Ricardo Cotanda

Ricardo Cotanda, one of the young generation of Spanish sculptors, populates his work with parodic images that he has stripped of their customary meanings. Cotanda’s inventions are secreted like invisible possibilities within other, preexisting objects with which we are more familiar. His media are simple, domestic, and typically local: blue canvas, plain unfinished wood, thread, mirrors, and buttons. These fragile and mundane materials are unusual in art, but Cotanda demonstrates that they are perfectly compatible with conceptually rigorous work.

The new pieces resemble games in one respect, and their cleverness betrays the intentions of their author, who employs rather modest means. Horizontality and verticality are conjugated within single pieces, and between separate works. Cotanda uses the walls or the floors interchangeably as supports, although he prefers the floor for the large pieces. He also frequently instigates dialogues between surfaces, creating significant disjunctions within a single piece, as in Con nuevos ojos (With new eyes, all works 1989–90), in which the glance from an image of a pair of eyes nailed to the wall seems to follow a sequence of roughly cutout pieces of blue canvas to the ground. The traditional embroidery drum is a recurring compositional element within the current group of works. In Las cartas sobre la mesa (Cards on the table) a huge embroidery drum is tipped over facing upward, and the canvas that covers it hangs below, suggesting a world in which the order of things is inverted and the force of gravity comes from another direction. In Sobre el cielo (Above the sky), a smaller drum protrudes from the wall like a shelf. The blue canvas that covers a group of crosses is embroidered with yellow thread, simulating an imaginary starry sky. Lo que tengo entre manos (What I have between my hands) is the title of a piece that consists of two more drumlike forms covered in blue cloth, and positioned face to face. Joined by a skein of thread that seems to be held by two hands glued to the drums’ backs, this work evokes nostalgic images of childhood games. Each of these pieces contains descriptive signs that articulate an anecdote. Cotanda’s combinations of materials suggest the Mediterranean culture and climate, and particularly the region where the artist lives: his signature blue canvas suggests a more solid sea, one that can be cut out to cover objects with its stiff waves. Cotanda manages to create surprising effects with modest means, and this is where his talent resides.

Menene Gras Balaguer

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.