Gabriel de la Mora: Universality of the Form

Gabriel de la Mora: Universality of the Form

La forma

Carmen Cebreros


[Translated by Debra D. Andrist]


Restless and prolific, Gabriel de la Mora (1968) has explored a broad expanse of mediums and props throughout his artistic career. He has moved through drawing, painting, sculpture, and video-documented performances, going back and forth among these constantly, even though–as he himself declares–he doesn’t start a work until having finished the previous one, no matter how much time it requires. A deep interest in portraiture underlies this discipline, but it’s mainly due to the paradoxes of representation and the tensions between an image, the visual referents associated with it, the material of which it is formed and its implied energy. An energy that renounces any possibility of being molded but at the same time exists, controlling and affecting all artistic actions.

De la Mora’s best-known work is his series of drawings, in which family members and persons who form part of his emotional circle appear in specific contexts or episodes. These subjects are, in a way, donors of the element with which the manual sketch on the paper is replaced: hair. These drawings, based on lines, are made under a meticulous and quasi-surgical procedure of measurement, cutting and managing the material so as to take on the shapes that compose the image. The hair functions visually as a line. Nonetheless, there is an invisible coming-to-terms by means of which the threedimensional nature of the element is transferred to the mounted plane. Said coming-to-terms in the account of the work has unchained a series of reflections in this artist with regards to the boundaries between drawing and sculpture. In pieces like Parallel Blind Lines (2008), the artist uses the most traditional definitions of these genres as a program from which to activate the fluctuations between one and the other. If a line is a succession of points on a plane, each hair is a point from the imaginary transverse view and the plane is a homogenous surface of 28 x 21.5 cm (the measurements of a regular letter-size page). But this surface is constructed, sheet to sheet, in the manner of an interwoven frame. As on a loom, two hairs are inserted (one paper to every six) in equidistant rows forming two parallel lines that are viewed laterally, scattered outwards in various directions: half thicket–half calligraphy. This whimsical arrangement, seesawingly shaped by the tubular capillary structure, is analyzed in works like Circles III (2008), in which De la Mora leaves the linkages between the hairs detached, thereby showing the natural tendency of the medium to form perfect circles as in 412p, which is a network of hairs threaded on the paper and knotted, generating both a barely-perceptible relief and a drawing of shadows over a white surface. In Structure (2008), this same type of random filaments is raised to a greater scale using a material that demolishes subtleties– neon tubes, converted into an incandescent scrawl in which the homogeneity of the material and the complexity of the constructed forms are contrasted.

Score (2006) is a poetic piece in which a page becomes musical staff-ruled paper designed for a potential melody in development, while at the same time discontinued straight lines–also made with human hair, partially attached to the mounted base–generate their own rhythm and movement, alluding to a composition that overflows the grid and predetermined pattern. This space and expectation regarding randomness materializes in the series Burned Paper (intiated in 2007 and continuing on to the present) in which De la Mora investigates the transformation of a mounted plane (a sheet of rag paper) into a volume modeled exclusively by the effect of fire. To make the material char and tinge with black in a homogenous manner is a completely unpredictable undertaking; at the very least it is not something that De la Mora intends to control through a determined system. In contrast, he hopes to be able to fail a thousand times, to burn and to disintegrate a thousand pages before making sure the volume is preserved and doesn’t fall apart.

The marks, seen as signs, code and fragment of material, in which all the information that makes up an individual is invisibly contained, is a theme that obsesses De la Mora. Repeatedly, his typing-like tracks–an ensemble of lines again, but also an allegory of the sense of touch–are the motive to represent, by way of exercises of absolute meticulousness, an ironic gesture in which the artist submits himself to a conscientious self-observation that is reminiscent of the popular phrase that pronounces that something is as well-known as the palm of one’s hand.

The series of paintings, GMC O+ / 14,565.6 Square Centimeters (2009) are composed of 28 masonite panels, illustrated and bearing incisions, which are reminiscent of the slit canvases by Italian artist Lucio Fontana. The pictorial medium in this case is the artist’s own blood, which is applied coat by coat–in the tempura manner, a technique utilized in medieval painting–until the desired tonalities are achieved. The color of these surfaces is very similar to the pigmentation of the skin, and the channels drawn on each panel resemble injuries without scars, acting also as receptacles of the corporeal fluid.

In an inverse and deconstructive process, the artist dematerializes a text and materializes it as a secret cipher in a miniscule cube of rubber residues, located  on a sheet stained with melted graphite: a piece about which the artist tells us only that “the information of ideas, concepts and all the things that I have done and never have said to anyone about myself, is contained in said paper, that I wrote over five hours, read and erased immediately, leaving a blank paper with the records of the action.” Thus, De la Mora produces a metaphor about the impossibility of communication–or the desire to be silent–an self-refl exive process that is transfi gured by clear references to the history of art: Erased De Kooning Drawing (1953) in which Robert Rauschenberg disappears a drawing-on-paper made by De Kooning, establishing himself as author in the presence of such elimination of the image; from another standpoint, the iconic cube, a prominent solid proffered on repeated occasions by the Minimalists in the late Sixties, in their zeal for the dissolution of subjective manifestations through the universality of form.

Among the series of works in which Gabriel De la Mora employs alphabet soup as primary material, Self Portrait with Alphabet Soup II (2001) stands out, a kind of parody of self-representation and illegibility. A series of letters made out of dough, also painted in white, form a human silhouette suspended transversely over a blank canvas. These letters form an illegible phrase if the work is seen from the front. De la Mora has authenticated this work by making use of lateral lighting, which makes the letters project a shadow over the surface of the canvas, but in an inverted sense (it bears mentioning that this is his natural form of writing, “ina-mirror,” because the artist is both dyslexic and lefthanded), whose partially-understandable text makes reference specifically to the mode of writing in relation to the artistic vocation. The humor of this work evokes the word games of Bruce Nauman, for example, in his work Eating My Words (1966-67), in which the artist appears seated at the table with a plate in which something similar to pancakes smeared with a marmalade is served: this food takes the form of the letters O-R-D-S . . . the W seems to have been savored right at the moment the photograph was taken.

De la Mora is convinced of the force deposited upon constructing an object and the charge that remains contained within. This artist doesn’t capitulate to the voracity of our time, which demands from all spheres of human action–including the art sphere–a rationale of expedited and efficient production. His work vindicates the power of contact, time, and care. His pieces astonish us with their fragility and delicacy, but at the same time they reflect a labor of observation, analysis, and conviction that makes us as spectators inevitably stop for a moment to recognize the pleasure of visual perception.