Buenos Aires

Fabián Bercic

Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporáneo

Trying to find one’s way through Fabián Bercic’s maze of twisted shapes, to follow the interwoven coils of ornament in his recent exhibition “Natural,” was an exciting challenge. Even more astonishing was to see that such sophisticated patterns of design and color were made out of the most banal of materials: plastic—or, more specifically, polyester resin. But the lavish designs and cheap material seemed curiously at ease with each other, as if some kind of syncretism had occurred. The combination gave the objects the appearance—the shiny gloss, the perfect finish—of a souvenir. Except for their scale: Bercic’s latest works are in the range of three yards long and wide—hard to carry away with you.

The ornamental designs were not inspired by simple twigs or blossoming buds, but drawn from medieval manuscript illuminations. These medieval marginalia—floral and otherwise—were far from peripheral; they often held great significance, offering complex symbols regarding both the material world and the divine. Likewise, Bercic purposely uses his stylized images of nature as vehicles of greater meaning.

Indeed, Bercic’s flowers and trees might be likened to the literary devices of Wallace Stevens’s poem “Anecdote of the Jar” (1919), which proposes a dynamic relationship between two entities that seem to have nothing to do with each other: a round jar and a “slovenly wilderness.” The jar is an artifact, a product of culture, while the wilderness is uncharted, an image of primal chaos. We can read the poem as an allegory of the struggle between nature and civilization. And it comes close to describing the experience of encountering Bercic’s plastic landscapes, in which industrial material takes dominion over the natural world, yet at the same time surrenders to its force. A floral landscape, for Bercic, is a landscape that has been aesthetically processed by centuries of art history. One of his works depicts a branch from which voluptuous stems sprout; another looks like a root that spreads like an ivy and is crowned by a lotus flower.

With painstaking labor, Bercic has in the past also produced a Zen garden out of polyester resin and children’s toys inspired by Catholicism. Neither then nor now was his concern so much a critique of the loss of values in capitalist society as a fascination with synthesis: the way in which disparate genres such as Art Nouveau, Japanese anime, or medieval manuscripts flow, intermingle, and transform themselves in the present—as if one should thoroughly assimilate the past before moving forward. Bercic’s work not only comments on how what was once sacred has been transformed into a commodity, but testifies to the way in which these rationalized forms might once again have meaning.

María Gainza