artforum, 20, 2 (October, 1981), pp.40-47, collected in, WALLIS, Bian (ed.), Arte después de la modernidad. Nuevos planteamientos en torno a la representación. Akal, Madrid, 2001, p. 154.
3.FOSTER, Hal. “This Funeral is for The Wrong Corpse”, cited from Spanish ed., Design and Crime and other Diatribes. Spanish ed. Akal, Madrid, 2002.
4.CARRERE, A., y SABORIT, J. Retórica de la pintura. Cátedra, Madrid, 2000, p. 39
5.”Contemporary Art no longer seems “contemporary”, in the sense that it no longer has a privileged purchase on the present, not even “symptomatically”, at least no more so than many other cultural phenomena.” If the first principle of Art History is, as Heinrich Wölfflin once put it, that “not all things are possible at all times” this premise appears challenged in the present, for good and for bad…”, in FOSTER, Hal. “This Funeral is For The Wrong Corpse”, Op.cit.
6.In a displacement analyzed in a clarifying way in GUILBAULT, Serge. De cómo Nueva York robó la idea de arte moderno. Mondadori, Madrid, 1990.
7.DANTO, A.C., After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History, Spanish ed. Paidós, Barcelona, 2002, p. 118. 8.”The minimalists subverted modern theory, which at that time Greenberg’s followers put forth with great skill, by the simple procedure of taking it word for word. Modern Art didn’t deal with worrying about its own structures, thus the minimalists made objects without any reference beyond their own form.” LAWSON, Thomas. “Last Exit: Painting”, in WALLIS, Brian (ed). Arte después de la modernidad. Nuevos planteamientos en torno a la representación. Akal, Madrid, 2001, p. 155.
9.GREENBERG, Clement. “Recentness of Sculpture”, Art International, April 1967, pp. 19-21.
10.GUASCH, Anna María. El arte último del siglo XX. Del posminimalismo a lo multicultural. Alianza, Madrid, 2000, p. 28.
11.UDD, Donald. “Specific Objects”, in Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975, Halifax, Canada: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975, pp. 181-182.
12.KRAUSS. R. “Sculpture in the Expanded Field”, cited from The Originality of The Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cited from Spanish ed. Alianza, Madrid, 1996, pp.289-303.
13.Ibídem, p. 289.
14.GUASCH, Anna María. Op. cit., p. 20
15.The 1981 show at the ARC/Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de París titled Il se disent peintres, ils se disent photgraphes, (They are called painters, they are called photographers) was one of the earliest attempts at rethinking the flexibility of the artist’s position between both mediums. Which is to say, that a painter, designated as such by his habitual practice, would use other mediums besides canvas, in this case photography. Or it would include others who engaged in painting and photography at the same time, and lastly, those who working in photography, called themselves painters, despite not utilizing any medium similar to paint.
16.BAQUÉ, Dominique. La fotografía plástica. Un arte paradójico. Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2003, p. 45.
17.MONLEÓN PRADAS, M. La experiencia de los límites: híbridos entre pintura y fotografía en la década de los ochenta. Valencia: Institució Alfons El Magnànim, 1991, p. 13.
18.CRUZ SÁNCHEZ, Pedro and HERNÁNDEZ-NAVARRO, Miguel Á. Impurezas, el híbrido pintura-fotografía. Región de Murcia, Consejería de Educación y Cultura, 2004, p. 103
19.Ibídem, p. 110
20.OLMO, Santiago B. “La importancia de seguir pintando”, in Desde los ’90, Sala Parpalló, MuVIM, Valencia, November 13, 2002 – January 11, 2003, p. 34.
21.DANTO, Arthur C. “Lo puro, lo impuro y lo no puro: la pintura tras la modernidad”, Op. cit,, p. 19.
22.GARCÍA BERRIO, Antonio and REPLINGER, Mercedes. José Manuel Ciria: A.D.A. Una retórica de la abstracción contemporánea. Tf. Editores, Madrid, 1998, p. 27.
23.PAPARONI, Dementrio. “La abstracción redefinida”, in Nuevas Abstracciones. Op.cit., p. 24
24.The three phases that the show brought together were: One Century of Contemporary Painting 1900 2000, After Reality: Realism and Current Painting, There is No Final Picture, Painting After 1968.
25. OLMO, Santiago B. Op. cit., p. 35.
26.Statement by José Manuel Ciria from a conversation with Carlos Delgado.
27.HONTORIA, Javier “ArtBasel, la madre de todas las ferias”, in El Cultural, July 21, 2007.
28.GARCÍA BERRIO, Antonio and REPLINGER, Mercedes. Op. cit., p. 41.
29.Towards the end of the eighties my painting was still figurative. I had made numerous experiments, trying to make the jump to abstraction, but the results were frankly discouraging. And I don’t mean that I didn’t “understand” abstraction, when the truth is that some of those exercises were interesting and even appealing as far as the composition, color and texture go. They were experiments which, in some cases, I regret having destroyed. The main problem, seen with hindsight, is that I had classical training and I taught myself, and I didn’t have a way into abstraction. I never managed to “convince myself” with those compositions, I couldn’t understand painting as merely formal experimentation without meaning or direction. I wanted to make abstract painting but I was still stuck in figuration. The nightmare lasted approximately 2 years. The leap finally happened fairly naturally, in two ways. On one hand, I was working on a series called “Men, Hands, organic forms and signs” (“Hombres, manos, formas orgánicas y signos”). That series, as its name indicates, was made up of four families or groups of work. The last two clearly had an abstract leaning that only had to be developed. And on the other hand, I had an honest necessity to generate a consistent theoretical basis for a string of conceptual concerns. In other words, my wished for leap into abstraction was granted, apart from the formal experiment in this sense, through the provision of a kind of theoretical “coat rack” or system that would permit me to develop an authentic field of experimentation. A lot of those theoretical concerns are collected in little notebook that has always been with me (…)”.CIRIA, J.M. “Cuaderno de notas – 1990”, in José Manuel Ciria. Limbos de Fénix. Galería Bach Quatre. Barcelona, 2005, p. 139.
30.The Notebook has been re-published in José Manuel Ciria. Paisajes binarios, Galería Fernando Silió, Santander, 2003, pp. 77-120 and in José Manuel Ciria. Limbos de Fénix. Galería Bach Quatre. Barcelona, 2005, pp.141-184.
31.”The surprising thing about the grid is that, despite it enormous efficacy in symbolizing freedom, it’s extremely restrictive as far as the real exercise of liberty goes.” KRAUSS. R. “The Originality of the Avant-Garde”, in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Spanish ed. Op. cit., p. 174.
32.GARCÍA BERRIO, Antonio and REPLINGER, Mercedes, Op. cit., p. 104.
33.KRAUSS, R. Ibídem.
34.GARCÍA BERRIO, Antonio and REPLINGER, Mercedes, Op. cit., p. 99.
35.CIRIA, José Manuel. “Reductor de miradas (Compartimentaciones)”, in Glance Reducers. Compartimentations. Athena Art Gallery, Kortrijk, 2000.
36.Julio César Abad Vidal has remarked, in response to the work of José Manuel Ciria shown at the Salvador Díaz gallery in Madrid between September and October 2000, ” likewise, we could designate a new category or compartmentalization arising in the artists latest work, in which regular aluminum structures, arranged lengthwise, cross the support, be they compartmentalized or not, to enclose and bind found and selected objects, like a slipper, the plastic bag indicative of a shopping center, or stuffed animals”. ABAD VIDA, J.C “La forja de lo informe”, in Glosa líquida. Galería Bores & Maallo, Cáceres, 2000. 37.GARCÍA BERRIO, Antonio and REPLINGER, Mercedes. Op. cit., p. 189. 38.IRIA, José Manuel. “El tiempo detenido de Ucello y Giotto, y una mezcla de ideas para hablar de automatismo en Roma”, in José Manuel Ciria. El tiempo detenido. TF, Madrid, 1996, p. 29. 39.HUICI, Fernando: “Bajo la piel”. Exhibition catalogue, Adage. Galería Afinsa. Madrid, January-February, 1993, p. 4. 40.GARCÍA BERRIO, Antonio and REPLINGER, Mercedes. Op. cit., p. 88. 41.Statement by the artist included in, TOWERDAWN, Joseph: Plástica y semántica (Conversaciones con José Manuel Ciria), in Quis custodiet pisos custodes. Galería Salvador Díaz, Madrid, 2000, p. 43. 42.CIRIA, J.M.: “Espacio y luz (Analítica estructural a nivel medio)” in José Manuel Ciria. Espace et lumiére. Artim Galería, Estrasburgo, 2000, p. 56. 43.SOLANA, Guillermo. “Epifanías”, in José Manuel Ciria. Galería Salvador Díaz, Madrid, September, 2007. 44.That kind of appropriation is nothing new for José Manuel Ciria. Throughout his career he has engaged in quotations, allusions and homages to diverse artists including Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Zurbarán, Duchamp, Joseph Beuys or Markus Lüpertz, among others. 45.CIRIA, José Manuel. “Nueva York, estados de ánimo, el momento figurativo, Malevich y Zuloaga”, in Ciria. El dueño del tiempo. Galería Pedro Peña, Marbella, 2006, p. 12. 46.ABAD VIDAL, Julio César. “Pinturas construidas y figuras en construcción”, en Ciria. Pinturas construidas y figuras en construcción. Sala de exposiciones de la Iglesia de San Esteban, Murcia, 2007, p. 41. 47.”It happened that shortly after my arrival in Manhattan, I was no longer capable of observation, and I set out on the homage to Malevich from his earliest compositions (…): The return to line, to structure, to Drawing.” CIRIA, José Manuel. “Volver” in Búsquedas en Nueva York. Roberto Ferrer, Madrid, 2007, p. 45. 48.Regarding Malevich’s recasting of the art of Icon painting we refer to DUBORGEL, Bruno. Malevich. La question de l’icône. Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 1997. We must recall, on the other hand, that the painter had originally titled his Black Square ” Nude Icon of Our Times.” 49.CIRIA, José Manuel. “Volver”. Op. cit. 50.A. García Berrio and T. Hernández have reflected upon the presence of symbolization in non-figurative painting: “From a communicative-semantic point of view, non-figurative tendencies taken as a whole, which constitutes the core of what is called Modern Art of our century, is founded on conscious and sub-conscious references to some form of reality. At times it was more tangible and immediate, with a radicalized system of representation, other times more recondite and subconscious, and on occasion the most essential (…), not even the most extreme forms of abstract formalism avoid to some degree, minimal as it may be, the inevitably symbolic foundation of the Visual Arts.” GARCÍA BERRIO y HERNÁNDEZ, T. Ut poesis pictura. Poética del arte visual. Tecnos, Madrid, 1988, pp. 83 and 84. 51.REPLINGER, Mercedes. “El pintor en Nueva York”, in Búsquedas en Nueva York. Op. cit., p. 31. 52.bídem. 53.We will take “rare” in the sense of “raw” and “unfinished” as the two most coherent estimations of Ciria’s intentions. The aforesaid heterogeneity is patently apparent in Des tours de Babel (1985) by Jaques Derrida, in which he indicates that there is no original to the translation, and likewise there is no translation without some remaining untranslatable part. In other words, all translation involves a gain and a loss. 54.ROSENBERG, Harold. “The American Action Painters”, Art News, LI, nº 8, December, 1952, p. 22. Taken from SANDLER, Irvin. The Triumph of North American Painting,. A History of Abstract Expressionism. Cited from Spanish ed., Alianza, Madrid, 1996, p.287. 55.LEVI-STRAUSS, C. Lo crudo y lo cocido. Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, 1968, p. 332 56.GARCÍA-BERRIO, A., and REPLINGER, M. Op. cit., p. 23. 57.DELEUZE, Gilles. The Logic of Sense. Paidós, Barcelona, 1989, p. 26. 58.“The Medusa’s decapitated head could symbolize the triumph over the metaphysics of representation, as it defeats the perspective which fixes the contingent and the dynamic in an image.” ÚBEDA FERNÁNDEZ, Mª Elena. La mirada desbordada: el espesor de la experiencia del sujeto estético en el marco de la crisis del régimen escópico.(The overwhelmed look: the thickness of the experience of the aesthetic subject in the framework of the visual regime) Unpublished doctoral thesis. Granada, 2005, University of Granada, p. 267. 59.FREUD, S. “On Transience” in Complete Works. Biblioteca Nueva, Madrid, 1981. 60.BOZAL, Valeriano. Pintura y escultura españolas del siglo XX: 1900-1939. (20th-Century Spanish Painting and Sculpture:1900-1939), Madrid, Espasa Calpe, 1992, p. 284. 61.CIRIA, J.M. “Retazos (El miedo al rojo de las bestias) or “Odds and Ends (The beasts’ fear of red)”. Unpublished text appearing in ABAD, Vidal. Pintura sin héroe. (Painting without a hero). Op. cit., p. 260. 62.St. Paul, Romans VII:7 63.Taken from JULIUS, A. El arte como provocación. Destino, Barcelona, 2002, p. 221. 64.CARRERE, A., and SABORIT, J. Retórica de la pintura. Op.cit., p. 210. 65.”To bring this out, I started to think about hanging my portraits upside down, even though I would have become Baselitz, but with the sole intention that people look at them as paintings”, in VICENTE, Mercedes. “Chuck Close, Reinventar el retrato”, Lápiz, nº 145, 2000, p. 44. 66.CALVO SERRALLER, F. Los géneros de la pintura. Taurus, Madrid, 2005, p. 363 67.RODRÍGUEZ MAGDA, Rosa María. “Transmodernidad; La globalización como totalidad transmoderna”, Revista Observaciones Filosóficas. August, 2006. Article available at 68. We will make a thorough investigation in the last chapter of this text regarding the importance of the conceptual enquiry that the artist has referred to as Dynamic Alfa Alignments. 69.This is just what happens in his approximations to such genres in “LaGuardia Place”, even if the artist had recovered the feeling of material transitoriness that characterized the baroque still-life in earlier pieces such as “Vanita (Get up and Go)” “Vanita (Llevántate y anda)” from 2001. Which is a surprising work where the history of painting itself, referencing a range work going from 17th century Dutch painting to Yves Klein, is what reveals its ephemereality. 70. Such careful placement, which is part of the genre, has made some observers believe that artists like Sánchez Cotán may have used mathematical ratios to determine the placement of the objects represented. see CALVO SERRALLER, F. Op. cit., 292. 71. ARNHEIM, R. Arte y percepción visual. Alianza Forma, Madrid, 1979, p. 500. 72.Regarding this see FURIÓ, Vicenç, Ideas y formas en la representación pictórica. Anthropos, Barcelona, 1991, pp. 47-54. 73.ABAD VIDA, J.C Ciria. Pintura sin héroe. T.F, Madrid, 2003, p. 89 74.LACAN, Jacques. Los cuatro principios fundamentales del psicoanálisis: seminario XI. Barral, Barcelona, 1977, p. 95. 75.bídem, p. 96. 76.MARTÍNEZ-ARTERO, Rosa. El retrato. Del sujeto en el retrato. Montesinos, Barcelona, 2004, p.261. 77.REPLINGER, Mercedes. “El pintor en Nueva York”. Op. cit., p. 32. 78.ÉPICOUCHÉ, Michel Hubert. “Desde la luz de Monfragüe hasta el color en los cuadros de José Manuel Ciria”. Monfrague. Emblemas abstractos sobre el paisaje. Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz, March-May, 2000, p. 55. 79.The landscape is not, however, what is there before us, it is a concept invented or, rather, a cultural construction. The landscape is not a physical place but rather a series of ideas, sensations and feelings that we create with the place as a starting point.” MADERUELO, Javier. El Paisaje. Actas del II Curso Huesca: Arte y Naturaleza. Huesca: Diputación de Huesca, 1997, p. 10. 80.PÉREZ, David. “El documento incierto: la naturaleza entre el signo y el artificio”. PERÁN, Martí and PICAZO, Glòria (editores), Naturalezas. Una travesía por el arte contemporáneo. Consorci del Museo d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2000, p. 235. 81.Conversation between José Manuel Ciria and Carlos Delgado. 82.CIRIA. J.M. “Signo sin orillas”, in ABAD VIDAL, J.C Ciria. Pintura sin héroe. Op. cit., p. 242. 83.LACAN, Jacques. Op. cit, p. 81 84.Ibídem, p. 82 85.Ibídem. 86.Ibídem, p. 93 87.Ibídem, p. 103 88.KRAUSS, R. The Optical Unconscious. Cited from Spanish ed.; Tecnos, Madrid, 1993, p. 198. 89.FOSTER, Hal. The Return of the Real: the Avant-Grade at the end of the century. Cited from Spanish ed. Akal, Madrid, 2001, p. 143 90.CRUZ SÁNCHEZ, Pedro and HERNÁNDEZ-NAVARRO, Miguel Á, Op. cit., p. 144. 91 LACAN, Jacques. Op. cit., p. 108 92.See HERNÁNDEZ NAVARRO, M.A. “El arte contemporáneo entre la experiencia, lo antivisual y lo siniestro”, Revista de Occidente, nº 93., February, 2006. 93. Ibídem. 94.CRUZ SÁNCHEZ, Pedro and HERNÁNDEZ-NAVARRO, Miguel Á, Op. cit., p. 148 95.SOLANA, Guillermo. “Marias o el cuerpo desollado de la pintura”, in José Manuel Ciria. Visiones Inmanentes. Sala Rekalde, Vizcaya, December 2001 – January 2002, p. 22. 96.REPLINGER, M. Op. cit., p. 31. 97.WAJEMAN, Gerard. “Narciso o El fantasma de la pintura”, in Arte y Fantasma, Chapvallon, París, 1984, pp. 107-126 98.LACAN, Jacques. Op. cit., p.83. 99.Statement by José Manuel Ciria collected in SOLANA, Guillermo: “Salpicando la tela del agua”, in Squares from 79 Richmond Grove, MAE and SEACEX, Madrid, 2004, p. 39. 100.Regarding this see “La lectura de la imagen”, in FURIÓ, Vicenç. Ideas y formas en la representación pictórica. Op. cit., pp. 135-147. 101.“Conversación de Juan Estefa Freire con José Manuel Ciria”, in José Manuel Ciria. Limbos de Fénix. Galería Bach Quatre, Barcelona, November-December, 2005, p. 99. 102. Ibídem, pp. 95-96. 103.For an exhaustive account of rhetoric in the visual arts see: GARCÍA BERRIO, A. and HERNÁNDEZ, T. Op. cit. In GARCÍA BERRIO, A., and REPLINGER MERCEDES, have made an analysis based on the rhetorical methodological model of José Manuel Ciria’s abstract work from the nineties. Op. cit. 104.“Conversación de Juan Estefa Freire con José Manuel Ciria”. Op. cit., p. 98 105.CIRIA, José Manuel. “El tiempo detenido de Ucello y Giotto y una mezcla de ideas para hablar de automatismo en Roma”. Op. cit., p. 28. 106.Ibídem, p. 28 107..GARCÍA BERRIO, A., and REPLINGER, M. Op. cit., p. 171 108.Ibídem. 109. “Conversación de Juan Estefa Freire con José Manuel Ciria”. Op. cit., p. 96-97 110.IRIA, J.M. “Fragmentos de la mirada subjetiva. Una posible defensa de la pintura”, in Instersticios. Fur Printing, Madrid, 1999, p. 37. 111.“Conversación de Juan Estefa Freire con José Manuel Ciria”. Op. cit., p. 96.