Ese Oscuro Interior

Sala Parpalló

Although there are still many who would brand drawing as a minor art by relegating it to the category of the preparatory sketch—painting of course being considered the definitive medium—“Ese oscuro interior” (That inner darkness) presented drawing as an artistic practice of the highest order. The three artists whose work comprised this show—the Austrian Günter Brus and the Spaniards Luis Gordillo and Zush—were brought together under the umbrella of “the visionary experience,” which the show’s curator, José Miguel G. Cortes, defines as “a whole gamut of sensations . . . belonging on the other side of what we call reality.” All three artists conjure up a “secret life” involving the imagination, dreams, and fantasy—a life which, at its most obsessive and delirious, typically cannot be shared with others. This show, unfolding in two rooms containing pieces from the last 15 years, attempted to name the mysteries and fears in which these pieces are shrouded.

Of the three bodies of work, Gordillo’s was the least dark, as the characters he draws with almost infantile outlines often have a ludic quality. His constant attempts to construct a face—for example in the series entitled “14 cabezas” (14 heads, 1994)—suggest, however, an effort to mold an alterity that typically escapes artistic representation. Long before it became a topic of discussion among post-Modern literary theorists, Gordillo was creating an iconography that fore-grounded the fragmentation of the subject.

In 1986, Zush—effectively equating art with therapy—stated, “everyone has monsters within themselves . . . and the only thing I do is to externalize them . . . art is vomit, defecation, sweat, a way to become rid of physical and mental toxins we all carry inside.” In 1968 he was locked up in a psychiatric clinic while Franco was in power. When he was released, the man who had been named Alberto Porta remained behind, and “Zush” was born. With him came what he designated the “Evrugo Mental State,” as well as a cryptic language, a body of laws, even a flag: “a brain with an eye in the middle, which represents a thinking mind striving for clarity.” Zush’s curious pieces, typically works on paper, suggest a chaotic world of labyrinthine intricacy inhabited by hybrid beings. The strange creatures that floated through the works in this show were of ambiguous gender, although in other works that were not included here, sexuality is often manifested in a myriad of vaginal penetrations.

Brus’ work was certainly the most macabre. Inflected by a certain ritualistic violence deriving from the artist’s past association with Viennese Aktionismus, these drawings, made with colored pencil and wax, depict despoiled landscapes littered with fetuses and other human remains. In these desolate visions, complemented by beautifully literary titles, women, who are portrayed as passive beings at the mercy of man’s insatiable greed or as the begetters of monsters, often get short shrift. Are women intentionally degraded in these images? Or are they meant to represent the artist’s personal demons, beings summoned during violent hallucinations? Like many of the difficult questions that “Ese oscuro interior” raises, these cannot be definitively answered.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent Martin