For years, I have been interested in the missing elements of a tale, of history, and thinking about what those left-out parts say about ourselves. This is prevalent on many of my works from the last 15 years (You could name almost any of them; What Happens in Halifax Stays in Halifax, Unspoken Dailies, Have You Ever Seen The Snow…). The hollow parts of a tale, I have learnt, are only visible when one puts tight attention to what surrounds them, to what defines them. The forms in this bi-dimensional works are defined by a set of instructions set in the hope to find the hollow parts of a narrative, the forms that define the missing parts.
The works in the Stray Series are made by pouring toner -a runny dust, composed of microscopic grains used normally to make photocopies. In them, a narrative emerges, as you see how the forms take shape as the material runs through the surface. One could say these are time-based works; time that in this case, runs from top to bottom. The works document the slightest changes in the environment where they are made, that provoked the particles to run one way or another. They are the negotiation between the gesture and the environment.
When I was a kid, I worked making photocopies, and I always had an attraction for that aesthetic that a Xerox copy provoked, which I have used in a number of works. These works were created after looking for a long time, precisely to photocopiers’ errors and mistakes, that are most of the times represented in lines formed by leaks of toner left out by the cartridges that are not working properly. The forms on these canvases emulate that, since the toner behaves in a similar way inside and outside the machine. These works seem to be enlarged photocopies that are pure mistakes, pure errors. They only reproduce the irreproducible; the accident.
Much can be said about both the history of the photocopier in art and the history of the gesture of pouring in art. Jackson Pollock smashed paint on a canvas in the 1950’s changing the way paint should be applied and which dramatically deviated the history of painting. Ten years later, with a whole different mindset, Robert Smithson poured glue or asphalt on nature which greatly digressed the symbolism of a material and its relationship to its context. On a similar note, the history of the photocopy in art is long. Since its inception in the 1960’s, the photocopier –yet another almost obsolete technology like film and slide projectors- was immediately adopted by several artists who first put objects on its glass to those who ended up making movies with it. Some of them were attracted by the cheapness and deadpan aesthetic, others by the reproducibility and made a point to allow the machine to define their work.
I recently conceived a piece in homage to Alighiero Boetti, who I have largely researched and who precisely did several works in a photocopier. He used the machine in different moments throughout his career; once to photocopy all media (newspapers and magazines he bought) and others in a more conceptual way, like photocopying the rain. As part of the show Take Me I am Yours, I proposed to have a photocopy machine available for people to copy whatever they could find, as long as they used red paper, as it was the color that Boetti used to bind the books he made of photocopy collections.
As one engages with the Stray Series, it’s not difficult to think of other monochromatic approaches to a canvas, like Martin Barré or Lee Ufan, who have arrived to some of the most concrete and elemental gestures, which make us think back about humans and their relationship to materials. In the Stray Series, there is no explicit plot, there is no precise linearity, but there are actions that generate a stray and uncertain narrative. This, for me, is the intrigue which has provoked me to look through history for years. This has led me to arrive at this series, which brings all stories and narratives that I have been looking for far away from me, in history, in far flung places. With this, I found those leaks, and those accidents in me, in my studio.
Mario Garcia Torres