español

Too Late, Too Far

For Marcela Quiroz Luna

Two eventualities perhaps equivalent:
nothing has happened yet,
our unhappiness springs
from the fact nothing has really started [...]
The other eventuality is that everything has already happened.

J. Baudrillard

“Too late, too far” –artist Hugo Lugo’s most recent exhibition in Mexico– comes about fueled by an anecdote told in the book Anatomía del miedo (Anatomy of Fear) by Spanish philosopher José Antonio Marina. In his text, Marina recalls the story of a man who witnessed –from afar– a tragic accident. Unable to influence its outcome, this is how the writer annotates his conviction: facing the tragic event, the convicted spectator was there “too late, too far”. Lugo decided to start so his latest exhibition venture at the Museo de Arte de Sinaloa, and follow with museographic stitches taken from his previous show: La superficie del precipicio (The Surface of the Precipice) –his first museum solo show exhibited at the Nuevo León Center for the Arts, 2010)– with the inclusion of works created specifically on occasion for this show, that literally and symbolically refer to memories of his childhood in the sandy area of Sinaloa which begets his hometown.

There is, among these new series of works, a surprisingly significant amount of video production, which is increasingly becoming a more relevant medium in the artist’s proposal. The structure exercised in these works takes the form of a dialogue with the moving image, lending an animated state to his usual essays and sketches. Thus, the happenings in-loop accompanying the series of photographs –Ensayar la calma, ensayar el fulgor y ensayar el equilibrio (Rehearsing calmness, Rehearsing brilliance and Rehearsing Equillibrium)– profile a promising take on the visual-narrative poetry which has earned him international renown.

Among his polemic writings of the late1990s, Jean Baudrillard advocated the recovery of ‘radical illusion’ in aesthetic creation proposing a way to achieve it: “Rip the same from the very same” –said the French theorist– to make it disappear, and in it’s disappearance be able to harbor again the time of seduction. Some of Lugo’s recent works seem to respond to this invitation.

Let us refer to a boat run aground in one of the exhibition halls. It’s the boat on which he crossed a river as a child to visit his two grandaunts (who raised his father and led a prosperous ranch on their own, until they were able to sustain in life and in strength), so the artist told me a while ago. It is this boat, that only a couple of months earlier he ‘ripped’ from some Sinaloa shore, Lugo re-places in his studio and then at the museum to work it’s useless functionality on the substance of memory.

One of those women he visited by boat died some time ago; her 98-year-old sister still lives. The yearning of those river trips during his childhood by his father’s side, rest fused in that boat now. After recovering it, Lugo decided to burn its surface, to later draw on it a skin of infinite graphite strokes composed of the time yielded by the covered body to the disappearance of the unrecoverable. Lugo illuminates this contextual excerption from the inside with neon light letters by means of which he also attempts to deny the sensible bond that many times, against our will, pulls our memories out from their deepest burial. Another one of his attempts to match the real with art’s reliant confess, precisely, the endless pursuit of ‘radical illusion’ that sometimes succeeds in loosening up our way of looking, the artistic practice.

Ensayar la calma (Rehearse Calmness) shows a sustained video shot framed over a patch of sparse reed by the edge a clear water lake on a limpid daybreak. The surface of the water moves in calm, almost invisible waves … almost nothing happening. This ‘rehearsal’ happens in a discreet but insistent fashion. And yet, how is calm being tried out or rehearsed? What to expect after such an attempt? Hung right next to it, a large format photograph shows the lake view with a thin stretch of land jutting halfway through it towards the center; on it, a standing man stares into the same nothingness.

In another one of Lugo’s photo/video diptychs a call is made to rehearse the glow of fire, and shows a small bonfire, carefully positioned between a circle of rocks in some clear spot on the landscape. The expanded photographic view responds to that small fire with a breathtaking sunset. The question about how fire and its fruition can be ‘rehearsed’ comes up again.

Lugo chooses to try out those things that do not necessarily depend on our ability, potential or disposition. To follow the flight of a flock of vigilant vultures watching over our equally fleeting existence (Recordar el trayecto/Remember the route) as if seeking to draw the wanderings and the errors of his strokes against a contrasting sky, serves the same nineteenth-century romantic impulse that has shaped Lugo’s artistic process since the beginning of his career. Momentum with which, a few years ago, led him to doodle stars over constellations; or capture –in a little dark box– the conjured darkness in a nocturnal visit to a museum; it is this helpless impulse that makes him build defenseless boats, but yet able to ignore the imminent meltdown happening behind them, to host the leisure of an idle couple.

What Hugo Lugo offers us in this show is that ‘behind’ that animates the questions for calm and brilliance –that ‘behind’ the rehearsal, the foresight, the trace in the gaze, revealing the future of his path today. Most surely, we will see him exercising variants of the kind of interaction that offer his subjects the expanded temporality of these new moving landscapes. For although there would seem to be somewhat of a disciplined process that won’t not let him get away from the seduction of the accuracy in his oil or gouache works, quite possibly this will mark his hunt for the interstices between media, formats and resolutions, in order to see beyond the calm confines of the frame, the brightness of the screen and the timed ciphered traces, to keep looking behind the disillusion.

“Too late, too far” may well be read as a preview of the trail into an interdisciplinary dialogue that promises to bring to the edge of the utmost (perhaps first?) consequences in Lugo’s work in the coming years.

The (a)temporal condition consigned by the chosen title does nothing but offer us a look at the bottom of his creative universe where playing with time and limits (mishaps) of representation-imagination-memory, does not conform to the calm state of a shore, on the contrary, Lugo decides to keep on the relentless search for it’s precisely timed movement, to barely stay rehearsing on the shadowed outlines of a boat against Lete, channeled to the fate of it’s forgetful eventualities.



Rehearse Glow (detail), 2011
Rehearse Glow (detail), 2011

Rehearse Calmness, 2011
Rehearse Calmness, 2011

Illuminate the Forgotten, 2011
Illuminate the Forgotten, 2011

Remember the Route, 2011
Remember the Route, 2011

Presentiment, 2011
Presentiment, 2011