Buenos Aires Herald Sunday, May 5, 2002
By Alina Tortosa
For the Herald
If ever an artist exemplified The dematerialization of art, proclaimed by Lucy Lippard in the book that answers to this title, first published in 1973, that artists is Jorge Macchi. From extremely concrete objects and paintings to the current show at Ruth Benzacar, his work has dematerialized in substance and perceptually into poetical renderings of musical and socio-anthropological interpretations.
I would say without doubt, Macchi is the Argentine contemporary artist par excellence, an artist at his best. He has worked quietly and coherently from his beginnings, looking into things and around, to create objects and situations that may relate to hypothetical situations, as yet unknown to him, as in the early paintings of the domes of cathedrals, or that subtly hint at what he has seen and experienced. He still seems unaffected by the respect and recognition he merits, under a deceptive simplicity that could pass for modesty. I would not trespass this simplicity, in the notion that he does not really know the import of what he has done. He does.
Fuegos de artificio, the name of the show, may be interpreted quite differently according to whether we translate it as “fire tricks” or as “fireworks”. Fire tricks -trick as ability, special skill, even as an act of magic- answers Macchi’s interpretation of the title. It implies the creative resources that allow the artist to discuss a given subject in such a manner as to mask or play around with the original preoccupation or information, moving away from literal meanings into irony and/or poetical nuances. It is a dematerialization –again- of literal meaning into sensitive perceptions that redefine a practical situation into a subtle rendering of it that the viewer may or may not grasp. But even when he or she do not grasp it, the work is there in aesthetic splendour to intrigue, delight, or reject. Fire works, of course, is the explosive instance in which a design is blown out into the air as a sort of celebration, to then disappear into a memory or into forgetfulness. So it would be safe, perhaps, to keep to the first meaning.
Intimidad (Intimacy), the first piece to the right, as one goes in, is a small multiple structure that hints –ironically- at minimal art without conforming. It is, rather, a quiet introspective icon that introduces us into the spirit of the exhibition.
If one should start on the left hand side, as one goes in, one may walk into the small video sitting room and look at Les feuilles mortes, the drawings in pencil on pages torn from a copy book. Drawings on lose copybook pages at Ruth Benzacar’s are, of course, an instant reminder of the work by Liliana Porter, but in Macchi the content and the intentions are totally different. The small punched out holes, the straight lines that look as if they had been dropped on the page and the white spaces create a rhythm, that go from lento to staccato.
These drawings, Macchi says, were seminal to Ornamento, the wallpaper covered in tiny flowers, those flowers that finally fall in a dark heap at the end of the panel. One wonders at the mental process that turned something quite complex into this deceptive simplicity.
In The speaker’s corner, he is weaving text and controversy, or the notions of text and controversy, into long strips of paper cuttings, stuck on the support with pins, on which inverted commas open and close on empty space. The speaker’s corner, by the way, is the spot in Marble Arch, in Hyde Park, London, where people may go on Sunday to discuss or make speeches about anything, however outrageous. This traditional weekly speaking out in public must have seemed originally hygienic to the Crown, a sort of vaccine against further evil. Macchi adds new meanings to this basic intention. This highly refined and elegant -adjectives that the author feels ill at ease with –contemporary and relatively precarious, if you will, tapestry is an essay on the intricate and subliminal paths of information and opinion.
Trained as an artist, Macchi eventually became involved with performance as well, both musical and theatrical. He cherishes this interrelated intervention that drives each participant to take into account the work of others. He does not feel this as a limitation, but as context and atmosphere that add to his own proposal. In La canción del final (The last song), the blurry names of the cast and technicians of a given film reel in front of our eyes as they do traditionally at the end of a film. The words that most people do not read, but that must be shown. More information that may not be duly processed by the reader or the viewer.
Music threads through the work, in the titles: Les feuilles mortes, Nocturne, Variations, in the video installation: La canción del final, in a score with music by Eric Satie on which the notes are written in pins, a wonderful piece. This show exemplifies how Macchi has been able to achieve one of the aims he set out for himself years go: to translate musical language into visual work.
In Horizon, in a detached twilit room, the author has drawn, by sticking pins on the wall,
a straight line at eye level. The title is descriptive, and yet, we may assume that the pins and the spaces in between, barely modified, may also have musical connotations: silence – sound – silence – sound. Macchi has been working with pins as media for a very long time. They design and redesign a specter of possibilities, visual and metaphysical, that have always been inherent in his work. And it is this mystic quality, impossibly to measure in terms of acknowledgement or success, that makes him a major artist.