Andrés Nagel

Galería Alençon

Andrés Nagel’s work stands alone in the new Spanish figuration. Nagel is now 37; he does not belong to the most recent generation of artists, though his work shares the freedom of imagery they display in both painting and sculpture. But for a brief early period of abstraction he has always used the figure. His art is unconnected to the trends currently dominant in Spain, however, but elaborates on a gallery of characters whose natures oscillate between the tragic, the ironic, and the uninhibitedly humorous.

The exhibition again proved the richness and diversity of Nagel’s visual language, especially in his range of materials and in his disruption of the traditional separation between two- and three-dimensional art. The forms of multicolored polyester-and-fiberglass sculptures are echoed in smaller works in bronze, in collage paintings on canvas and other supports, and in etchings such as Parabrisas delanteras (Front windshields, 1984) and Parabrisas traseras (Rear windshields, 1984). The artist conceives of art as offering unlimited possibilities for the concretizing of ideas; his attitude implicitly demands a knowledge of a variety of techniques and processes, and continuing explorations of new ones. The bronzes here, for example, were Nagel’s first experiments with the medium.

Nagel’s images are based on a distortion of daily experiences and sights. Above all through irony, they provoke new associations which, in the current work, have more to do with the play and pleasure of the eye than with the transcendental possibilities of art. For Nagel, art takes the path of the ludicrous; his sense of humor goes far toward preventing a facile response to his visual codes. His work always includes some element that disconcerts, some disjunctive fragment—although it is usually of familiar origins. The viewer does not participate merely to be entertained, but also, perhaps, to break out of the impassive images that surround us to the point where we barely see them.

Nagel may make art through observation of the everyday, but he is not an inheritor of Pop art, with its relative coherence and objectivity. When he paints a cook with knife and fork before a table he introduces a hallucinatory effect to the figures eyes and hair and sets its shoulders in shadow; the viewer’s impression is of a dangerous character, but the threat is more suggested than explicit. In Villanueva esquina Velázquez (Corner of Villanueva and Velázquez, 1984) a woman, perhaps a prostitute, leans against a wall, holding a cigarette in a gloved hand. Her head is doubled, the better to look in both directions.

The small bronzes develop the theme of the virtual image. Nagel is interested in contingency, in the presence that unleashes an effect dependent on it—a projection, a shadow, a reflection. The works show an ambiguous awareness that an object’s appearance is comprised not of its face alone, but also of other facets behind or beside it. Nagel knows Surrealism well and his work can be related to Surrealist ideas, but I think it better to see it as midway between Surrealism and realist observation. Reality is more complex and elusive than it appears, and Nagel does not renounce it; neither, however, does he renounce his own fantasies and obsessions, the oneiric or the visionary.

Aurora Garcia

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.