Jorge Du Bon
Jusidman, Yishai, Artforum International
MUSEO DE ARTE CONTEMPORANEO ALVAR Y CARMEN T. DE CARRILLO GIL
During the ’60s, the official party strove to portray Mexico as a land of promise (an image to which it has returned in the ’90s), and part of this effort consisted of promoting the work of a group of young, local artists who diluted American formalist sculpture intomellow geometrical abstractions as evidence of the (ever-impending) modernization of the country. Three decades later, most Mexicans no longer believe progress is imminent, yet those same artists continue to propagate their pastoral Minimalism, unwittingly confirming the government’s wishful delusions about modernity and, by the way, about Modernism.
Jorge Du Bon didn’t fall for the trappings of officialdom. He opted instead for a low-profile career during which he developed a personal brand of post-Minimal sculpture. While this was only his fourth one-person show (which traveled to the Museo de Monterrey and the Oaxaca Museum of Contemporary Art), Du Bon’s mature series of singularly carved wooden sculptures confirmed that he is one of very few artists of his generation to be entirely conversant with formalist principles.
Du Bon’s language derives from a purposely restrained field of action: his work does not appear to have been created so much as shaped. For nearly each of the 18 works on display, the artist methodically designed and made incisions in a segment of a tree trunk as if to make the geometrical volumes emerge from this process rather than radically altering the existing form. The artist, Du Bon suggests, is the earthly cousin of the Platonic demiurge–that not altogether omnipotent creator of worlds whose inventiveness is limited by the finite possibilities of matter; in turn, possible forms cannot emerge without the aid of the demiurge. Within this consistent yet nonrepetitious range of work, the pieces that remained tightly rooted to the chosen trunk were more forceful than the few in which the artist had indulged in the poetics of fanciful composition.
One of Du Bon’s most clear-headed pieces, Pieza 5, 1993, a barkless walnut trunk, lay flat on the ground. Working through four slim lateral slits, the artist deftly managed to extract a quadratic spine from one end of the trunk’s cylindrical mass. The operation, repeated on the spine, revealed the marrow within. The resulting correspondences among the three segments are evidently generated by way of the arbitrary decisions that led to the sculpture’s configuration, yet could not arise in isolation of the log’s own form. Du Bonavoids advocating either the preeminence of the artwork’s materiality or the artist’s virtuosity, rather, he sets up a sculptural harmony between them. Esthetic coherence, we are driven to note, is a function of the manipulation of the tensions between esthetic opposites. As a local saying points out: “You must have a couple to do the tango.” Of course, this particular tango readily translates into juicier metaphysical dichotomies for those who’d rather look for the spiritual in art.