Isolated: Beyond the Wall
By Kurt McVey
Just around the corner, barely a block away from Spanish artist Juan Miguel Palacios’ studio in Brooklyn, despite the sprawling, tourist-friendly warehouse canyons covered in colorful DIY street art and flourishing corporate-branded murals, a seemingly unremarkable quandary, scratched across the base of a subway entrance in plain black marker, somehow revealed itself. It read: Are you helping or are you hurting?
To a large degree, though by no means entirely, we’ve moved beyond the easy to digest Manichean ideologies that would separate the world into good and evil, black and white, man vs. woman, predator and prey. The post-modern landscape is a complex place and more than ever demands a greater, more sophisticated approach to the issues that occupy and influence our daily lives. Still, the binary nature of the above quote, presented as a simple interrogatory question seems more relevant and necessary than ever.
So, which is it? We all have a dark side. We all have the capacity to inflict pain on others. No one is perfect. To ignore our shadow is to ignore exactly that which makes us human. We must arrive at this realization if we are ever going to transcend our primitive nature, which seems to be calling to us louder than ever, despite our technological achievements. We must put the scared animal-the hoarder, the schemer, the liar, the abuser, the manipulator, the narcissist-to bed. This is no easy task. It requires a serious look in the mirror. For the most stubborn of us, the Ahab archetype, it calls for a jarring personal intervention of such profound pain and suffering that one is shocked and eventually compelled into changing course. For others, it is a slow, arduous burn towards a more empathetic existence. For too many, the void widens, the unquenchable hole deepens.
So what of those who remain isolated? What of those who are frozen in their pain, too frightened to look deeply within, to boldly face their shadow? What of those who build a wall around their trauma, that none may enter? What of the blissfully ignorant? What of the playground bully that never evolved, but somehow thrived, only to build a fortress, moat and all, around his toxic ideologies? What of the tribal patriarchs who look only to their cowering brood, reaching out for the basic necessities of life, and later, gross material gains-new and improved stuff-which too often comes at the expense of others?
Keep calm and carry on, they might say. Live your own life. Mind your business. Do your job. Turn the wheel. Look not behind the curtain, for there you may discover the charlatan, the emperor with no clothes, the cowering, crying child whose bottle was taken away too soon, or more likely, far too late. It’s these selfish objectivists that corner the young actress in the locked corner office, or in the Cannes hotel room. It’s these smiling hyenas that drop something nefarious in a cocktail. It’s the betas (wannabe alphas) that uplift and deify their false champion, imposing laws that make the lives of “the other” more dangerous and difficult. It’s they who cry out like fanatical sheep, “Build the wall!” This is, as the helpers know, a reflection of the hurters’ own personal, metaphysical wall, the shadow curtain that oppresses, insulates and suffocates their otherwise divine spirit; the invisible, impenetrable barrier that fuels a greater cognitive dissonance.
But Palacios’ new work is not only focused on the already-inflicted violent action of the hurters. His new, more richly textured, almost sculptural paintings, stand as an invitation to the potential helpers who can actually do something about it. In his “Set Me Free” series, which will be featured prominently in Isolated, a solo exhibition opening at Next Street Gallery in Paris on September 27th, 2018, art emerges once more as our greatest catalyst for human evolution. Palacios’ new work cries out: “Tear down that wall!”
This new, considerably more three-dimensional series of mixed-media works of clear vinyl peeking out rather literally behind thick, rough, ruptured, chalky, emotive drywall, is a mighty evolutionary leap past his already gorgeous yet haunting “Wounds,” which will also be featured in Isolated, and happily so, as they are an essential chapter in the artist’s forward thinking, almost empathic narrative.
In Wounded, Palacios’ solo exhibition that opened at Lazarides Gallery in London in late June, 2017, the artist prophesized perhaps the greatest cultural shift in the 21st century thus far, that being, the reckoning of women standing up to predatory men who were and still are protected by a system that enables the criminal abuse of power. If Wounded was a diagnosis of the forthcoming #MeToo movement, in that it poetically rendered the nature of trauma (and its place within economic and gender inequality) with a deft, sensitive, masculine hand, Isolated acknowledges the disparate yet shared metaphysical walls that bury and disable the potentially unbridled magic of women across the globe and the nebulous, toxic shroud that prohibits men from achieving a more heroic ideal.
To be clear, Palacios isn’t creating a one-dimensional narrative about the male savior; he’s simply asking the world, the Jungian anima more specifically, to make room for the animus, which has been suppressed for too long and might have the power to lead us closer towards a more perfect union in both a political and biological sense. Yes, he’s asking men, and urgently mind you, to hold themselves and others accountable, but also to make the personal transition from hurter to helper in order to set their fairer human brethren free from a lifetime, a century, a millennia, an eon of imprinted trauma.
Again, this is not the only narrative that exists between men and women. Shared power, mutual responsibility, trust, admiration and love, have taken both men, women and those that fall into a myriad of evolving and increasingly fluid gender roles (this make complete sense from a deeper evolutionary standpoint) into a place of greater peace and prosperity.
What of this increasing isolation, whether personal (micro) or political (macro)? What is technology doing to young people? Are we connected or disembodied? Suicide is up 30% in America (NPR/2017). How are we ok with the leader of the free world (Does the President of the U.S. even want, except, or deserve this title?) treating women like disposable objects? The woman who peeks out from behind Palacios’ crumbling (or forming) veil-is this not the First Lady (when is she put first?), so frequently rendered silent? Is it not the immigrant mother or the refugee, searching for a better life, crossing a tumultuous barrier, a violent, dangerous threshold, only to watch her child thrown into a cage, isolated and forever traumatized. Palacios’ beautiful avatar-a daughter, mother, sister, her eyes, those lips, that skin-this is the human being whose body keeps the score.