GALERÍA EL MUSEO
Germán Rubiano - ArtNexus
With the exhibit Debris (Lo que Queda) (Débris [What Remains]) at El Museo Gallery in Bogotá, Jaime Franco (Cali, 1963) ratifies that he is one of the most important Colombian artists of the last two decades. To paraphrase Robert Hughes comments on the notable U.S. painter Susan Rothenberg: at the age of forty six, Franco has survived the cultural gorge-and-puke of the early 80s, the manic starmaking, and the pressure on immature talent. Relying on his work ethic, discipline, intelligence, and sensibility, Franco has developed a coherent body of work that has slowly matured with paintings and drawings that do not merely showcase his virtuosity, but that are solidly grounded in the history of culture. Franco studied engineering at the University of the Andes, and science, photography, and fine arts in Paris, where he lived for many years. This does account for something.
To a certain extent, Debris (Lo que Queda) is a continuation of Franco's earlier obsessions with perspective studies and with the foreshortening of the figures by Paolo Uccelo, and also his own representations of illusory constructions, which he showed in a 2007 exhibit at El Museo. The French word debris ( remnants, ruins, vestiges) serves Franco to articulate a series of oils on canvas, encaustics and laminates on canvas and mixed techniques on paper, in which he represents disquieting variations inspired by two imaginary architectonical works: the temple depicted in Raphael's The Marriage of the Virgin (1504), and the Carceri d'Invenzione (Imaginary Prisons) prints that architect and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi began in 1745. From the invitation card that includes an excerpt from a text by Marguerite Yourcenar entitled "The Dark Brain of Piranesi" to the catalog containing an epigraph by the Eighteenth Century Italian himself, an article by Lucas Ospina, and a group of excellent reproductions, Franco introduces us to his artistic approach, which overtly underscores the métier of painting and drawing, nearly always adeptly intermingled.
Although the two architectures are complete opposites ( the first, a circular building that is an example of the best classical style, contains a series of arches on the first floor, eye-catching volutes at the base that is also adorned with windows; the second, a delirious and boundless construction full of singular ambiguities, numerous vaults, terraces, stairs, bridges, and objects that remind us of punishment: chains; thick ropes; wheels, etc. ) Franco's works display an amazing unity (and yet the majority never stop clearly referring to the lineal remnants of the two structures) for they have many things in common: all are prodigious images, completely uninhabited (Piranesi's prints have people in them), and rich in graphic elements with markedly vertical accents. The thin, firm traces in the oil paintings sometimes remind us of sheet music, but in other works, the lines underscore the silhouettes and even the volume of buildings. An exceptional painting entitled Babel renders everything in a less clear fashion. In it, long and open blue brushstrokes stand out from four horizontal and transparent white zones. The mixed-technique drawings based on Piranesi'ss Prisons deserve special mention: In some, the fine lines form clear weaves alluding to coherent architectures that are nevertheless imaginary. In other instances, the truly superimposed and deliberately disorganized traces render the prisons chaotic or make them appear as terrorizing nightmares, as occurs in the image entitled Desde el Subsuelo (From the Subsoil), four encaustics and laminates on canvas.
Germán Rubiano Caballero is an Associate professor at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas (Aestheic Investigations Institute) of the National University of Colombia. Founder and member of the Editorial Council of Art Nexus.