Martín Reyna (Buenos Aires, 1964) is one of the few artists of his generation to choose Paris as his permanent destination, along with Venezuela’s Pancho Quilici, Brazil’s Julio Villani, or Mexico’s Saul Kaminer. Indeed, while the French capital, fascinated with the Chinese and Russian openings, has set Latin American artists aside for almost 20 years (in the 1980s and 90s), a renewed interest in figures from the region seems to be on the rise. The fact that Reyna is a painter, and only a painter, did not make his arrival in Paris any easier, as the city’s art scene has not been fully open to the genre in recent decades, outside of figurative works. It is also true that galleries stepped up, opening in part the way to a vision of renewal.
Martín Reyna’s work displays a solid aesthetic continuity, inasmuch as three elements are always at the base of his pictorial and visual obsession: color, form, and chance (albeit the latter is often of a controlled kind). Indeed, within the lineage of tachisme in general and of Sam Francis in particular, for a long time it has been clear that space is part of Reyna’s reflection and that the fluidity, transparency, and vibration of color are the material resources to enliven the light that traverses and is reflected in it and make it vibrate. Neither static nor stereotypical, Reyna’s painting is movement and comes from movement. There is a precision in his gesture; whether he is working with soft flat colors, with discrete strokes, extended brush movements, or controlled drips, Reyna, who prepared his paper by soaking it beforehand, works with time. An unlimited time, as he must calculate how long it takes for color to be placed and advance (especially water-soluble materials, inks, watercolors, and acrylic inks) and measure the drying stage that conditions the next gesture. In this way, the artist invents his own spatial and pictorial “choreography” to create a moving, watery, floating, fluctuating universe illuminated by his own sensibility.
The experiment attempted by Reyna at the Maison de l’Amerique Latine, following a proposal by Virginie Boissière, poses a veritable challenge. This is the first large-scale on-site installation (35 square meters of walls, 4 meters tall) created in a gallery named “Asturias” that features sculpted decorations dating from the Eighteenth Century, which had to be covered. The title chosen by Reyna for his installation, Perspectiva asturiana, winks in complicity to Guatemalan writer Miguel Ángel Asturias, an allusion that will be confirmed by the performance presented in the space on October 17, with Albeniz’s Asturias composition as its background music. Reyna’s experiments with the encounter of water and color on paper have for several years moved him to work on ever larger formats, such as those we saw and admired in his most recent solo exhibition at Paris’ MGE gallery, in 2012.
In the square gallery provided by the Maison de l’Amerique Latine, the painter installed fifteen paper panels (3.70 meter tall by 1.50 meter wide) and painted them on site for 15 days; afterwards, the panels were placed one next to the other to cover the gallery walls in their entirety (except the ceiling), leaving an opening for visitors to enter and discover in that way the perspective and effect imagined by Reyna: they are immediately immersed in an aerial, fluid, light-weight environment in which color “notes” appear placed on lines to form the skeleton of a musical “score.” The repetitive regularity of the main motif, a visual scansion formed by the dripping line and the oblong blotch, accentuates even more the effect of the sound element. Filled-in and empty spaces are also regular, the transversal lines support color forms and gather towards the center of the wall. Unfolding from each side is an optical decrescendo where the lines-shapes meet to form a virtual angle.
When visitors turn their backs to the perspective, they discover a visual explosion not anticipated upon entry into the gallery. The sound metaphor reaches its paroxysm, as it would in a musical performance. The lines have disappeared and are now pigmented, disordered, potent patches that dominate and cover the surface of the paper. From the shapeless to the progressive construction, reaching its breaking point, the artist has been able to “submerge” us in a universe where, while for an instant we lose our points of reference, we are never overcome by sensations of anxiety or of being unmoored. On the contrary, the colored, rhythmic environment drives us to the unsuspected heights of a sensible and infinite landscape, giving us the fleeting experience of an alternate dimension, that of illusion.
In the gallery’s outer entrance, a video by Hassen Brahiti describes the stages in the creation of this work.