Pablo Rasgado’s exhibition at El Eco, titled Arquitectura desdoblada, featured five works from a series of the same name. Each work was made from drywall recuperated from several museums, pieces of this material left over from specific exhibitions. These fragments were reconfigured into flat rectangular formats whose scale and composition referenced abstract paintings. Though the artist had been used to creating three-dimensional spaces in the past, here, the two-dimensional structuring of the drywall performed an “unfolding” of the previous temporary architectures—large-scale reverse origami.
This series forms part of a larger project by the artist—trained as a painter—involving “found paintings,” which include a series where Rasgado uses a fresco-related technique to create transfers of grafitti or dirt found on urban walls. The resulting artworks, like those of his Arquitectura desdoblada series, formally reference a history of gestural abstraction. Both bodies of work however, critically distance themselves from the subjectivity associated with this artistic tradition: the idea that expressionist brushstrokes convey the painter’s emotions or psychic energy. Rasgado’s post- conceptual approach celebrates the accidents and coincidences involved in the use of found, everyday materials. His configurations are not devoid of aesthetic choices, but rather espouse the limits imposed on these decisions through the use of pre-existing forms. Re-contextualization additionally plays a strong role in Rasgado’s art practice, with new meanings created as these materials move from one physical and temporal site to another.
The five drywall paintings presented at El Eco each evinced their previous contexts, displaying a variety of decisions taken in the design of the exhibitions of which they were the physical support: the various colors of the walls, the incorporation of vinyl or photographic murals, the fonts used for wall labels… These elements often form part of curatorial and exhibition-design strategies that consciously or unconsciously present museum spaces as atemporal, conveying permanence or the feeling of a space outside of everyday time. Rasgado’s pieces deconstructed this temporal structure, revealing museum spaces as ephemeral, in constant change, since each exhibition has its own lifespan.
These ideas acquired a poetic charge in two of the works that used walls taken from exhibitions by Helen Escobedo (a close friend of Mathias Goeritz’s) and Mario Rangel Faz at Mexico City’s
Museum of Modern Art; both of these artists died during or shortly after their exhibitions. The fragility of these temporary, broken museum walls could be equated with that of the human body and its mortality. However, Arquitectura desdoblada also defied this impermanence as Rasgado recycled the symbolic materials and gave them a new form, prolonging their duration through their new status as works of art.
This series also involves a whimsical tautological exercise. When viewed within the context of a museum, the works read like aged mirrors of these spaces, setting up a “before, after and potential future” dialogue with the walls on which they are hung. Their relationship to architecture
is both conceptual and comical, as the thought of a physical building actually being unfolded is a fantastical idea and represents conjecture that goes against the weight and seriousness with which architecture is often discussed or explored. Within the context of El Eco, an interesting relationship was implied between these ideas and Mathias Goeritz’s Emotional Architecture, which he described in a manifesto published in 1954. The German artist called for a critique
of functionalist architecture through structures that sought to convey emotions. Perhaps irreverent and playful compared to the gravity with which Goeritz approached these questions, Rasgado’s unfolded structures nevertheless offer a contemporary form of emotive architecture. His artworks additionally entered into dialogue with the reduced forms and monumentality promoted by the founder of El Eco, while provocatively constructing new relationships with painting and formal abstraction.
Tobias Ostrander, curator.