In her solo show at MARSO, Empujo Puertas que Debería Jalar, Jalo Puertas que Debería Empujar [I Push Doors I Should Pull, I Pull Doors I Should Push], Mexican artist Daniela Libertad presents her latest works of sculptures, drawings, videos, objects, and photography. Libertad’s practice has been characterized by her explorations of space and material through relations, rituals, and repetitions. In her exhibition, every piece is anchored in these investigations with an almost imperceptible flow. The works establish a strong yet veiled connection between the association and transformation of their essence and functions, while underlining the limits and tensions of bodies and language.
Diagrama [Diagram] (2015), a series of twelve drawings, sets this initial dialogue around the placement of space with the exhibition’s recurring elements of monochromatic dimensions, perspectives and shadows in search of interconnected paths, and the brief and everyday, which are given importance. Made with graphite on paper, Libertad’s drawings evoke constructive geometries within a devoted process. The intensity of lines varies as the artist generates a deck of spatial possibilities. Whereas this universe seems calculated, firm, and steady, two adjacent photographs stand as counterweight, portraying natural elements in ephemeral circumstances. As its title remarks,Rama, Sombra [Branch, Shadow] (2015) captures a curvy tree branch that is balanced on the ground. Thanks to the branch’s arched position, the shadow projected against the pavement completes an oval. The photograph emphasizes the dichotomy between the present and the missing—an ambiguous feeling that lingers throughout the show.
Through the obsessive repetition of patterns and structures, Libertad confronts negative and positive space in a series of 196 drawings, Formas y Espacio [Shapes and Space] (2015). Pinned directly onto the gallery walls, the drawings are organized into pairs; contour line drawings of geometric compositions are paired with their counterparts, which reproduce the same shapes but with spaces filled in. The graphite is applied with such strength and intensity that it turns the paper into a thick, reflective surface. These layers bring a new focus on materiality by giving them volume.
This drawing practice translates into objects and sculptures as well. Bolsa-Concreto 2 [Bag-Concrete 2] (2015) is an accurate example of this transformation. An otherwise disposable plastic bag is turned into a concrete container. Its flexibility allows it to adopt an unlikely shape for cement. It becomes thin and curved, rising and bending like a thick and heavy line drawn in space—an ongoing action, a demanding process that takes time and parsimony.
Das Licht – La Luz [The Light] (2015) proves that video art is one of Libertad’s most accomplished areas. Despite its lack of images, the video enlightens the implicit tension of her artistic processes, reflected in the body of works presented in this exhibition. In the video, the artist recites a poem in German. She cannot be seen, as the frames show only a black background with Spanish subtitles. The poem is not meant for viewers to watch, and yet we still have to stare into the screen if we want to understand it. Language occurs in time and also in the space of the screen. The German language may draw us away, while the Spanish brings us closer to its poetic meaning. In the video, Libertad narrates a telekinetic episode, in which she, as a little girl dreaming, could feel objects just by staring at them. This sensation can be transposed to the way spectators relate to her works.
The second featured video, Ensayo Sobre Circunferencia 4 [Essay on Circumference 4] (2014), is silent. The camera remains still. On the screen, a magnified thread appears, and a pair of hands try to tie multiple knots with it. While doing so, different shapes of circles and moving lines are created. These fleeting thread sculptures highlight the small, poetic gestures of our everyday life, to which Libertad calls attention.
As a whole, the exhibition suggests a quiet experience, in which the spectator’s gaze masters and embodies drawings and plain spaces. The soft allusions of the pieces open a form of recognition, and simultaneously build a feeling of alienation. Everything is so close, yet so far. It speaks about us and about nothing except the very own existence of objects.
In our daily lives, we are constantly pushing doors that should be pulled and pulling doors that should be pushed. We may or may not notice how often we do it, but we continue to traverse through those doors, either to stay in or go out, in the same way that Daniela Libertad explores shapes, materials, and meaning in her artwork. Her production is an open invitation to repair the small details and to repeat actions consciously, to embrace rituals, to question the same shapes and spaces as many times as needed, and to subvert learnt behaviors, like pushing and pulling.
Daniela Libertad: Empujo Puertas que Debería Jalar, Jalo Puertas que Debería Empujar is on view at MARSO in Mexico City through January 30, 2016.