Mexico City

Mario García Torres

Mario García Torres makes work that reenacts peak moments of post-war Conceptual art, but whose organizing principles are wholly relevant to artistic production today: the rationalization of processes; an emphasis on language and on reading versus visual experience; an economy of media and colors; and mathematical concepts such as permutation and repetition. His videos, films, installations, and photographs reinterpret works from the 1960s and ’70s by Sol LeWitt, Robert Barry, and John Baldessari, among others, creating a personal construal of Conceptual art and the position of the artist as researcher and archivist. This retrenchment of the past is motivated by the concept of allegory as a postmodern strategy for producing works in which the artist rescues historical moments from obscurity, bringing them to light under a revised definition for the present.

For his recent “Early Color Video Tapes,” this young artist also reenacted Pop art moments. The video installation All That Color Is Making Me Blind, 2008, was divided into two elements: an old video monitor displaying texts referring to television and radio appearances by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and Joseph Beuys, and color videos shown on nine monitors forming a square a few feet away. In 1970, we learn, Dalí appeared in a Datsun commercial; he also advertised Alka-Seltzer tablets, ending the commercial with the phrase “Like a Dalí,” in reference to the effectiveness of the effervescent pills. Warhol appeared as himself on Saturday Night Live in 1981 and on a 1985 episode of The Love Boat. Beuys sang “Sonne statt Reagan” on television as a play on the German phrase Sonne statt Regen (sun instead of rain), criticizing Ronald Reagan’s weapons policy. Ruscha performed in two films, though in one case he ended up on the cutting room floor. The austerity of this segment contrasts with the saturation of colors in the footage shown on the square of nine televisions, all taken from the various episodes, commercials, and films cited and edited by García Torres. Shown without sound, they offer the viewer a lush visual experience that is also based on a strategic logic of repetition and difference. At one point, none of the television sets showed the same video; a few seconds later, five displayed identical images; and, finally, the nine monitors played in sync. They then played the same video with microseconds of difference between each loop. García Torres here emphasizes that repetition, reenactment, and the remake always contain imprecisions and impurities that turn the work into something other than its reference.

Sing Like Baldessari (Freestyle), 2004, played on another isolated television set, a double tribute to LeWitt and Baldessari. Like a karaoke machine, the nearly soundless monitor displayed a blue background with the text of LeWitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969) in lettering that slowly changed from white to yellow, indicating the rhythm the singer should follow. In 1972, Baldessari had sat on a chair and sung these same sentences, including: “1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach. 2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements. 3. Illogical judgements lead to new experience.” Conscious that history produces itself materially and sensibly, García Torres is interested in the ambiguous areas between art and entertainment, past and present, originality and reproduction, interpretation and truth, contemporaneity and obsolescence.

Jessica Berlanga Taylor