Iván Krassoievitch has called this group of works, in which it is nearly impossible to detect where one ends and another begins, synthetic poems, in reference to a book by Mexican author José Juan Tablada. Published in Caracas in 1919, Un día… (Poemas sintéticos), or One Day… (Synthetic Poems), is considered one of the first examples of avant-garde poetry in Latin America. The artist adopts the subtitle, driven by genuine fascination with the relationship between abstraction, visuality and language. Tablada’s publication is a book of haikus —the first of its kind in Spanish, dating back to 1919—, and its pages reflect the influence of the Japanese “synthetic” climate resulting from contemplation of minute details in nature. Fast forward to a century later in Mexico City, the landscape traversed daily by Iván, where every step of the way he encounters things and situations that spark ideas and formal studio exercises.
In the case of the synthetic poems, the play on the word synthetic –as that relative to synthesis and as what is artificial– leads to choosing a series of materials such as synthetic rugs, synthetic hair, fake eyelashes, artificial flowers and plants, felt, lengths of cpvc piping, sponge balls and a series of cuttings and remnants from deluxe construction finishes. A provocation for taking superficiality seriously? Once these elements are chosen, the artist composes a “wordless poem” that responds to the architectural features of the place: objects occupy the space as if it were a page, and through that simple equation, can spotlight the instability of the exhibition space. Fortune plays a major role from beginning to end, compiling its own grammar in each iteration of the works.
Language has been an interest —I daresay an obsession— present in Iván’s oeuvre for more than a decade now. Here we have an artist for whom writing focused on the fleeting nature of the poetic moment is an everyday exercise that helps him sketch moods and create a reflection around language as an event. The particularity of his recent works lies in that they break away from two-dimensionality and become performance-like sculptures of sorts. And thus the reader becomes a writer. There is no literal translation of these synthetic poems; there couldn’t be, as they are linguistic-spatial events in which we take part.
Furthermore, through their specific placement in the space of Museo Experimental el Eco, the works enter into conversation with the Poema plástico [Plastic Poem] by Mathias Goeritz situated in the yellow tower of the courtyard. They are thereby also added to a genealogy of visual poetry. In the case of Iván Krassoievitch, he clearly intends to break away from the pre-established norms for reading: from left to right, from top to bottom; and instead leans toward launching processes for reading and building meaning through numerous possible routes. Locks of colorful hair with no head, long eyelashes without eyes, a clown nose with no face. It might be said that they are also sexed sculptures from the non-binary, displaying a notion of “queer” as associated with the body.
In Poetry and Abstract Thought, French poet Paul Valéry states that the poet has his abstract thought or his philosophy, if you will, which manifests itself in “his very act as poet ”. He describes the process of writing as something that demands not only “the presence of the poetic universe… but myriad reflections, decisions, choices and combinations, without which all the possible gifts of the Muse or of Fortune remained as precious materials in a quarry with no architect.” Even though Iván’s is an attempt to write without using words, just the same, its practice takes off from that “very act as poet” or action that Valéry describes. The city with its street market stalls, shop windows and arrangement of stands in the street is the visual universe he starts from to, in his words, “construct a series of abstract statements that formulate questions.” We attend a sort of spatial publication that, to judge by the title We Had to Talk, seems to announce that it is too late now… Nevertheless, I would say that there is enough poetic force here to disrupt past, present and future.