New York

Victor Mira

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

The paintings of the Spanish artist Victor Mira manifest a nightmarish sensibility. He paints in thick, textured oil; his simplified, stylized images—primarily animal figures, distorted humans, and skeleton heads—are trapped in bold, tight compositions. When Mira allows himself enough space, he can create panoramic scenes that mix spiritual refinement with a kind of primitive violence. The artist outlines his figures with thick, black contour lines. The grounds into which they are set are generally a dark reddish-brown. As a result, there is a pervasive murkiness to all his paintings, along with a surface build-up of scumbled paint that is often excessive.

Indeed, Mira’s visions of chaotic struggle between oppressors and victims are obsessive. The relentlessness of his approach, as well as the title of his show”—You Can’t Sleep in Spain”—make Mira seem a restless soul. A catalogue photo shows the artist looking self-consciously forlorn. His forehead is marred by a soiled bandage, and a heavy chain surrounds his neck. He plays the role of the tormented visionary with great panache in a masterful triptych, titled Slaughterhouse, 1986. It features figures with animal heads, a distorted antelope, and a juggler all writhing around in a circular, ritualistic movement. Other figures scurry around carrying brilliant red ladders, yet they seem to have no clear purpose or destination. The swirling red background is an obvious but potent evocation of bloodshed. The central image is of a severed animal head on a table. The animal’s neck extends upward into a swollen sack, adding a weird dimension of personal mythology.

Mira compresses space and matter to great effect in a monumental canvas titled Europa, 1984–85. This dynamic work conveys a sense of primal confusion through a visual cacophony of painterly elements. The work’s surface is full of thick clumps of black paint that resemble excavations of deep, dark earth. Abstracted hearts, skull heads, and crosses are buried in the rocklike texture. Mira’s single-mindedness helps him push beyond certain boundaries. He locates a frenetic energy in his pictures, then brings it to the forefront through expressive materiality. His mystical visions seem to exist outside of fixed time.

Jude Schwendenwien