Josée Bienvenu is pleased to present Lines of Flight, Darío Escobar’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. Since the 1990s, Escobar's work explores concepts of cultural and historical hybridity. His multifaceted sculptural approach reexamines Western art history from a Guatemalan perspective and registers the effects of the global economy on the culture of Central America. His work is characterized by the use of materials charged with historic and symbolic meaning, articulated in a language that references minimalism as well as pop art.
Through the conjunction of three new bodies of work, the exhibition manifests Escobar’s interest in the circulation of ideas and objects from a culture to another, from an era to another and from a medium to another. Upon entering the space, multilayered compositions unfold onto the wall: shaped paintings or painted sculptures? The eye, in constant flow, negotiates multiple lines of flights and vanishing points.
Throughout the floor, geometric structures made of heavy lumber beams set on clear Coca-Cola bottles perform a precarious levitation act and initiate a poetic and humorous conversation, rather than a reflection, on 1960s Minimalism. In fact, more than its relation to the Latin American tradition of geometric abstraction, spirituality is the connection between U.S. Minimalism and Guatemalan culture that Escobar is interested in exploring. “Guatemala is an extremely religious country with a distinct solemnity in its custom and its way of relating to nature and the universe; this strengthens a bond with spirituality, a fundamental ingredient in the ideas of Judd and Andre, above all when they speak of the concept of reducing the form to its essence.” 1
Escobar delves into the continuity of sculptural subjects and models that have millenary histories of representation, a way to think of history not in a linear but in a circular way, where everything is continually beginning. Over the past years, Escobar has developed new bodies of works on paper by examining pre-Hispanic mediums. Maya blue is made with indigo leaf and heated tree resin, the artist knew its components but was only able to recreate the exact dosage recently with the collaboration of a chemist. Escobar paints it on Amate, a brown bark paper originally used in shamanic rituals and banned by Europeans after contact. The red compositions are made of cinnabar, a mineral pigment used in royal burial chambers during the peak of Maya civilization. The works follow the structure of his earlier motor oil compositions: multi-paneled abstract paintings in wooden frames that replicate a found 1940s Le Corbusier design, but made with local materials. From the motor oil series as a commentary on the mid-century failed utopia of progress in Central America, to the recreation of ancient pigments and materials, Escobar uses abstraction as a ritual exercise to revisit the past.
Born in Guatemala City in 1971, he lives and works in Guatemala City and Mexico City. His work has been exhibited extensively internationally at biennials, museums and galleries. His second monograph Dario Escobar: The Life of the Object was published in 2017 and his largest public commission to date was inaugurated at the Atlanta Falcons Mercedes Benz Stadium. His work will be on view in the upcoming exhibitions Play Ball: Baseball at the Detroit Institute of Arts, MI, The World’s Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art at Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL and at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C. Recent exhibitions include: Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, CA (2017); Centro Cultural Sao Paulo, BR; Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, AR; Neuberger Museum, Purchase College, NY; Nasher Museum, Duke University, Durham, NC (2015); LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; Museo Jumex, Mexico, D.F.; Bass Museum, Miami, FL; Museu de Arte do Rio, BR (2014); California-Pacific Triennial, OCMA Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA (2013); MoCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2011); 53rd Venice Biennale, Mundus Novus - Artiglierie dell’Arsenale, IT (2009). Collections include: Bass Museum, FL; Blanton Museum, TX; Centre Pompidou, Paris; CIFO, FL; Daros, CH; Harvard University, MA; Jumex, MX; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, GA; MoCA Los Angeles, CA; MFA Boston, MA; MFA Houston, TX, Perez Art Museum, FL; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; MAC Santiago, CL; Nasher Museum at Duke, NC; Pizzuti Collection, OH; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, ES.
1 Interview by Lara A.L. Wellen, “Incorrect Grammar: Conversations with Darío Escobar”, Darío Escobar: The Life of the Object, (Seattle, Lucia | Marquand, 2017), 154-155.