New York

Federico Guzmán

Brooke Alexander

In an age where FAX machines and modem-linked computers are as common as telephones, John Donne’s pronouncement that “No man is an island” rings truer than ever. It is the role of the individual in an environment characterized by the proliferation of telecommunications systems that provides the predominant theme of Federico Guzman’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Just as the planet is wrapped in a network of fiber-optics, many of Guzman’s pieces are composed of jumbled tangles of electrical wire, telephone cords, and strips of shredded rubber.

Islario (all works 1990), is a four panel horizontal expanse of reinforced nylon fabric printed with a camouflage pattern and stretched like a painting. Covered with a coat of silver paint designed to conduct electricity, the camouflage motif remains visible through the painted surface, suggesting the back of a jigsaw puzzle. From this field of interlocking shapes, a hairy mass of electrical wires soldered to the work’s surface projects outward and droops to the floor. The painting’s system of interconnections is not self-contained: countless wire strands connect opposite sides of panels as well as discrete sections.

In a work entitled Tipografia/Topografia (Typography/Topography) a single word printed on a thin frieze of painted gray cardboard spells both words with the letter “i” superimposed upon the letter “o.” Connected with a thin bead of conductive paint, the mechanical typeface is transformed into a kind of cursive script. Soldered to either side of the painting, the beaded lines fall to the floor where they connect at a telephone terminal which completes the circuit. The simultaneous spelling of typography and topography is used to expand the definition of each word to include connotations of the other, and the telephone becomes a metaphor for their union—a symbol of verbal communication across a geographic expanse.

The telephone not only functions metaphorically, but practically. The electrical wires that pass through Untitled are a live system through which one can actually place a telephone call. This same telephone terminal is also connected to the wires that spill off the surface of Islario. By placing a phone call, the viewer physically enacts the union of geography and communication referred to in Untitled. Hence, Guzman has constructed a metaphorical and actual system that mirrors the dialectical part-to-whole relationship of man with society. Individuals with separate identities are linked by a network of social interaction and communication.

A work entitled Las fronteras espirales (The spiral frontiers) is constructed from individual rubber silhouettes of various countries cut into continuous strips that coil around each shape’s interior perimeter spiraling inward to the center. Unfurled and scattered haphazardly across the floor so that the cutout countries are no longer recognizable, the resulting pile of strips demonstrates the arbitrariness of geographic constructs by reducing the boundaries of country-states into an amorphous mesh. Cuadro de las fronteras espirales (The painting of the spiral frontiers) was made by dipping these rubber strips in purple paint and imprinting them onto canvas. The resulting image records the disintegrated geographic boundaries of the globe in a jumbled Jackson Pollock-like web. Each side of the rectangle is labeled “NESO” (north, south, east, west) to articulate the merging of the world map into a single unified, directionless field.

Guzmán’s art is expressed and unified by line. He has adapted and modernized the conventions of the graphic line in academic draughtsmanship. In his art lines are transformed into telephone wires, and his graphic system resembles that of the telegraph. Guzman collapses the visual and verbal in puns that compound meaning rather than parody it.

Kirby Gookin