(Pubilshed in the monograph “RAÚL CORDERO: 73 Kg”. Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Spain. 2012)
What I wanted to do, and still want to do, was produce something on the edge
between art and life, because I believe life is more powerful than art.
… The history of art, a “modern” phenomenon par excellence, (…), tried to bury
the age-old problematics of the visual and the figurable by giving new uses to
images in art, uses that placed the visual under the tyranny of the visible (and of
imitation), and the figurable under the tyranny of the legible (and of iconology).
Georges Didi-Huberman: Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art.
I met Raúl Cordero a decade ago. Even then he seemed to have come to the conclusion that, presumably, the least evocative elements of a work lie in its appearance and its narrative casing. Both parts are little more than a wrapper for a process that transcends perception and whose structure seems ungraspable. Hence we should not feel surprised that we feel “displaced” when we look at Raúl Cordero’s work, or have doubts about how to tackle the hermeneutic challenges he casts upon us in his work, with his cool hermeticism and the intuition of his logical and calculating analytic will.
Ten years ago I set off in search of a “video artist”, and I found him. To my surprise, however, the piece Cordero gave me for a video show I was curating at first glance seemed more akin to painting than video. What happened on the bench below while I painted Yuri Gagarin’s portrait (Lo que pasaba en el banco de abajo mientras pintaba el retrato de Yuri Gagarin), (2001, installation: oil on linen and monitor with video; painting: 160 x 125 cm, video: 3 h 25 min.1), already showed some of the fundamental concerns of the artist’s poetics in relation to the concept of time, the construction of the work, the formalization of the languages of painting and video and the linguistic loans between the two mediums. For example, the rupture of linear narrative schemes inherited from painting, film and literature, the simultaneity between “reality” and “representation” expressed with a chronotope embedded in aesthetic coordinates, the work’s resolution as the artist’s choice, or as an enclave of tension between poetic values and times, and the pictorial surface not as a space for contemplation but rather as an intertextual area where relation-ships are revealed. With What happened on the bench below…, Cordero delves into an idea that strays once again into a questioning of the autonomy of the work of art. The pictorial space is not like a slice of life itself, merely an interface for representation. On the contrary, it becomes the imprint of an operation in which it is the creative subject who is the object of scrutiny under the specific circumstances defined by the time taken to make the work, in the specific period of time during which creation happens, not as an isolated fact but contingently connected to a “reality”.
Nevertheless, the pictorial process marks a time that is abstracted in relation to what is outside the artist’s studio that –as Cordero acknowledged in an interview with Javier Panera[2. Panera, Javier. “Una conversación con Raúl Cordero”. Raúl Cordero 1996-2002. Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, Ayuntamiento de Pamplona, 2002, pp. 13-22]– invariably intervenes in the structure of the work’s circulation and posterior reception. An epistemological leap per se is thus made that conditions, in the work we are concerned with here, the mystery of painting. It is odd that exactly a decade ago, in the conversation with Panera mentioned above, Raúl Cordero appeared to insinuate the gradual decline of his painterly concerns in comparison with making videos:
“Painting is the hardest medium to deal with because of its history, and whenever you work with a medium you’re in a conversation with the entire history of that medium. It’s very hard to do really interesting work in painting nowadays, and to do it you have to try and take painting beyond what it’s already achieved, and that’s extremely difficult. I do less and less painting because I’m more and more demanding with my work. I almost never do series like I did before. I’m not a painter anymore, rather I use painting, like I use other mediums…” [3. Ibid., p. 22]
Currently, however, Raúl Cordero’s artistic practice is primarily based on painting, perhaps as the logical outcome of his analytical experiments and meta-operations related to artistic languages and the construction of the image[4. About the current obsession with the medium of painting the artist is referring to see, Castillo, Omar-Pascual. “Y por qué no, la pintura: una conversación con Raúl Cordero”. Raúl Cordero. Madrid. Turner, 2010, pp. 153-187]. In a lot of his work from the nineties and the first decade of the 21st century, the viewer is confronted by a perceptual challenge that positioned him in an active position relative to the piece and that makes him conscious of the internal architecture and process of constructing the work by chipping away or ironically playing with the narrative stratum that at first glance seems to give it meaning[5. An analysis of this point of view can be seen, for example, in how Cristina Vives talks about pieces like The Las Vegas-Varadero Experience (La experiencia Las Vegas-Varadero), (2000), the Hello-Good bye (2005-2008) series, or Let me tell you a video (Déjame contarte un vídeo), (1997). Vives, Cristina. “Timing/Lacking/Mixture. Raúl Cordero en los espacios incompletos”. Raúl Cordero 1996-2002. Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, Ayuntamiento de Pamplona, 2002, pp. 5-11]. On the other hand, in the group of paintings included in the artist’s solo show at the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno in 2012, Cordero seems to be more interested in formulating painting as an analysis of perception, of “Ways of Seeing”. Yet here the materiality of the paint –paradoxically phantasmagorical– presupposes the painting as a problem for the senses, as a sensorial enigma, the imprint of a “non-literaturized” event or an experience of choice, first of the artist’s and then of the viewer’s. The aesthetic experience here is understood as aesthesis, to the detriment of other hermeneutic concerns.
To go deeper into the latter idea, which stems from repeated claims the artist has made to the practice of criticism and the interpretation that has been made of his work and that once more puts at the centre of the debate about painting the production of images and visual culture and the dilemma of narrative content in art, we will work with the definitions of “detail” and “piece” that the art historian Didi- Huberman articulated in his outstanding book Confronting images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art[6. Didi-Huberman, Georges. Ante la imagen. Pregunta formulada a los fines de una historia del arte. Murcia, CENDEAC, 2010. (e.o.: 1990)].
I In contrast to the fragment, which refers to the whole only in order to question it, posit it
as absence or enigma or lost memory, the detail (…) connotes the whole, its legitimated
presence, value as response and point of reference or even of hegemony.
Georges Didi-Huberman: Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art.
One of the primary and essential questions Didi-Huberman raises in his text, for the purposes of clarifying the repressive intentionality of the detail as an instrumental vehicle of cultural coercion, explores the position from which the subject establishes his encounter with painting as a vehicle for knowledge. For our part, we should specify that in the group of works by Raúl Cordero we are dealing with here even the question stems from the difficulty of specifying the detail, from the inconvenience involved in situating and defining it, due to the optical blurring effect in the paintings. The blended and blurred appearance, the loss of clarity of the images, and the diffused ghostliness so often seen in the artist’s paintings brings to mind the painting processes and visual formulations of major figures in contemporary painting such as Gerard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Luc Tuymans, yet it also seems to remind us of the linguistic promiscuity and exchange between mediums that has always been characteristic of Cordero’s work. It is common in his paintings to find a strategy of referential dislocation that carries the fragmentation of the prototexts to a paroxysm, extracting and isolating minuscule motifs from them that are inserted into the new text in an already dislocated state, their original scale broken and their original colouring lost, ultimately becoming misplaced amidst a different, strange and foreign pictorial surface.
How, then, can the detail be identified if the artist has extrapolated it from another painting or another medium (film, television, music) and has consciously subjected it to a metamorphosis and its presence has become hidden behind the pictorial materiality of the paintings? Detail in Raúl Cordero’s paintings is found in the elements that are explicitly loaded with narrative, the ones through which a story may be reconstructed and in the components that are designated to be hints at meaning. The details appear in the texts included in the paintings, which Cordero uses to create stories or anecdotal content. In Equestrian (2011, oil on linen, 190 x 210 cm), for example, the artist reproduces in medium format an image taken from the Internet that references sports and the business of horse racing. Superimposed on the image you can read, “I met my art dealer on Facebook. We don’t know each other yet, because he lives far away and is always very busy, and he doesn’t have time to visit me… Although, he loves telling his clients how “wherever based” I am… He has never seen any of my paintings in person. But we are doing great. Next month, he will rent a Museum for me where I think this painting is going to be shown”.
Any basic interpretation establishes the parallelism with the system of art determined by speculation and luck. But perhaps the syllogism seems too easy or overly simple?
In Two Friends (Diptych), (2012, diptych, oil on linen, 190 x 190 cm ea.) on one of the paintings there appears a short narrative: “Two friends had loved art since they were kids. One was very good and decided to become an artist. The other wasn’t so good, so he decided to become a curator”. In its partenaire it reads: “One day, the curator decided that his friend wasn’t such a good artist. And everybody believed him, because they had known each other since they were kids”. Clearly, in these “details” there are constant allusions to contemporary art, to its structure and how it works, ideas about how value is determined and negotiated in the art system, how different agents are positioned in the field, what ethical conditions come into play and how institutionality is constituted in art. Nevertheless, I maintain that the artificial and anodyne nature of the story is such that it becomes obscene, like an overexposure of meaning that is far too obvious and, as a result, is lacking in seductive power.
In this regard, it would be germane to delineate a reference the artist gave us when he mentioned that the body of paintings that makes up this show is inspired by a Richard Prince painting from the Monochromatic Jokes series (1987-1989), titled I Changed My Name (1988, Acrylic and serigraphy on linen, 142.9 x 199.4 cm)[7. Cordero, Raúl. Another detail. E-mail to: Suset Sánchez 13 February, 2012]. The phrase, “I never had a penny to my name, so I changed my name”, is written on the diptych. We cannot overlook the tone and style of the texts that appear in Cordero’s paintings, which are like short, condensed, phrases with a kind of implicit “moral”.
It is like a kind of didactic exercise whose joke like narrative structure may bring to mind some of Prince’s work. This fact may very well make us aware of the trick in meaning. The detail, as Didi-Huberman sees it, leads to the discursive plane, it tells, it describes[8. Didi-Huberman, Georges. Op. Cit., p. 320]. Furthermore, the detail in Raúl Cordero’s work emerges as a mockery. Sometimes it is a tautological game that discusses the uselessness of representation insofar as it is mimesis, like in artwork where the title is nothing more than a reiteration of what the image shows [9. See the paintings: Three bridges to connect the left with the right edges of the paper on which they were painted (2002). A bridge that connects the bottom with the top of the paper on which it was painted (2002). Two (opened) Bridges that don’t get to connect anything (2002). A building that connects the left edge with the right edge of the stretcher it is painted on (2008). A building that connects the bottom (shadow) with the top (antenna) of the stretcher it is painted on (2008), reproduced in: Castillo, Omar-Pascual (ed.). Raúl Cordero. Madrid. Turner, 2010, pp. 46-49. Some pieces from the Quiz Paintings series, made between 1996 and 1997, also work this way]. However, in other cases, such as this one, the detail emerges like a display of ingenuity, defrauding reason in a way, like an interpretive coming to terms that provokes an ironic grimace on the face of the viewer who knows he’s been cornered by certainty, disenchanted by the puerility of what he offhandedly sees as the work’s “content”.
The detail can also be found in the paratextual fibre that names the works. In 4 Paintings, Cordero once again engages in operations related to the tautology of an idea that is repeated in the representation and in the work’s title, which is a textual element and which, furthermore, is included in the composition itself. Along these lines, Bruce Ferguson has evocatively suggested how the image is used as language and language is used as image in Raúl Cordero’s work[10. Ferguson, Bruce. “Raúl Cordero: vídeo sin equipo de vídeo”. Castillo, Omar-Pascual (ed.). Raúl Cordero. Madrid. Turner, 2010, pp. 198-200]. A painting for Freddie Bartholomew (2011, oil on linen, 100 x 120 cm), one of the paintings from the quartet, represents a kind of manor house or castle. Upon the first glance, it might suggest a relationship with the plot of the John Cromwell film titled, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), starring the child actor from Ireland Freddie Bartholomew. The film is a sort of modern moral parable fraught with mythical incursions about class struggle, the value of the family, the ethical dilemma of a choice, the new versus the old. And the house in the film also becomes a metaphor for status, seemliness, and class differences. In the other three paintings there are also architectural motifs that take on compositional qualities rather similar to the previous one, even though the textual aspect alludes to different kinds of references, A painting made on August 12th, 2011 (2011, oil on linen, 100 x 120 cm), on which you can read, “From 9:45 am to 8:55 pm”, refers to the time the painting process took; the momentum of the painting, linear time, working time, “creative time”. A painting that weighs 2.2 Kilogrammes (stretched) [2011, oil on linen, 100 x 120 cm], is a literal reference to the physical weight of the painting, including the weight of the support and the materials used. And, A painting that measures 100 x 119.5 Centimeters on a stretcher 3.5 Centimeters Thick (2011, oil on linen, 100 x 119.5 cm), specifies the exact dimensions of the painting itself. In these examples, the physical properties seem to seek recourse in axiological criteria applied to works from the history of art and, using the evidence of their factual objectiveness, question the subjective constructions that are established as instruments for assessing the value of art. What intrinsic meaning might this information have, stripped of the system of relationships that implies the work as a totality, its link to the artist’s poetics, the context in which the painting was produced and circulates in, and its nexus with the tradition of painting? How are those descriptive “details“ involved in the presumed interpretation of painting? At any rate, the denotational act of description, as a rhetorical detail that stabilizes the materiality of the work, is ultimately of little use in and of itself if we are not familiar with Raúl Cordero’s insistence on showing the constructive process of his work and marking the personal experience derived from it[11. In the same vein, the work from the Expenditure Series (made between 2003 and 2007), is particularly interesting. In the paintings, with the meticulousness of a scientist, the artist subjected his body to a monitoring process in parallel to the act of making the paintings, recording the calories he burned during the process and establishing a relationship between the physical condition of the maker and the physical existence of the pictorial object; between the effort spent in producing the work and its value. In these pieces there is also a commentary about the physical nature of the works and their relationship to the value of art in which measurement as a comparative instrument comes into play. There are paintings such as A painting the same size as Ed Ruscha’s “Annie” (2008), A painting the same size as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” (2008), and other paintings made from 2008 to 2010 in which he emulates the size of emblematic works from art history]. And even if we are conscious of this, descriptions, with their absolute literalness and clear and direct message, are manifested as hollow utterances intended to pin down a meaning that rouses suspicion as a result of their very candidness.
Let’s look at one last detail for the time being, one that inhabits the intertextual devices which are bestowed upon identification by the ones who observe them. The practice of appropriation has been a frequent recourse in Raúl Cordero’s work from very early on in his first visual essays from the nineties. It has found its most experimental field of action in painting and has also revealed the artist’s extensive knowledge of the history and techniques of painting. Since that time, when the critics were overusing the interpretation of those referents as triggers of content, the quotation as a device in Cordero’s work –a reference that is almost never incorporated directly onto the picture surface, in the sense of Nelson Goodman[12. Goodman, Nelson. Maneras de hacer mundos. Madrid, Visor, La Balsa de la Medusa, 1990]– has perhaps pointed more towards the way in which reception is orchestrated than towards the internal meaning of the work. Thus, quotation is used to negate the scope of speculation of hermeneutic intentions and manifests itself as a scream trying to silence echoes of narration using representation.
Hence we see how recognizing the root of the quotational act is not of much use. What significance might it have in this context shows how the artist plays, almost as if it were vocational training, at reproducing different genres of painting ranging from the exteriority of landscape to the intimacy of the still-life. Even when he confesses where his images or ideas have been taken from by specifying it in the work’s title or the texts included in the paintings as part of the representation the dissonances between the “new” images and the prototexts, and the difficulties of locating a coherent critical discourse in a potential intertextual relationship, seem to proclaim the discursive nullity of the “details” we have identified. And, isolating them like echo, or enunciation, chambers could thus produce an erratic result, an aporia, leading us to endless wandering down channels of speculation, closed circuits, a labyrinth with no centre or way out. We can find some evocative examples of this in The Making, (2011, oil on linen, 200 x 170 cm), or Magrittesque I, (2011, oil on linen, 230 x 155 cm) and Magrittesque II, (2011, oil on linen, 230 x 190 cm). The last two examples, whose sources are identified in their titles, are like divertimenti in which the unrestrained pleasure of painting emulates the surrealist painter’s perceptual provocations and visual games.
Johannes Vermeer’s well-known painting, The Lacemaker (1665, oil on linen, 24.5 x 21 cm, Museo del Louvre, Paris)[13. See the exhaustive and clarifying analysis of Vermeer’s paintings by Georges Didi-Huberman in which he describes the detail operations that occur in the The Lacemaker. Op. Cit. Pp. 317-328] is reproduced in its entirety in The Making. The first thing that strikes us is how the scale is different from the original, as if he were calling attention or making explicit how the painting was constructed using the projection of a digitalized image. This necessarily leads to an emptying of meaning regarding the original, raising one of the persistent issues in the historiography of art that has attempted to determine the relationship between the smallness of the scale of a work and the intimacy of the scene represented; the detailed emphasis of a task or craft. If we indulged in the rumours surrounding Vermeer’s The Lacemaker and decided to venture into a tangled web of fragmentary connections we would not be able to set aside the unfounded assertions that try to suggest the possibility that the author may have created the work using an image obtained with a camera obscura. It may likewise be impossible to not take into account Salvador Dali’s obsession with the Vermeer painting and the notations he made in the paranoiac-critical method with his numerous reproductions of it, trying to postulate the supremacy of a mystical geometry –ontological sign of “Creation”– in his Paranoiac-critical study of Vermeer’s “Lacemaker (1955, oil on linen, 27.1 x 22.1 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York).
Yet it does not stop there, as in Cordero’s appropriation all the distinctive elements of Vermeer’s style, precisely the ones that modulated the intentionality of a descriptive genre painting have been eliminated. He has created a composition where all the formal devices are presented in a neutral manner and the characteristic light of the Baroque and of Vermeer’s painting has been eliminated. The treatment of colour has been disregarded, the contrast between the monochromatic background of the original and the vivid colour of the figure’s clothes and the objects surrounding her, which codify her activity, has been mitigated. In short, the descriptive power of the painting has been eradicated by eliminating its anecdotal details. The needle, thread, and other accessories that speak to us in The Lacemaker become blurred and distorted by Cordero’s painting technique. Consequently, the characteristic qualities of Vermeer’s painting and his technique are negated. The Lacemaker is transformed into The Making.
What is The Making? If such an essentialist question may be asked. Let us continue our investigation so we can ultimately negate our hypothesis. The possibility of entering the order of sense and the always favourable opportunity to come back out of it is what makes locating “detail” in painting an intriguing pursuit. In this piece, Cordero has included an annotation that may be some kind of cynical equation or formula where he goes back to making allusions to the art system and with which he seems to be locating his work in an era of scepticism; in a present in which we need to delve deep into the practically non-existent possibility that there will be exchanges in the field of art that go beyond the strictly economic criteria that turns the artwork into a commodity, a fetish.
“…All those images aren’t worth anything in themselves, taken separately. They don’t have (…) any descriptive, or much less, interpretive pertinence. Each one is concerned with what could be called a “free-floating” visibility (like the free-floating attention talked about in analytical situations). And, in that sense, the choice of one speaks only of the beholder. Nevertheless, the aporia engendered by the image’s co-presence tends to problematize the pictorial object and this is how the possibility of grasping something from the painting, in the very element in question, from antithesis, arises. When the painting suggests a comparison, (it’s like…), it almost never takes long to suggest another one (but it’s also like…) that contradicts it. Thus it is not the system of comparisons or “resemblance” itself, but rather the system of their differences, contradictions or contrasts that gets the opportunity to speak of the painting, to make us feel how the detail becomes a piece and is imposed, upon the painting, like a contingency of representation –representation delivered unto the risk of the materiality of the paint. It is in this way that the piece of paint imposes itself on the painting, as both contingency of representation (…) and sovereignty of presentation (…)”[14. Ibid., pp. 327-328. The italics are from the author of the quote]
The piece (…) is the very risk that painting sets forth as it advances, when it confronts
things. Thus, when the materiality of representation moves forward everything that is
represented is at risk of collapse. And in regards to this risk, interpretation must (…)
not lose sight of it so it can measure itself by it, to indicate (…) the “intractability” that constitutes its object.
Georges Didi-Huberman: Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art.
The moment at which we enter into a kind of phenomenological knowledge in Raúl Cordero’s work can be located in the contingency by means of which the pictorial “detail” is metabolized in the painting as a “piece”. In the pictorial process, in the form the pictorial materiality acquires, it seems that the artist wants to express the relationship between the painterly gesture and its conscious construction, its link to the structure of thought or the sensorial situation that has activated it as visual materiality.
Here, the notion of the “piece” would be related to the phantasmal appearance of different referents in the paintings; undetermined motifs or ones whose identity cannot quite be ascertained, but which are disquietingly familiar to us from the artist’s poetics and, for that very reason, are likewise elusive and enclose the paradox of what is at once recognizable yet also strange. Those contradictions might potentially be located in the questionable intentionality of creative processes, such as repetition, seriality, the supposedly identifying traits of a pictorial style, and emphasizing or hiding details. And these are qualities that, due to their prevalence in the paintings it would be futile to try and confine into a denotative space that is not constituted as such, yet through their persistent presence bring a muffled rumbling to painting. The piece “self-presents both its material cause and its contingent cause, which is to say, the gesture itself, the touch, the intrusion of the paint.”15
It is the piece, insofar as painterly event, that is the category which gives us intimate access to the pleasure of painting as an act –as a place of creation– as we try to understand Cordero’s arguments when he talks about his investigations in this medium. It is the instance that shifts the description of the pictorial object away from the exhausted afflictions of narrative to slip it down the hole of a dark burrow where applying any logi-cal criteria or exercise in taxonomy or historicism is impossible because there is nothing we can be certain of and can only grope along and let instinct sharpen our senses. Cordero has said a few times that he would like people to look and feel more in front of his paintings and behave less rationally. We do not have to talk in front of paintings. We are well aware of how limited any translation of the language of painting is. This is not, however, a romantic or formalist defence of painting as a medium, rather it is a defence of thinking and enjoying those aspects of the pictorial language that sets it so distinctly apart from other languages.
If we calmly probe around the devices and mechanisms we are referring to as the ‘piece’ in Raúl Cordero’s paintings, we can notice that the ‘pieces’ themselves are aware of their own deceptive appearance and ambiguous status. Is nothing on these surfaces what it appears to be? Do the paintings allude to the art system? Maybe they refer to the construction of the work as an object? Maybe they refer to the construction of the work as an ontological problem? What is the thing we are looking at and how does it situate the gaze? How does the act of seeing play itself out? Here we come back to the position of the viewer confronting the painting. In the situation of an expecting subject, we find the enclave from which the strengths of this painting are discharged. Its very materiality demands something from the viewer and he is impelled to move around in front of the painting, get closer to look for details and step back from the surface to try and capture the slippery forms that he cannot quite pin down on his retina. Even after this “zooming in and zooming out” the image’s definition still tends to be fragile. We keep up the struggle, however, in search of a mark that does not really exist, trying to arrive at a complete and absolute definition –in the sense of a precise, illustrative description– of an image that was already indistinct when it arrived on the canvas.
We can see, then, that the pictorial process in these paintings is not a perceptual trick, it is not about hiding something. What we have taken to be a technical contrivance to cover up narrative is in reality a precise and methodical way of painting that takes advantage of the long time it takes oil paint to dry so colours can be mixed on the surface in order to make the gradations between them, (through the weave of elongated and linear stains that provide a horizontal structure for the painting and give it its blurred appearance), barely visible. Moreover, when we get close to the paintings we can see how cleanly finished the surface is. Texture has been minimized to the degree that it transforms the pictorial materiality into thin, smooth, polished layers where a final patina of enamel, which also crosses the painting horizontally, is just barely visible. In these paintings, the automatism of emotion –the trace of the “free” painterly gesture– is overridden by an analytic materialization of form and colour that is the product of serenity and restraint. And perhaps we would benefit from being as clearheaded when we look at these paintings.
Any haste while moving through the compositions could certainly lead to a misconstrual of the presuppositions, to “blind truths”. The apparent contradictions between text and image only feed the suspicion that we are participating in a game where language eludes us and satire is masked by triviality. Starting with the title of the exhibition, 73 Kg., which refers to the total weight of the work in the show, the irony is relentless. This tautological device refers to some of the artist’s previous series, such as Expenditure Series, or to setting boundaries for the artistic process by using a selection of data that records the event of creation and which brings to mind a well known piece titled A painting that is its own documentation (1968) by John Baldessari, who has been an important point of reference for Raúl Cordero since his early work from the nineties.
At the same time, the tautology that arises between the physical condition of the works, their context, the circumstances under which they were produced and their titles or descriptions, turns into a kind of play on words that creates a twisted syntax where the enunciative function of the images and texts floating on the works’ surfaces gets tangled. The piece, in these works by Cordero, once again points to the constructive order and moment of painting that mocks representation and its corresponding anecdotal statute. Setting boundaries, indicating, marking, describing, recording, documenting, and becoming are operations that have been conceded to the written texts in these paintings. It is all of that, in its banality, that strips painting of its “aura” and mollifies the seductive artifice of picture making by camouflaging itself chromatically with the images. The texts float. At times they manage to pass by without being noticed, but when they appear, they focus the viewer’s attention and draw him away. The gaze then needs to use some concentration in order to get back to focusing on what is important, which is the painting itself.
It is painting that beckons us, and it is also what we need to make peace with in a time during which it needs to be difficult and unkind. In a world where images have renounced quietude and where their construction has abdicated the canonical materiality of painting, it is painting, still clinging to an objectual sign, that stakes a claim in regards to the crisis of its own history as a medium and the crisis of art history. For some, making peace with it means trying to apprehend it, understand it and grapple with its possible meanings while for others, it signifies a copulation, penetrating it, feeling it, smelling it or handling it as soon as the guard in the gallery where it is being shown turns his back. At any rate, painting inspires enjoyment as it tries to reveal the technical processes from which it has emerged as a physical presence and as a visual pretext beyond any attempt at heroism and narration or any self-absorbed search for its language.
Raúl Cordero’s insistence on the “pictorial” –the most fitting use of representation and the central theme of study for art history for many centuries and a language nurtured in an art system ruled by the market– is perhaps a way to think about the place his artistic practice occupies today. A time in which painting, despite the abundance of work produced and its constant conceptual repositioning as a language, has become marginal. This is due in part to the position it occupies in the institutional domain of the field of contemporary art and in part to its relationship with other mediums and with the representation of “reality”. Perhaps our function as viewers is to bear witness to a cynical negotiation and assume the responsibility of our own complicity in it.