José Maldonado

Galeria Antoni Estrany - Mercedes Vila

José Maldonado asserts the primacy of language, as the prerequisite and dwelling place of things, by quoting a verse from the Spanish poet Luis de Góngora, “Las Cenizas de la amada las que cuenten el paso de las horas” (The ashes of the beloved that mark the passage of time), which he realizes in visual images. His installation Vanitas (Vanity, 1991) appropriates space through the construction of a doorless enclosure, visible only through its windows. This allows the viewer to look into an inaccessible interior landscape where sensuously suggestive images generate an optical illusion. Some of the walls function as mirrors, thus making it difficult to discern between the original and its simulacrum. There is a table with an hourglass and a sealed envelope placed on it in the middle of each half of this space; the contents and addressee remain unknown. Each half of the enclosure is a replica of the other; only the lighting is different. On the lateral walls there are 48 hands, each forming one of the letters from Góngora’s verse in sign language. They are the only vestige of human presence, and, in the process of articulating, they seem to be forging language and time together.

The objects selected to furnish this enclosure seem isolated in an anonymous space; eight sealed letters hung in one of the corners. They are the source of the enigma and the keepers of the key to its meaning. The tables are repeated in paintings, as is the hourglass, which appears in a series of 100 square canvases. Continuity is ultimately lost among those abandoned objects, which, through their duplication, become parodies of the originals. A small notebook containing a text by José Luis Brea, El paso de las horas (The passage of time), and one by Maldonado, 2 Cegazones: (2 Blindmen) serves as a guide; they use writing as poetic expression, as an echo of the unspoken. The melancholy conveyed by the sealed envelopes, the hourglasses, the silent text, underscores the futility of all conjecture. Thus, the installation is augmented by a poetic discourse that eschews the disjunction reality/fiction, proposing instead an infinite play of replicas.

Menene Gras Balaguer

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.