LUIS PABLO BEAUREGARD
A SHARED SECRET
I have always believed that one of the marvels of art is the cre- ative process the artist has gone through to convey what is right before our eyes. I don’t mean only the technical work that makes up a work of art but what begins with mere observation. For ex- ample, Auguste Rodin had a detailed ritual. The sculptor started with a sketch that then became a clay model. The Frenchman had learned to observe the finished piece inside the marble even be- fore one of his assistants first drove the chisel into the stone to reveal it. Thus, in the late 19th century, Rodin refined a method that helped him to translate the proportions of his plaster models to scale.
Rodin simply perfected the work of several centuries in which men have made stone speak. Much before Rodin began a suc- cessful career, leaving behind hundreds of sculptures, there was Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The ingenious Neapolitan hoisted himself onto the Parnassus of art history thanks to a combination of un- paralleled talent and a powerful group of patrons that included Italian pontiffs and aristocrats.
One of Bernini’s most famous pieces is the one he dedicated to his lover, Constanza Bonarelli. The bust, exposed in Florence, daz- zles whoever looks upon it because the artist managed to create movement with marble. The woman with the deep gaze seems to have been petrified a few instants before uttering a word. Through her half-open lips we see a tongue that might have been shap- ing a consonant. Apart from the supreme technique, this work is constantly quoted because its history goes beyond the annals of high culture and into the tabloids. Bernini had someone cut up Constanza’s face with a knife when he discovered she was having an affair with his brother.
I have taken a roundabout route mentioning only two of the men who have known how to discover shapes in monoliths. It is not my intention to compare PEÑALTA with Bernini or Rodin, but I remember my reaction the first time I saw his work in his studio in San Angel. Those great marble plaques generated in me similar reflections to those I’ve had when facing great sculptures.
I don’t know works that are similar to those of PEÑALTA. His stones are capable of abstraction because they make demands of the spectator in a world where we see but do not observe. You can end up defenseless when standing before them. The veining that runs across the length and breadth offers at the same time paths in which to lose yourself and answers to be found. This apparent contradiction is what renders his work so meaningful to new eyes.
PEÑALTA proposes an art that is playful and simple, at least superficially. I believe this represents a true breath of fresh air in times when we have more than enough bodies of work from art- ists of pretentious complexity and militant arrogance. You do not need artistic dogmas or fervent ideological contexts to appreciate his works. You just have to see and be patient. Then, suddenly, all is revealed before you.
I believe one of the qualities of PEÑALTA’S work is that it stimu- lates the creative mind, like all good art does. The figures the artist highlights manipulating the veining of the marble unleash a prickly sensation that invites our imagination to contribute to the work of art. Thus our eyes can guess at what the artist intended when he intervened upon the marble, but our head will continue searching for figures that are suggested or that are there just for us.
PEÑALTA’S monsters and figures are escaping for the first time from their San Angel cave. All that universe —two-dimensional and fantastic— will abandon the artist’s studio to be shown for the first time. Then the audience will be able to understand that words are not necessary. Only when standing before the stone can you understand that the promised sensory experience is, in- deed, a feast for the eyes. Confronted with this world and carefully observing it, you finally understand that the work on the stone does no longer belong only to the artist and it becomes part of us. It becomes a shared secret.