ESP

I recently read Robert Venturi, the architect, and in the midst of his reflections I came across a
definition of art. He says that he recognizes art in the design of a city or in a building because of
the validity of the questions it poses and the liveliness of meaning. This strong maxim serves for
a writing about failure, an exhibition that before all else raises a valid question, a question
about a feeling that is part of the painful sentimental education to which we have been
subjected and the naive belief that Man is a hero who must master chaos.
Similar to Venturi, the exhibition raises a valid question and a very lively relationship with
meaning since it explores different examples of possible failures. Crucially, the stories show that
this is a debatable concept: Raymond Poulidor came in second eight times in the Tour de
France, Robert Falcon Scott had a "second" adventure to the South Pole, and Peter Buckley was

the eternal loser in boxing. Of the many who have died in the attempt, Kevin Mancera choses
two "high flyers": Amelia Earhart and Adelir de Carli, the latter of whom was lost in a flying
apparatus that used helium balloons. Examples of eternal tenacity include William Miller and
his predictions about the second coming of Christ and that of Lope de Aguirre and his endless
misery. A great show of tenacity that comes from an overwhelming desire, and which we
should imitate, is seen in Florence Foster Jenkins who, in spite of her discordant voice and the
ridicule it brought her, dedicated her life to singing. I recall the seemingly terrible failure of
Manuel Quintin Lame and his struggle to return the land to the Indians. I couldn’t forget the
story of the poor rich girl, Christina Onassis, and the presidential candidates of Colombia, such
as Gabriel Arturo Goyeneche and his exotic projects. I find examples of failures that are such
according to perspective, like Franz Kafka, who despite his doubts about the relevance of his
writings, became, both himself and his work, a success.

The exhibition is in itself a motive for drawing, but Mancera is concerned with structuring this
skill within a plan, a theme, and also inscribing it within an encyclopedic interest. The company
of Diderot and D'alambert in the eighteenth century seems necessary today in the sense of
'liberating' words from their conventional meanings and looking for other definitions. For the
exhibition, Mancera relies on portraits from an encyclopedia, a newspaper or the net, drawn
with pen or pencil. The exhibition reminds me of the portraits of German artist Gerhard Richter.
I refer to his paintings of characters with unknown names, that (if one takes the trouble to find
out) represent Nobel Prizewinners in chemistry, economics and physics, names of unknown
researchers whose discoveries have been fundamental to everyday life. It also reminds me of
the portraits of a bearded Juan Mejia, the Colombian artist; a line up of drawings of characters
apparently chosen only for their beard, and in the midst of the better known names such as
Freud or Marx, writers unknown to many such as Georges Perec and Raúl Gómez Jattin are
found.

Why has drawing become so effective after the rule of photography and video? I don’t know. I
would venture to say that it is valid according to the subject. Perhaps drawing for drawing’s

sake still instills in me a bit of laziness, with all due respect to draughtsmen; it stimulates
astonishment at the skill, which to me does not seem enough alone for art. The theme of failure
treated in drawing is another thing: it records an educational absurdity that we have suffered
and that we have to discuss. It takes us back in order to revisit and emphasize - with little lines -
the desires of others who possess only the meaning or the nonsense of their own desires.

While this exhibition seeks to influence the definitions we have for things and to free them, it
also presents a contemporary dilemma between image and text and their coexistence or
struggle. In this exhibition, portraits and written histories are inseparable and coexist on the
wall without any importance being given to one or the other. The image returns us to
schoolbooks, to encyclopedias, to the newspaper, to the gesture, to the place of origin of the
portrait, to sharpness, to the detail of a dress and the details of things, to textures and distant
planes. The texts lead us to the horror of school with its castration of ideas, a world of
diagnostics, ambiguities, social and collective psychology. To the world of the paradox between
result and process, between desire and paralysis, between order and chaos. The text takes us
to our own world. That's why I like exhibitions that end up in me and not in the gallery. These
exhibitions leave me thinking about my problems or those of others; they are not only a
reflection on form. Upon leaving this exhibition, I keep thinking about failure; I cannot define it,
but what a delight it is to send the need for success on vacation!

Natalia Gutiérrez, ArtNexus.

< back

aaaa