Luis Úrculo, Unidades #01 (Units #01), 2012, ink and colored pencil on ink-jet print, 43 3/4 x 42 1/8".

Luis Úrculo, Unidades #01 (Units #01), 2012, ink and colored pencil on ink-jet print, 43 3/4 x 42 1/8".

Luis Úrculo

Eva Ruiz Galería

Luis Úrculo, Unidades #01 (Units #01), 2012, ink and colored pencil on ink-jet print, 43 3/4 x 42 1/8".

Ensayo sobre la ruina” (Essay on the Ruin) is the title that encompasses a number of proposals created by Luis Úrculo to address a simple problem, one that is unfortunately more timely than it may seem: the relationship between a ruin and the order that precedes it. Though the foundations of Úrculo’s thinking are in architecture—indeed, he has a degree in that field and it continues to visually and conceptually bind together his multiple endeavors—he makes use of all possible visual media (drawing, photography, video, sculpture, and more) in his work. For example, the drawings Colapso #01 (Collapse #01) and Colapso #02, (all works 2012, except where noted) depict an apocalyptic landscape of ruins, whereas the simple black-lacquered architectural models in the series “Edificios” (Buildings), 2012–, form basic structures with imposing logos of such multinational corporations as IKEA and McDonald’s. Somewhat tragic in the context of the financial crisis, Úrculo’s concern with the relationship between commerce and classicism is more explicit in the work 1929, part of a series of crocheted drawings begun in 2009, whose title makes direct reference to another major depression. But the works that best portray the relationship between visual forms and social collapse are Unidades #01 (Units #01) and Unidades #02, drawings in which photographic images of arrays of materials are altered to show them in states of ruin that evoke historical disasters of the past. In the related work “Nuevos órdenes” (New Orders), classical-style buildings are constructed out of broken fragments, a clear metaphor for the ways in which the accepted order of society can rest on fragile, even decaying, foundations: an apparent order that is in fact only an illusion.

It is hard not to see the connection of these works, with their references to the collapse of what appeared to be a stable structure, to the current economic crisis in Spain and beyond. Ensayo sobre la ruina, the work that bears the same title as the entire series, is perhaps where this connection is clearest. It’s a video of fragments that deal with a single theme: A fragile structure made of materials in a tenuous state of equilibrium suddenly collapses for no apparent reason other than its own inherent fragility. While this may well be an allusion to the current situation in Spain (and much of the rest of the world), it also makes reference to other spheres, some of them close at hand, like the world of contemporary art. After all, many of the materials and forms in the structures shown in the video are typical of contemporary sculpture—for example in the series of small sculptures titled Estructuras (Structures), 2012–, a set of patently beautiful if misshapen pieces made using “poor” materials à la Richard Tuttle. As this work in particular reminds us, in a paradox that partakes of the appearance of order suggested throughout the series, the allegory of the ruin formulated by Úrculo is not without visual charm.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.