Alban Martínez Gueyraud
Art critic, member of AICA
The Argentine artist Alexis Yebra (Buenos Aires City, 1967) presents, in the Fábrica gallery, his first solo exhibition in our country, entitled Series Subway Asunción. It consists in a group of medium-sized recent paintings. Yebra, who developed most of his creative language from the province of Mendoza, belongs to a new generation of Argentine abstract painters whose work is especially cosmopolitan, and one which explores the expressive possibility of certain minimal resources, simultaneously drawing from the history of Western and Oriental art in order to rediscover relegated attempts.
Yebra’s work has been crafted from a small number of rhetorical elements: colour, composition and gesture, presented at the same time in a very simple manner. He does not resort, therefore, to certain achievements of modernity -and postmodernity- to offer us conclusive images, but rather he attains poetic figures whose frailty renders them precisely more powerful. His language is not dogmatic, but entirely experimental, full of pauses and with the appearance of a discourse crafted from fragments. Characteristic of the medium, his resources tell us of the finesse of the painting, but also of its incredible power, leaning into spaces that are purely trascendental.
In the series displayed in this exhibition, three significant characteristics can be perceived, which, for the sake of interpretative approximation, are worth reflecting upon. The first is that the paintings were made in Asunción. It is not a work conceived of and carried out somewhere else, but entirely crafted here. It might be supposed, on a first reasoning, that these pieces speak of the relationship between the artist and his time in this city.
With his formless treatments -symbolic, almost mystical even- of the space of experience, the painter suggests his relationship with Asunción, and through them allows us to recognise that the images of the underground urban world belong as well to the essential qualities that distinguish this series. Therefore, the matter in his paintings reflects a historical and cultural time, not a natural one. The matter we see forms part, likewise, of the concrete matter of everyday life, of the rudimentary things, the ones we encounter in our strolls around Asunción: the papers we stick, tear and dispose of, the automatic writings, the painting and repainting of the streets we walk. Yebra seeks to mediate between this city and us, makes us reflect on the real impossible that inhabits it, proposes that we re-walk it psychically, implies the superior reality of the hereafter, but meanwhile, brings us closer to here.
A second explanatory aspect would revolve around the fact that his work vests something that resembles certain mediums of Japanese poetic expression and, thus, Zen Buddhism. Each piece shows the technique clearly, manifesting the subtle imperfections of not only its components and of the artisanal process, but also of the gestures of the artist’s hand. Strokes, blotches, stampings, collages, different textures: all these details of the gesture become the core of his work and, like Oriental poems, possess all the integrity, the plethora, the hollowness typical of a drop of water.
In the Japanese verses, it would seem that things are unable to express or trigger thought about more than what they are in themselves. Drawing an analogy, we might say that on contemplating a painting by Yebra, there would not be complex readings to discover beyond the piece itself, outside the subtlety of its shapes, the austerity of its colours, and the honesty in the use of the materials. The simplicity with which this artist recreates in its painting the details of the gesture would not cover up a meaning different from the gesture in itself.
The third hermeneutical attribute would lie in the fact that, thanks to the contemplation in the own process of creation, his works turn out intimate, serene and inwards-oriented. The work of Yebra abandons the myth of painting as a visual representation of reality to leap into a search of revelation for the mundane light and density of matter. He succeeds in infusing onto the inanimate surface an intense radiance and a large capacity for evocation. Even though it is a sensory reality, a spiritual aura engulfs, as if it were something evident, each of his works.
In fact, when he finds inspiration, Yebra does so through meditation, with the certainty that the revelation reaches his understanding in the material and chromatic encarnation that the art of painting makes possible. Meditation is the time of penumbra, of the encounter with the distorted images of reality, of fantasy, but it also offers a path leading to the transformation of understanding and of the soul, since meditation understands the journey through life as a journey of complete conversion. For that, it is necessary to alter the world’s values and place on earth what is celestial; ultimately, the inner pronunciation of our spirits.
Asunción, July 2011