Txomin Badiola

Galería Soledad Lorenzo

There is a symbiotic relationship between tradition and modernity that runs through the works of Txomin Badiola. The duality so evident in Badiola is not an isolated instance in the current resurgence of sculpture here but can be found in the work of almost every other young Spanish sculptor as well. What is modern in Badiola’s sculpture is that he chooses to show the process of each work—the various connections and disjunctions among its structural elements—as part of the finished piece, thus attacking stereotypical formalism and disrupting our customary ideas of perfection and completion. Aware of the deceptiveness of appearances, Badiola toys with the work’s “finished” look and makes it seem as if it were perhaps only a first attempt, an approximation—one of the logical contradictions that he uses to create a sense of tension in his sculpture. He injects a certain degree of anarchy into the established order so as to encourage the eye to doubt what it perceives, preventing its being seduced by familiar forms. By making us uncertain of the order that we usually take for granted, Badiola invites us to analyze our perceptions, to deepen our knowledge of the world, to distinguish between that which is and is not pertinent, and to change how we think.

The traditional aspect of Badiola’s sculpture comes from the artist’s interpretation of his art-historical precedents in Russian Constructivism and Suprematism. The isolation of the object in Suprematism is a mystical process of reduction in order to reach what Kasimir Malevich understood to be “true reality.” And it is with this impulse—an impulse that is religious in the broadest sense of the word—that Badiola seems to identify, as he seems to concur with Mondrian that “the particularities of a form obscure its pure reality.” In the work of the Suprematists it is not the rhetoric that is persuasive but rather their structural analysis and their sense of economy. Badiola, however, does not pursue their strict purity of abstract form, the kind that refers only to itself, for he is more interested in the idea of ambiguity, especially as it relates to the world and its many forms (a quality that is not entirely absent from the works of Malevich). Moreover if Badiola recalls Malevich by freely interpreting a cross—as in Cabinet 0.10, 1987—its form is inevitably very different from the Suprematist painting that it echoes. The most fundamental difference is that, unlike spatial relations in painting, a three-dimensional work must deal with the problem of establishing concrete tensions between the different planes, a distinction that in Badiola’s work is further articulated by the sculptural possibilities of steel and the inflections inherent to that material.

The sculpture mentioned above is one of 10 wall pieces that were shown in this exhibition of 20 works by Badiola from 1986 and ’87. These wall pieces recall the “Prouns” of El Lissitzky, who endowed the least distorted geometric forms with the greatest ambiguity. (Badiola gave the title Cabinet 0.10, which is apparently his favorite title, to 7 of them.) The freestanding pieces also recall El Lissitzky, especially in the use of the diagonal and inclinations in space to achieve a precarious equilibrium. The clearest example of this is Coup de dés 2 (Throw of the dice 2, 1987). This welded-steel “table” is rather ordinary-looking, save that its legs and supporting framework are tilted, and its top is pierced by two hollow rectangular forms resembling air-conditioning ducts, one boxy and the other longer and flatter. One of Badiola’s most playfully ambiguous works is Family Plot 5, 1987, in which the bare frames of two welded-steel “chairs,” one high-backed and the other low-, are superimposed at a slight angle to one another. Characteristically, Badiola achieves complexity through the peculiar presentation of lines and planes in a multiple perspective that conveys the weight and immobility of the steel and at the same time gives the impression of motion.

Most of Badiola’s works give the same sense of duplicity, in its literal meaning of contradictory doubleness: forms that are simultaneously active and static, open and closed, shallow and deep, forward and backward, revealed and hidden. Badiola shows his preference here for a deconstructive rather than a constructive discourse. That is, with every form that he constructs, he shows the deceptive, aleatory nature of the disposition of elements that constitute a sculptural work, or shows us a normally closed form opened up in order to elucidate the internal relationships among its multiple parts. Without indulging in the material for the material’s sake, he treats the planes of steel with an absoluteness that captures the spectator’s glance and then shifts the focus to the work’s symbolic structure and, ultimately, its fundamental reality beyond all particularities—in the artist’s own words, “saying things in the absence of things, not in their presence.”

Auora García

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.