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Sergio Vega

Galerie Karsten Greve Paris

When Clouds Enter the Forest & The Art of Motorcycle Manintenance
October 10, 2015 - January 2, 2016
Opening: Saturday, October 17, 2015, 6 - 8 pm
in presence of the artist
Text written by Sergio Vega
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Sergio Vega presents the latest of a series of excerpts from "Paradise in the New World", the ongoing project the artist started in the mid nineties in search for Antonio de Leon Pinelo's presumed site of the Garden of Eden in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil. The exhibit titled "When clouds came into the forest and the art of motorcycle maintenance" explores the contingencies of the photographic act and the resulting photographic image as processes grounded on specific philosophical approaches to the world. As indicated by its title, the exhibit makes reference to the popular philosophical fiction tale by Robert Pirsig "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: an inquiry into values".
The series "When clouds came into the forest" refers to the Gestalt's aesthetics of contemplation, constructs like the sublime, and Zen's approach of being in the moment by experiencing the world anew in the present instant. The photographs taken all in one afternoon depict the Amazonian forest from within, engulfed by passing clouds. The resulting contrasted photographic images resemble scroll ink paintings. The random organic formations of branches and leaves become expressive lines and spontaneous brushstrokes while hinting into surrealist aesthetics and romanticism.
The "paired photographs" series represents the "art of motorcycle maintenance" part of the show. These compositions bind two images together in an attempt to cast Plato's terms of dialectics in visual form. These binary displays do not always attempt to arrive at a Hegelian "third term" synthesis or resolution of dichotomy; but they also entertain duality and its ambiguous nature as a way to understand the world. The “paired photographs” in the exhibition set oppositional, equivalent, similar, contiguous, sequential, and oddly dissonant duos to propose a dialogue amongst images that interrogates the manners in which images can derive significance in relation to one another.
In the book "The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" the refusal, negation or destruction of the system does not appear as a truly viable option. If the motorcycle does not work it must be fixed; furthermore, it should be regularly maintained. At the core of Vega's apparently random pairing of images is the inquiry into the mechanisms by which photographic images render the world intelligible. If the role of photography is to describe the world in its mechanisms and functions, to render it transparent: how can this transparency be placed in the service of pragmatism? How can knowledge lead to action?
The composition titled "see-through" presents a disruption in the figure-ground relationship to inquire into how from fragmented views the forms in question (hanging clothes, a rooster and a dog not seen in their entirety) are nonetheless completed by the mind. Would this operation be a function of Platos’ theory of Ideal Forms at work?
The sequential pairing titled "Coffee and pools", addresses the idiom of advertising and its methods of display. Pedestrians, commuters and drivers being watched over by a large pair of eyes printed on a billboard imply the role of consumer culture as an entity of social control.
The composition titled "Plato's cave" depicts a television placed in a rough interior environment that resembles a cave, while the other image depicts the shadow of an antenna dish casted on a roughed exterior brick wall. The ubiquitous outreach of television culture into the most remote areas of the world and the desire to be part of that culture is allegorized by the giant shadow of the antenna, synonymous to the shadows casted on the wall of Plato's cave.
The composition titled "Balancing acts" displays objects in a patio at sunset. Among these objects there is a chair of modernist design that has its string lining falling apart. On the bottom image a Tuiuiu (the largest bird in Brazil), stands still partly submerged in water waiting for fish to appear. The fragile balance of the enormous bird and the stillness of the patio scene further resemble each other in the specific form and texture of the bird and chair's legs. This analogy between modernist design and natural forms informs the artist's thesis of "tropical modernism" as instances in which design becomes mimesis as it emulates nature.
The composition "bullets and logs", depicts a detail of a street sign featuring a jaguar resting on a branch to promote environmental consciousness that has ironically been used as target practice, disclosing a range of bullet holes. Below, the composition features an orderly pile of large tree logs resulting from illegal deforestation. Both actions: shooting bullets and cutting trees, reveal the irreverent disregard for the preservation of the environment in the local population.The two distinct series of works presented in the exhibition, propose a dichotomy between romanticism and rationalism that also the author of "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" felt the need to address. In order to improve the quality of life it becomes necessary to rely on intuition, sensorial engulfment and contemplation, but also to actively engage in understanding and fixing the world around us.

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