Santiago Sierra

Santiago Sierra

Proyecto Siqueiros

February 24, 2004

Santiago Sierra

On view through March 15, 2004

Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros
Tres Picos 29, Colonia Polanco, 11560 Mexico D.F.
Tel:55 5203 5888 or 55 5531 3394

In “Paintings executed by a fire breather” – on view at the Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros through March 15, 2004 – Santiago Sierra has developed an interesting reflection on the modern history of painting while keeping in line with the main subject in his production: the exploitation of labor and the creation of value in contemporary societies.

The fact that the Siqueiros Hall of Public Art was once the house of Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros turns particularly meaningful in relation to this work because of the dialogues established not only from the artistic standpoints held by both artists, but from the political ones. While Siqueiros believed that art should become increasingly realistic -figurative- and was openly against abstraction because it was unable to convey any political or social meaningful content; 30 years after Siqueiros death, Sierra – whose work is based in minimalism – presents these abstract paintings that strongly remind us of some of the most well known painters from the New York School. In this series, the search for a concrete art undertaken by many artists in the 1960′s and 1970′s is turned around filling the pieces with issues regarding the conditions of production, circulation and creation of value in contemporary art.

This time Sierra hired a fire breather from the street and took him to the basements of the Toreo de Cuatro Caminos, a big bull fighting arena in the north of the city. There, a professional artist, also hired, prepared the canvases for receiving the breath in flames of the beggar. With every breath, the pictures grew darker and darker until they acquired an atmospheric appearance, reminiscent of depictions of outer space. The paintings are conveniently sized so they may be easily sold, thus emphasizing their commodity status.

In the exhibition at the Sala Siqueiros, the paintings are hung in one room, properly displayed in the conditions that any exhibition of traditional abstract paintings would require. In other room, one may appreciate the video that documents the production process of the paintings.

This time, Sierra does not only create a work imbedded with his usual social criticism, but he also generates a very powerful lyrical metaphor on the grandiose images of the social art of the first half of the Twentieth Century. The mass of flames coming from the mouth of the fire breather have something heroic – almost promethean – about them, and the cosmic appearance of the paintings is also reminiscent of the great romantic and revolutionary discourses of humanity facing the cosmic. But Sierra doesn’t allow this mystifying metaphors to go too far. When the system of creation of value concealed behind this images is revealed we are left with a bitter and melancholic truth: the failure of revolution, Prometheus bound to his rock.

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Proyecto Siqueiros
February 24, 2004

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