Past Tense

Juan Nazar 

Architects build buildings. Juan Nazar, architect-artist, builds ruins. Isn’t this a paradox of sorts? Could it be that he’s running ahead of time, doing its silent work in advance? In Nazar’s artistic proposal, the ruin is a source of inspiration, a constructive material and an exhibited object, simultaneously. This translates into a formal language that, apparently, privileges fragment over totality. His compositions have a multiple character, in the form of collages, both two- and three-dimensional. But despite their diversity, they seem to be associated to each other through subtle kinship relationships. There is a certain persistence in the motifs: indirect references to classical architecture (plinths, columns, capitals), coatings (marble, stone), complemented with subtle material translations between different means of representation, are some of the formal resources that characterize his work. 

Certainly, the aesthetics of fragments and objet trouvé constitute a dominant trend in contemporary artistic production, but Nazar manages to articulate his own distinctive language through the resources described above. His work is not only that of a collector who re-arranges what he finds in decontextualized and unforeseen relationships, but rather that of an archaeologist-builder who gives these finds the mark of a certain will to form. In this sense, his proposal evokes the motives of 19th-century German romanticism, in which the concept of ruin had a significance that transcended the mere documental character. Caspar David Friedrich and Karl Schinkel “built” fictitious ruins in their paintings, making them into not a reliable record of reality, but a narrative construct that sought to represent time as a symbolic and existential dimension. In the ruin, time becomes tangible matter, acquiring a body and a face. Isn’t this what in essence Nazar’s artistic proposal seeks to express?

The title chosen for the present exhibition, Past Tense, is an indication that seems to verify this hypothesis. The works on display are in turn unfinished, dynamic, developing processes, which also speak to us of the presence of time as a variable that underpins the artist’s formal language. A lightweight wooden container exhibits a series of apparently unrelated elements: some plates of something similar to marble, a bucket, a wheel. Seen as a finished work, it doesn’t make much sense. But isn’t this perhaps the preliminary collection of materials and instruments necessary for the construction of a future work of architecture? There is here a sense of temporal anticipation, which demands a change of perspective from the observer. A series of drawings reveals the same fascination for unfinished, in-process elements. Preparatory studies for a sculpture, fragments of an incomplete body? The reference to the body is reinforced with the inclusion of photographs of the artist himself, providing an autobiographical feature to the whole. They are, perhaps, indications of a search for personal identity, through a mosaic of fragmentary references.   Ultimately, Nazar’s work leads us to think that fragments and ruins are not necessarily a final state, but also a form of origin, a beginning. In the artist’s hands, they simultaneously become echoes of the past and memories of the future.

Juan Almarza Anwandter

Foto : Pablo Hassmann

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