Abstract Possible


The artist José León Cerrillo lets us into his studio and shares some insights into his work.

José León Cerrillo:
My name is Jose Leon Cerrillo. This is my workshop. I am going to show you what I am working on, right now is a series of iron sculptures and silkscreen printing.

The work that is here is not at all finished, it is sort of in the process of being finished.

The thing is that the sculptures always have some sort of perception mechanism as they are always either double-sided mirrors or blocked glasses or they are just frames that emphasize a bit of space, which can be gone through, and for this specific project, the structures went to being bidimensional as they are drawing on the wall. They all have to do with this matter of the perception on how is a person located in front of one of these structures.

In a very illustrative and didactic manner, there are pieces such as this cube that are a gestalt that is sometimes used in psychological tests, which are not really interesting for my work, but what interests me is how geometrical shapes or perspective can be used in a subject localization. And they are very simple things. In this specific case it is as if you said where it was positioned […] if it is on top of the sculpture or underneath the structure. Therefore, these are the structures that constantly change their perspective and you cannot see both at the same time.

There are double hexes that can be perceived as a window, a frame, a hole… Or these, which are circles that outline a void that at the end can also be the supremacist square.

I tell you all this as a way to introduce my most specific interest which has to do with the language. Not so much about the language as an abstract structure but language as a system of significance to position the subject. From there we find the matter of perception, which means “the experience of being in something”. Not so much in an objective way where the subject always has to be extracted from this perception, or this one that is something more like “the frame within the frame” where the subject in always included.

An exhibition that was created in a residence last year, it was precisely this investigation of the failed modernist project. I was invited to do an exhibition in Los Angeles. At that moment I was doing a research project about […] story houses. I was invited to live in one of the houses owned by the foundation. I worked at home and then during my stay in the house I hosted four events, four collaborations with different musicians, pieces made specifically for the house or for the house concept.

The first performance was with a composer called Juan Cristobal Cerrillo, who is my brother. These were preliminary drawings for the score, and all the pieces have different folds and perforations, the scores then become something more sculptural once they are made. All the folds are different and so are all the perforations.

In the end they managed to become some sort of house, the scores then become architectural blueprints and the blueprints become models for a house.

I think it is important not to fall into this hyper-narrative question of the work. The experience of the work can be dissected. one can say that the basis of this is a text or a photocopy, then is created a sort of understanding immediacy, which doesn’t interest me much. Going back to the language question, what interests me are precisely the gaps where sometimes this part of language may not work like for a didactic or understanding question, then new things emerge.

What is at the Museo Tamayo, which is a piece that was included in 2009 in the exhibit called Eden Hotel (Hotel Eden). Many times, the projects have different texts as basis, in the case of the Eden Hotel project, there was a text called “Eden, Eden, Eden) from a French and Algerian author called Pierre Guyotat. It is a text with no punctuation marks; it is a text with no grammar. There are many many actions but the verbs are sometimes wrongly conjugated, there are commas… So, at the end it is a text that is impossible to read and at the same time it is an absolute text, as you don’t have to read the whole text to understand what it is about.

The structure that will be presented at the Tamayo is a structure that outlines a volume. A sort of cube, a room within a room with a series of blocks. I call them that because they are not structures, nor paintings, nor drawings, they are blocks with holes, they are all punched with holes, and the hole in itself defines a way or a word, then the only way to read the word is seeing through it or through the hole. And at the same time, inside these holes there is a sort of screen where they project a series of shadows.

I don’t have an expectation on those participating, or of the spectator of the work. As my work is not narrative, in this sense there isn’t a parameter where to start. Evidently, there are some stepping-stones, some areas that seem important for me to consider. It is a little bit about what I talk about […] about the final work. The difficult part of the experience is this hyper-objective thing and at the same time it is hyper-subjective, as the subject is meddled into the experience and so there is no guide to indicate how they should be read or how the works should be seen.

What interests me from the abstraction is a little like loosing oneself. At the end this redundant or purist question of the abstraction for the abstraction itself, and my perspective on the matter is perverse as it is exactly not that, but on the contrary. It is the option to take abstraction as a field of possibilities, without getting into the emancipation subject, but in the contrary, as something that can be charged with content. This is the opposite of the purist vision of what abstraction is, and that refers to the reduction of content. It is perverse because it is not the purist way of seeing things.

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