Carlos Pazos

Galería Ciento

Many artists do not make any deliberative attempt to control the outcome of their creative processes, finding content only after a work’s completion; choice has little room in their approach. Other artists demonstrate a more reflective attitude toward making art; decision and selection are taken as challenges, and given that they consider a lack of conscious intervention “not-action”, they only make known what they believe to be worthwhile.

Carlos Pazos, a 37-year-old artist who began working in the early ’70s, certainly falls within this second group. Pazos’ work occasionally seems reflexive and uncontrolled, but his emotionalism is genuine, not the defensive gimmick in common use today Irony and tragedy have always been present in his works, but they are treated with lyrical delicacy; filtered by memory and personal iconography they are pushed beyond any obvious narrative references.

Caught between Abstract Expressionist earnestness and Pop indifference, Pazos looked to the Italian arte povera movement as an avenue of escape. He switched from his initial Pop-object drawings to a system of qualitative signs and/or symbols similar in form and intent to Marcel Duchamp’s Rose Sélavy persona. The critics kept trying to classify him among the different tendencies of the ’70s—Conceptual art, Body art, performance art—but his inflexions were better defined in terms of music and its esthetic. For example, American rock canceled his latent “School of Paris” tendencies and made possible his Pop works, just as the cool artifice of David Bowie’s and Brian Ferry’s music would later motivate important changes in Pazos’ approach. Plural readings and tautological objects gave way to a more personal art, from scribbled “Proustian” postcards to elaborate performances that pointed directly to the fallacies of art-world communicational codes. His process seemed a form of cannibalism, but certainly this very onanistic approach had a clear subtext: the crude confrontation between the avant-garde and an explorative art market.

Returning to the object in the early ’80s, Pazos began building up flat assemblages that connected old Pop forms and “memory” contents, although their offhand execution mitigated subjective content. These earlier compositions are radical kitsch; regarding their deliberate antiestheticism Pazos has declared that he was using materials that attracted him, but in order to work with them successfully, he needed to make them so ugly that their conscious rejection was unnecessary These works look like personal archaeological display’s, pure celebrations of automythologies, but his intention—to capture an escaped reality—is inexplicit because artifice obscures any witting messages.

Pazos has continued to work along this line, but in his new assemblages refinement seems to have taken the place of self-examination. Ironic and elegant touches like silk knots, artificial flowers, and, in some cases, calligraphic writing quote questions of esthetics that extend far beyond the individual work of art. This is quite clear when Pazos hangs popular fine-art reproductions within oversized hardwood frames; even when he plays with highly symbolic imagery and titles that are not so easily interpreted, a decadent esthetic bias cannot be avoided. Through his accurate selection of icons and materials, Pazos emphasizes the impossibility of controlling the image without a narrative or an esthetic structure, of creating an ironic homage to art’s ability to unmask the truth.

Gloria Moure