With a post-Surrealist/Arte Povera approach, artist Gabriel Rico’s latest body of work mines a range of materials, from taxidermy animals to neon shapes and found natural objects, that together create environments addressing the relationship between nature, architecture and the future ruins of civilization. Looking at the behaviors and survival techniques of animals, like the Golden pheasant, he creates settings that reveal complexities of the current human condition. The juxtaposition of diverse life forms infuse the objects with a humor and irony, re ective of the common struggle to attain equilibrium amidst the everyday challenges of life.
The title of the exhibition derives from the nal line of William Blake’s visionary text, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.1 “One law for the lion and the ox is oppression,” can be considered as the con nement of energy by the law of reason that in return would destroy energy, and therefore existence. Blake insists there is no single law, no moral absolute, by which man is governed, which brings into question whether animals reveal something about culture and what it means to be human?
Looking back to a time when man was believed to be the master of nature, Rico investigates historical technologies seen during the peak of the Age of Reason. He distills geometric shapes that correspond to this period when the applied life sciences began to rely on mathematics to quantize nature in order to understand, dominate, and ultimately attempt to conquer it.
Through works such as Venado, one can see Rico taking these failed romantic notions about man conquering nature to a playful, tragic, and poetic result. The familiar shape of the Modernist square is here composed of a ne balance of objects that reveal a deeper sense of intention: the projective geometry of neon, fragments of a taxidermy deer hoof, a handmade vintage knife (partially composed of deer bone), a brass angle, and two devalued Mexican coins. Together, they bring to light the question of whether Modernity missed the third world.
Playing with the ideas of balance, connection and uncertainty, Rico’s work also reveals a chance meeting of sculptural objects related to La Danza del Venado (The Deer Dance), a native Yaqui Dance from the northern Mexican state of Sonora, where dancers reenact a dramatic deer hunt to honor the natural world. The Deer Dance has no European in uence and has remained unchanged for centuries. The inherent ritual, primal, and spiritual qualities recall the cycle of life, in a way similar to how Blake’s poem recalls his perception of good and evil. Rico translates the diametrically opposed energies between the hunter and the deer, or the lion and the ox, into new forms that aspire to a harmonious relationship between humans and our natural environment.
Julio Cesar Morales
July 2017, Curator at the Arizona State University Art Museum