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Gonzalo Lebrija, Unfolded

May 11, 2015 by Mary

View of the exhibition, courtesy of Galerie Laurent Godin 

Gonzalo Lebrija was born in Mexico City in 1972 and obtained a BFA in Science of Communication at the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) in 1998. He lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico. He co-founded and is the director of OPA – Oficina para Proyectos de Arte, an artist run exhibition space in Guadalajara.

In his work, Lebrija examines notions of time, freedom and play, and their relationship to power. From these investigations, actions and gestures arise and confer to his practice a performative dimension. The artist often appears in his own photographs and films, casting himself as a sort of antihero in situations tinged with existential humour.

Lebrija is fascinated by the poetics of flying. In 2001, he created Éxodo (Aeroplane Competition), a video about a paper plane contest that he organised at a law firm in Guadalajara. Thrown from the top floor of the building – the town’s highest –the paper planes are filmed in a still frame as they slowly fly down to the ground. In 2005, in the photo series titled Playing High, the paper planes are placed in lieu of the law texts in the hands of powerful corporate lawyers in a reenacted scene of Regents of the St Elizabeth Hospital of Haarlem (1641) by Frans Hals. The delicacy of the paper planes confronts the austere power of the regents, mocking the absurd rigidity of the law and its protagonists.

‘Estrella de la noche’ by Gonzalo Lebrija, courtesy of Galerie Laurent Godin

In the exhibition, the paper planes are no longer in motion but unfolded, flattened, and affixed into the space of the frame. Large geometrical and elegant minimal forms emerge from the folds of the paper. Formally, the drawing created by the lines and its shadows play with the materiality of the work, at the frontier between tangible and visible. In the same way that the “camera has the ability to record the invisible,” the paper holds the trace and the memory of the gesture. Underneath the geometry of the folds, the forms contain a more subversive rhetoric, their ascending pyramidal structure evoking that of symbols of power (flags, shields, organisation charts), while placing the drawings at the boundary between power and vulnerability.

In addition to works on paper, the exhibition gathers a new series realised on maple wood panels. Each panel is composed of several individually handmade pieces of wood that are assembled together and covered with gold leaves, duplicating in three dimensions the surface of the folds of the drawings. The lightness and subordination of the folded paper is challenged here by a complexly crafted piece. The paper planes become pagan icons emptied of their content, the panels reflecting light on a protean surface.

Lastly, Lebrija presents a new sculpture of a standing man in a suit with his right arm leaning on the wall, his head on his forearm, and his left hand in his pocket, titled Lamento. Since 2008, Lebrija has produced different variations of this figure, in both white painted ceramic and gold enamelled ceramic. This figure questions the lamentation of postmodern man who has no more God to address and no other choice than to turn his back to the world and lean on the surrounding architecture—in this context, the impersonal white cube of the gallery. For Unfolded, the sculpture has been made of silver, melted from objects gleaned in different flea markets in Mexico. A literal amalgam of materials belonging to the past and arbitrarily mixed with one another, this sculpture embodies the themes that run through Lebrija’s work: the passage of time, on the one hand, and the human condition, on the other.

March 14th – May 16th, 2015
Galerie Laurent Godin, 5 rue du Grenier St Lazare, 75003 Paris, France