New York

View of “Julio Grinblatt,” 2013.

View of “Julio Grinblatt,” 2013.

Julio Grinblatt

Minus Space

View of “Julio Grinblatt,” 2013.

In Fluxus event scores, the interpretive freedom invited by a brief and sometimes enigmatic textual composition encourages unexpected outcomes in the work’s performance. For example, how does one execute George Brecht’s Word Event • Exit, 1961, which consists simply of those few units of language printed on a small white card? Julio Grinblatt, an Argentinean artist based in the US, is clearly inspired by both the economy and the indeterminacy of Fluxus instructional works. In his ongoing photographic series “Cielito Lindo,” 2005–, he invited professional color labs to participate in the creation of the work, exploring the contingency of concepts such as beauty and truth as they relate to the seemingly concrete indexing operation of photographic reproduction.

The premise for “Cielito Lindo” is described on a plain 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of paper that hung on one of the gallery’s walls: In 2005, Grinblatt took a picture of a clear and cloudless blue sky; over several years and in several countries, he sent the same negative to different color labs with the request for the “printer to print a beautiful sky” (the phrase cielito lindo, which refers to a well-known mariachi song, roughly translates as “lovely sweetheart,” though its literal meaning is “little beautiful sky”). Obviously, the apparatus of the camera, with all of its specific technical variables as well as those of its film stock and processing, captures the already ephemeral and changeable events of nature with multifarious results. Grinblatt thematizes how various interventions in printing can also substantially alter the appearance of a work. The seven forty-by-fifty-inch works that were on view (of the innumerable possibilities in the “Cielito Lindo” project) are all, at initial glance, blue monochromes. Yet while some works are blanched and pale, others are composed of deeply saturated cobalt and lapis hues. Some prints contain a great deal of visual “noise”—small light flares and streaks that seem like attributes of the sky or perhaps flaws in the negative, or even specks of lint that were blown up in the printing process. Others appear much slicker: Cielito Lindo #11, 2013, is a uniformly vibrant electric blue, whereas its neighbor Cielito Lindo #5, 2007, contains a faintly visible cerulean circle at its center that gradually fades to a lighter teal toward the edge and lends the work a sapphire-like intensity and variability. The differences in these prints call into question the notion of an “accurate” representation of the sky, which itself is not a thing that can be captured but a complex space of depth and unpredictability. In the exhibition, the works were hung low and surrounded the viewer, giving the sense of picture windows each opening onto a parallel reality.

The inconsistencies among the works are astonishing, given that the images derive from the same negative. This brings to mind Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s meditations on color in Cézanne’s paintings, on the mutability of a hue seen relationally to another, perceived through the biologically diverse optics of each human’s vision, which makes the acts of producing and apperceiving a work deeply contingent and variable. Merleau-Ponty called this a process of becoming, in which color, and therefore the work composed of color, is never static or resolved but always dependent on the relationships between parts of the work and between neighboring works and external experiences. To adapt Heraclitus’s saying about rivers: In Grinblatt’s work, you can never see the same sky twice.

Eva Díaz