Jorge Pardo, Untitled (detail), 2012, MDF, paint, wood, acrylic, dimensions variable.

Jorge Pardo, Untitled (detail), 2012, MDF, paint, wood, acrylic, dimensions variable.

Jorge Pardo

Jorge Pardo, Untitled (detail), 2012, MDF, paint, wood, acrylic, dimensions variable.

Parts of each of five large paintings by Jorge Pardo (all works Untitled, 2012) hung in the first room at Galerie Gisela Capitain. But they extended far beyond this one space: Like moss or lichen, they proliferated on the walls of all three of the gallery’s rooms, in each of which was also one of three large lamps. For many years now, Pardo has been using all sorts of light sources as material for his three-dimensional works, so these new lamps, their freshness notwithstanding—they have an organic presence with painted round shades and the protruding tangles of tentacles cut out of wood that swirl about and in one case substitute for a pedestal—are quintessential Pardo. But the paintings, all made of MDF, represent a new element in his oeuvre that is consistently positioned somewhere between fine art and design, often in surprising ways.

The brown-and-ocher-hued striated honeycombs that comprise one painting extended around two corners into the main room of the gallery, as did the distorted polygons out of which the picture on the opposite wall was assembled. The peanut-shaped, narrow-waisted ovals of a third piece appeared just as seamlessly interlinked, and this relation too sustained itself all the way into the next room—though the work put together out of a good four dozen modules occupied the entire freestanding long wall separating the vestibule from the main room, as if a garland had been wrapped around it. Was this a relief, an installation, or in fact a painting, as Pardo calls this modular system of panels? On first glance, classification seemed unnecessary. After all, these five wall pieces are so innocuously decorative—their notched, grooved surfaces, painted in clear, bright hues, are calibrated in color tone in such a way that, combined, they produce a shimmering Op-art pattern. These pieces recall the interior design of the 1960s and ’70s, when it was common practice to structure walls using wood reliefs or combinations of coverings: just as decorative as wallpaper, and in this case useful to boot, since each includes three concentrically arranged circles of pegs from which hang little tiles made of plastic and metal. These are inscribed with the days of the week and months as well as the thirty-one numerals needed to display the date. Is this entire wall-size work a calendar? Or perhaps instead a particularly loose handling of the classical theme of vanitas, in which watches and hourglasses were standard motifs?

Monumental and weighty as they may be, these works are assembled with standardized components and display the utmost simplicity. They are so large that you can never see them all at once; wrapping around walls, they require motion and a shifting point of view, and seem potentially infinitely expandable. The same might be said of the calendar tiles. Since they do not include years, they extend indefinitely in time. The force of Pardo’s works lies in the contrast between the almost naive design and the indescribable breadth of this potential to extend into both space and time.

Catrin Lorch

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.