Barcelona

Miquel Navarro

Much recent art points to the endurance of an intense desire for abstraction, although redefined according to the varying contexts in which it functions. The old process of eliminating the formal attributes of an object in order to remove all signifiers and achieve the maximum plastic literalness loses its meaning if the discourse that assigns the signifier stops being an absolute frame of reference and its boundaries are dissolved in the natural processes of interpretation. Nevertheless, the artist now, more than ever, is looking for plastic purity. But instead of mercilessly reducing the assured identity of forms and materials, he eliminates all conventional guides, taking advantage of the metaphoric energy that these forms possess and dissolving it in an unlimited poetic engagement.

Criticism, however, has confused this method with a desperate search for a canon of communication. On the contrary, I think it’s a simple matter of an exercise in possibility. This is where the unexpected and symbolic emphases in colors and materials abound. Decorative, architectonic, or engineering elements are conveniently altered according to poetic intent, making it impossible to delimit which are objects and which are concepts—where the physical and the intellectual are inextricably united.

Miguel Navarro has been producing work of this nature since the ’70s, work with an extraordinary independence and rare prescience. Navarro’s art is intellectually complex, yet it seems to have surfaced naturally, simply, projecting the artist’s personal affinities and his identity as a Mediterranean man from Valencia. The materials and images he uses are straightfoward. Terra-cotta, zinc, aluminum, lead, and wood are common. The artist’s personal iconography includes the sculptural aspect of buildings, the polychrome element in sculpture, the decorative-symbolic ambivalence of signs, hydraulic engineering, and the urban sprawl over large expanses of space. It reflects the Valencian landscape, this land full of light and contrast. That is why Navarro’s work transmits feeling, privacy, and humanity without resorting to the indulgence of autobiographical gestures.

The wood, zinc, or terra-cotta towers in this exhibition project the appreciation the artist has for these elements, which he views as simultaneously illusion, game, and manifestation of time. In Orgánic, 1987–88, numerous small-scale lead cruciform or tubular pieces are contrasted with larger ones. The vertical orientation emphasizes the attenuated horizontality of a silent landscape saturated with ambiguous absence. In Embut al temps II (Funnel of time II, 1988), Navarro achieves a dramatic counterpoint between the leaning metal funnel and the small plaster pieces dispersed randomly nearby. There is no dramatic effect, scenography, or symbolic function here; the degree of abstraction is very high, and the literal plays no part. With the collages and trompe l’oeil, Navarro seems less fortunate and, as such, brushes against triviality. Overall, though, Navarro’s creative capacity seems to have increased rather than diminished.

Gloria Moure

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.