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Solo Show
Darío Escobar

ArtNexus #61 - Arte en Colombia #107
Jun - Aug 2006

Mexico City, Mexico
KBK Arte Contemporáneo

José Manuel Springer

Darío Escobar¿s work is inscribed within the Latin American Neo-Baroque based on his use of several layers of symbols, manufacturing techniques, and materials. Indeed, it becomes evident that his production emerges from a will to create visual oxymorons that set the signified in tension. Although this strategy is not new in the art of the continent, it has taken an important discursive turn in Darío Escobar¿s oeuvre.

Escobar¿s most recent exhibition, at KBK Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico, showed that the artist is not ready to limit himself to a single modus operandi. For this exhibition, titled ¿Cuerpos en suspensión¿ (Suspended Bodies), Escobar used industrial materials and left chance and space to do their work on his art, unlike his work with the McDonald¿s cups and other brand products a few years ago. He has become more minimalist and less evocative; he has traded the rococo for a more concrete art, which owes a greater debt to the Brazilian school than to the Neo-Baroque that his earlier work indicated.

The saturation and the craft that characterized his earlier work are no longer as prominent. Although one might miss Escobar¿s careful, affected craftsmanship¿associated in Latin America with Catholic art promoted by the Dominican friars that carried out the spiritual conquest in Mexico and Guatemala¿the move toward an expressly materialistic art allows readings of a social nature. In the exhibition, a series of untitled drawings on paper offered a faint critique of globalization. These drawings were produced with dripped motor oil on the paper. They were nothing more than black and gray clouds alluding to material residue. The oil was not clean; suspended in it were burnt particles and coal, which referred to contamination and its probable relationship to the history of violence that envelops Guatemala. The poetry of the stain resides in its exemplification of purity and blemish, concepts that are dear to the Catholic tradition.

Escobar¿s installation, titled Quetzalcóatl, described movements and circumvolutions through the gallery and developed notions of space and sequence, but it didn¿t stop there. Suspended from the ceiling were slashed bicycle tires, threaded together like rubber vines and balanced with bronze plumb weights. Both tires and plumb weights are industrial products that Escobar used as metaphors of the myth of Quetzalcóatl, the feathered serpent.
The installation occupied the center of the gallery; its visual and formal complexity compelled visitors to traverse it in order to experience its structure. At its center, it was possible to verify the origin of the materials. The tires were manufactured in Thailand and were joined together by bolts at their ends; the plumb weights were U.S.-made. The work¿s title describes the myth of a demi-god that represents nobility and integrity but also has a relationship with the underworld, based on its being both serpent and bird¿linked both to the earth and to the sky.

Darío Escobar represented the characteristic features of the Olmec demi-god using non-traditional materials that acquired expressive meaning. If Pop Art, in one of its variations, used industrial objects for their intrinsic value, Escobar¿s work pointed associations between objects toward current realities: merchandise, work, serial production, and transnational commerce. Unlike minimalism, Escobar¿s materials weren¿t used perceptually; on the contrary, there were resonances of autochthonous values that reflect Latin American reality and the proposal of an identity built on combining the expressive properties of materials and myth.

In Darío Escobar¿s installation, the figure of Quetzalcóatl reflected that ambiguity of origin. Associated with the invention of writing, fire, the calendar, and fertility, Quetzalcóatl represents the richness of a culture that mythologizes everyday life and imprints material objects and situations with a ritualistic character in order to give life itself a symbolic connotation expressive of its identity.



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