Sergio Caballero is back. And he returns with an enthusiastic reunion with the pleasures of “paint-painting,” with its techniques, its media and its rhetoric as an exceptional means of artistic expression.
This return to the art world is very significant as although Caballero has constantly extended the scope of his visual creativity – with the corporate image of the Sónar festival, advertising, music for ballet and film, and with his film Finisterrae - it has been almost twenty years since he restricted himself to the classic exhibition format. His last exhibition took place in 1992, when he presented the now legendary "The noise of mankind is intolerable and and I am deprived of sleep because of its uproar. Sergio Caballero, famous throughout the entire world” exhibition in the Montcada hall of the La Caixa Foundation.
Sergio Caballero has always been an artist who uses his visual discourse to critically and aesthetically increase awareness of the present. And he does so cleverly, with an incorruptible daring and an obvious desire for renewal. His art is mixed and multifaceted, is nourished by a mixture of formats and contexts, and plays with sampling as a type of juxtaposition and association of pre-existing realities. This versatility is the trademark of both these productions and his attitude to life. That is why he does not hesitate to advertise his wine company in a video in which he and a partner appear buried up to the waist in the soil, with their head and arms exposed, like stumps that his dog is not sure how to deal with.
Animals are an essential part of Sergio Caballero's imagination and key features in his artistic vocabulary, whether they are painted, stuffed as sculptures, photographed or filmed. Dogs on wheels, pigs who are turned into make into viewers of mystic performances with the passing of the years, and now dressed-up monkeys and a horse called Napoleon who enjoys painting.
The works presented in this exhibition, “Abstraction in the stable,” are the result of an unusual artistic interaction, between the person and the animal, creating together. They are part of an incipient tradition in art history, which includes the snails of Brazil's Rivane Neuenschwander, which create imaginary maps by eating the tissue paper that makes up the medium, or the school of painting elephants in Thailand, trained by the Russian artists Komar and Melamid. Napoleon and Caballero have also shared the excitement of an experiment together, the magic of an experience undergone in synchronicity.
Sergio brings the idea, the basic medium and the materials – brushes, colours…. Napoleon is responsible for the automatic writing, the visceral strokes. The canvas that Caballero gives him has previously been printed with photos of the city of Porto by night taken from a hotel. On these, Caballero has added the photos of the dressed up monkeys that delight tourists on the streets of St. Petersburg. This area, coded iconically, will be modified and magnified by Napoleon's brushstrokes, which will be added as Caballero organises the ceremony to give the frame a few turns. The result is striking works, including a diptych in which the spectacular symmetry of the images stabds in contrast to the random shiny rhythms of the brushstrokes.
The entire project is the result of an ironic “détournement,” which gives new meanings to the chosen field of reference: that of paint-painting and specifically, the exaggerated individualism of American abstract expressionism. Here the canvas is not the virgin medium in which dripping or violent strokes are expanded as an ejaculation of the unconscious, and the rush is not a direct extension of the artist's tormented ego. But the formal result is practically comparable, especially in the more abstract canvases.
Caballero shows how the humanisation of the animal – by means of clothing, or art - runs parallel to the future - an animal that prefigured Deleuze and Guattari for human beings. And in witness of this energetic ritual of exchange, he brings us paintings that are a delight to the eye and to the intelligence.
Barcelona, May 2011