Jesús Palomino

EVER SINCE Jesús Palomino began exhibiting some ten years ago, he has displayed an interest in linking his work to architectonic space. At the same time he has been drawn to using varied, heterodox, often discarded materials—ones that are shabby yet aestheticized. And because he has always shown a feeling for color rare among contemporary Spanish artists, the result has been a skillful synthesis of arte povera and Matissean refinement. Since 1998 Palomino has focused on the construction of houses—shanties really: constructions that fall somewhere between assemblage and architecture. They seem to convey a childlike fantasy, as if combining a dream house full of strong colors from the kingdom of Oz with the real one made of wooden planks.

For this show Palomino erected Casa II (all works 2001), one of the largest and conceivably the last of his houses. (The artist has said that after three years of exploring the theme he feels he may have reached a dead end with it.) The show included two other main sculptural elements. Mueble II (Furniture II) is a bookcase displaying various domestic objects, likewise an image Palomino has used before, while Valla II (Billboard II) constitutes an innovation that he will likely end up developing (as is evidenced in the related sculpture recently presented at W-139, in Amsterdam, where Palomino currently resides): a kind of transparent billboard containing three illuminated fluorescent lights. Finally, there was a handful of very revealing paper cutouts, of which more later.

To his customary use of the sculptural, the architectonic, and—through color—the painterly, Palomino has now added light as a plastic element. In addition, space itself has become a theme, which elicits three possible options: the house as the space that can be penetrated and walked through; the bookcase as the shallow, uniform, containing surface; and the billboard as the flat surface. The billboard looks as if it had been damaged, signaling the artist's ongoing interest in using discarded elements. His work has been frequently interpreted in terms of ethics, or of a social dimension, something that the presence of the billboard in this piece does little to support. It would be more logical to appreciate these works in purely visual term—“only an eye, but what an eye,” as Cezanne said of Monet. Barnett Newman and Gordon Matta-Clark have been cited as references, but Palomino's works owe much more to Matisse, and possibly even to Dan Flavin. The former's influence can be seen in an unmistakable manner in “The Last Work,” the series of small cutouts that hang from the walls of the gallery, accompanying the sculpture. In the same way that Matisse composed his late cutouts—cutting, pasting, accumulating surfaces of colors—Palomino has made these small pieces, which illuminate his other work. They reaffirm his indignation toward sensuality and beauty.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Michèle Faguet.