New York

Jorge Tacla

Nohra Haime Gallery

Jorge Tacla, a young Chilean artist who began exhibiting in New York shortly after he moved here in 1981, is an allegorical painter. In eight of the ten large paintings included in his recent exhibition, Tacla depicted an isolated figure or torso in a spatially abstract ground. The recurring features and highly distinctive poses of the figures suggest the striking spiritual power of pre-Columbian art. By adapting these sources to his purposes, Tacla proposes a countertradtion to figurative painting, one that has certain affinities with Francis Bacon.

On the simplest levee, Tacla’s figures are metaphors for isolated and bewildered consciousness—its pondering of beginnings and endings, of incomprehensible moments and threatening events. However, the figures achieved their allegorical power by embodying a disquieting otherness that goes beyond their apparent state of eschatological isolation. Entre Medio (In between, 1987), for example, cossets of a torso with one arm thrust behind and across its back, while the other is a help up in front of the body, its oddly gesturing hand located just above the neck. The thrust arm extends out from the torso and holds two joined heads in its open, contorted hand. The oddly lit, atmospheric ground and torso are tonally linked, and highlighted by descriptive smudges and smears.

Tacla’s figures go beyond being coded images of inner anguish, personal suffering, or victims of the apocalypse. Instead, they exist in a realm that cannot be reduced to a psychological, social, or abstract instance. The garishly colored, atmospheric grounds hint at an unfamiliar world rather than a socialized space.

At their best, Tacla’s paintings embody a jolting strangeness. His figures inhabit a painterly realm not delimited by rational definition or psychological insight. They seem to have achieved states of thinking and being that are both disconcerting and fascinating. The world embodied by these paintings is a frightening, yet vaguely familiar place, which its inhabitants respond to and interact with in ways that we, as viewers, cannot quite comprehend.

John Yau