AUG. 2018, photos by Simon DesRochers text by Melanie Furtado
Javier Marín is a Mexican artist with a distinguished career spanning over 30 years and including more than 90 international solo exhibitions. His monumental sculptures impress human vitality upon the viewer with their command of expressive anatomy and gestural mark-making. His forms champion the power of the creative process, purposefully leaving visible evidence of the materials and stages of construction as a integral element in the final sculpture. His current retrospective exhibition curated by Christian Barragán runs from June 21- Sept 9 at MUDEC in Milan, Italy. We had a chance to receive a special preview of the exhibition and speak with Javier Marín on the opening day. Conversation between Javier Marín and Melanie Furtado, with language interpretation by Edouardo Mier y Terán.
Melanie: It’s a pleasure to be here at your exhibition CORPUS currently showing in Milan. How did you and curator Christian Barragán arrive at the idea of having this retrospective at Mudec?
Javier: This exhibition is based on a larger exhibition that took place in 2015 in two museums in Mexico City that spanned 30 years of my work. From that exhibition, Christian Barragán and I did a selection of pieces to bring a smaller exhibition over to Milan.
The content of the exhibition changed a little bit because we included new pieces that were not shown previously. The series of sliced works and another series in the last room of the exhibition called Reflections, which is a series of sculptures that are reflecting themselves.
Melanie: A common theme in your work is the representation of the human figure - what was it that originally drew you to the subject matter of the human body?
Javier: I always worked with the human figure naturally; it was my natural impulse. But after several years of working with it I realized that the human figure is a very good way of getting in touch with people. People can very easily grab the ideas through the human body as a language. And it’s not only that I want people to look at my work, but it’s also that my work is not complete until there is a dialogue with the other, until the other one looks at it and has an opinion or has a personal experience.
Melanie: What would you wish for someone viewing your work to experience?
Javier: I would like the spectator to be touched by my work. I would like them to leave the show with a series of questions that they would think about even outside the show, that they would take these unsolved ideas with them. I believe that art is a vehicle to generate questions in people, and keep them in a position of questioning themselves.
Melanie: Can you tell us about how your ideas for your work first come to you?
Javier: It all comes from an idea or a feeling or something that comes to my mind. It can happen at any moment. And then a mechanism starts to try to make this idea become something physical. I start thinking of how I can technically find the solution to develop that idea into reality.
Melanie: How does the final scale of the work effect this process?
Javier: There are certain things in life that you have to say quietly like a secret, and there are certain things in life that you have to shout; speak loud. So the response to that depends on the idea, how big it should be said.
Melanie: Can you explain a bit more about how you go about creating a large-scale work?
Javier: It all varies. Every time the process can be different. Sometimes I start by modelling a maquette. Sometimes I start from paper and drawing sketches. So it varies very much – however the evidence of the process is always visible. For example, this piece [Cabeza Chico Grande, wood] is actually made by a robot in Val Gardena in Italy where there are experts in working wood. Since the 16th century they have carved wood, and now they have the best robots and the best methods of working wood. So in this work you can see evidence of the process - you see the slices of the different pieces of wood that were glued together, and then you see the lines of the robot that repeat from the original scanning. The scan is a sum of lines and the robot, the only thing that he does is it does the first line and the second and the third and the thousands of lines that it repeats to create the form.
Melanie: Do you feel that you have a different relationship with the work when a robot is interpreting the form versus having someone hand carving it?
Javier: The difference is that when a person is carving a piece there’s this whole feeling of life and his whole strength and energy, and in a robot it’s a much colder process. This way of working came about because I’m always investigating processes, and I wanted to increase a piece through an easier method than the traditional pantograph. So with one of my collaborators, we took a sculpture that I had modelled and made an easy light resin copy. We sliced it and then scanned the slices on a scanner from the office. We increased the document and printed it on a big piece of paper.
So these works are the real pieces of paper we used to do the sculpture.
That’s why you see the marks of the shoes and the burning of the paper while we were welding. We followed the external limit of the slice with a piece of metal to create the different slices. Inside there is a central mast for the sculpture, which is the guide to put each slice on the position it corresponds. So from these pieces of paper I realized that the line which emerges from the volume was very interesting in this conceptual way of looking at it. Volume is really always a line. I’m looking at you and I’m looking at lines. I’m not looking at volume unless I go around you. So I started working on that idea and that’s how I came to really slice my sculptures. And then I realized that the robot was doing exactly the same. So it all coincided. In one of the texts on the wall it says that I model the piece, the machine scanned it, a robot carved it, a craftsman refined the details and then it was sent back to me so that I could finish the idea. So one of the important topics is how the collaboration with other persons has become part of the language that is read on the finished work.
Melanie: In the context of this retrospective looking back over the last 30 years of your career, what are you the most proud of having accomplished?
Javier: What I think is most important is to look back and realize that even if I have had difficult times, I have stayed coherent and consistent in my work. I’m afraid the answer is a little bit cliché!
Melanie: Last question - are there any new projects on the horizon that you are excited to share with us?
Javier: There is a very nice show coming up in West Calientes in Mexico. It’s a city that has a very beautiful museum inside the railroad workshops where they used to build and repair trains. I’m also very excited about a recent architecture project. For my Foundation I designed a building in the middle of the jungle in Yucatan, which was built by my brother who is an architect. It’s been published in Architectural Digest in France, Spain, and soon also in Italy. So I’m happy for this and in the future I hope to be able to continue doing architectural projects. WM
Simon DesRochers began photographing the people in his village in the south of France when he was just a teenager. His images have been featured in the New York-based magazine Photo District News, National Geographic and Colors, and displayed in galleries in France, England, U.S. and Canada. He is currently based in Paris.view all articles from this author