Error de imprenta
Juan José Cambre
14.11.19 | 14.02.20
Curated by Mercedes Claus, the show of works by Juan José Cambre (Ramos Mejía, 1948) at Vasari featured a selection of recent paintings on canvas and paper that further his research into color and superimposition. Straining methods and contingencies, the works draw on the artist’s relationship with graphics. Cambre reverses habitual ways of working: “Instead of a small matrix on which to test out the color mixes to then choose fragments, the matrix itself is rendered in large format on the canvas. Its fragments are possible and whimsical diversions of those mixes: misprints,” explains the curator.
Error de imprenta began in the gallery’s display window with Guía (Chart), a large-format painting that acted as an initial color chart, a sort of matrix from which Cambre later chose fragments in the works Detalles (Details) and Variaciones (Variations) on exhibit inside the gallery. To make the matrix, he alternated vertical strips of color. Between two initial tones is a third resulting from their layering. “Misprints happen when fragments present a variation in color not from that matrix,” Claus explains. Graphic procedures are brought to pictorial method by establishing a limited palate as starting point. “Sometimes the colors are isolated in monochromes, but the proportion is always fundamental, as are the spatial relationships between the planes. Cambre systemizes a way of painting. He constructs a method that expands, bends, and twists obsessively,” Claus goes on.
Notwithstanding, the rules are “flexible, capable of varying in response to a contingency.” The painting interacts with the context and can take in elements from other spheres or establish an interchange, “like something that unexpectedly meddles in the painter’s inner dialogue with his method, making it social, letting someone else in. For him, that means understanding error as the most apt choice; chance as inquiry into the deepest surface,” Claus goes on. The curator mentions as well the catalogue to a Cambre show at Arte Nuevo gallery in 1982. In it, two slender vertical strips—one light blue and one orange—lie on either side of the page, flanking the content. “It was by chance that those two strips appeared.” The decision to leave them in was not tied to the paintings the artist was making at the time, which were markedly expressionist and “laden with much more information than his austere current works.”
An avid reader, Cambre is versed in the printer’s craft. His connection to literature and to the book object runs through his work, though he alters “titles and visual references, and even quotations,” Claus goes on. That 1982 catalogue recounts the fable of the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion asks a frog to help it cross the river. “When the frog refuses for fear the scorpion will sting it, the scorpion responds that that makes no sense: if the scorpion hurt the frog they would both go under. So the frog agrees to help the scorpion across, but in the middle of the river it feels a sting.” When, with its dying breath, the frog asks for an explanation, its aggressor answers, “there is no reason when it comes to nature.” Claus argues that there is no “reason for those vertical strips in the Arte Nuevo catalogue either. What there is, rather, is insistence, return; nature which, as the scorpion says, knows no reason.” Or, if there is one, it contemplates and incorporates error and contingency beyond the dictates of commonsense.
Content produced by arteBA. Annual Report on contemporary Argentine art.