Susana Solano

This first retrospective of Susana Solano’s work is an exhibition of breadth in every sense of the word; it allows the spectator to conic into contact with a rather large selection of her work. Solano’s work has acquired consistency and international prestige in just a few years. Influences, conscious and unconscious, include some of Robert Morris’ works of the late ’60s which centered on the juxtaposition of planes and opaque elements, and the Minimalist coldness of some structures resembling cages, like his well-known Untitled (Steel grating), 1967, or Untitled (Aluminum grating), 1969; affinities also doubtlessly exist with some formal solutions developed by Solano. Even her early works, like Espluga or Enfront (In front), both from 1981, recall the work of Eduardo Chillida. But most of these similarities are, without a doubt, superficial.

Solano’s sculpture is based on pragmatic criteria. It is the construction of closed spaces, as hermetic as coffins, that predominates. However, in spite of this manifest impenetrability, Solano plays at the strange paradox of placing on opaque structures elements that allude to the transparency, to the filtration of light. This is what happens in pieces like Finals dels 90 (End of the ’90s, 1990); on a rectangular, dark-iron box rest two sheets of glass which, in spite of what one might expect, do not allow the hidden interior to be seen.

Another series of works, among them the splendid Dos Nones (Two odd numbers, 1988), and No te pases no. 3 (That’s far enough #3, 1989), marry the use of closed surfaces with grates that, because of their Spartan austerity, create an atmosphere that wavers between the lattice windows of a convent and the bars of a jail cell. But what is Solano’s credo? As she herself states, “art is nostalgia, reflection, and intellectualized passion.” This is similar to a conception of art in which an individualist and a formalist vision coexist, anchored in the metaphysical, and in a certain romanticism. Constants show themselves in the exploration of the fluid within the solid, of suspension and flight between dark metallic sheets (thus the references to the angelic and the weightless are present in pieces of great material conviction). “Art leads to individual insanity, never to collective sanity,” she states in another of her aphorisms to emphasize the scant beneficial effect that, in her opinion,art produces in the social setting.

Curiously, in the catalogue, perhaps due to the desire to flee the cryptic hermeticism of her work, photos of highways, landscapes, ordinary travel scenes, and photos of the sculptures are juxtaposed. These images denounce the attempt to include the autobiographical in work which, when it becomes most interesting, does so precisely by avoiding personal anecdote. As much as it is reiterated in the catalogue, Solano’s work is not generally conducive to narrative readings. In fact, her best works are those that stand on their visual hardness, the primacy of the compact, the roundness of the boxes that speak of private spaces. A perceptual roundness proves unsuccessful here; it is difficult due to the installation of the works. Quantity seems to have won out over quality.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.