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May 25 - June 30, 2001 at Iturralde Gallery, West Holllywood

by Judith Christensen

Big, bold and bountiful. Javier Marín's sculptures are not all as massive as the resin-over-photo piece that spans 68 feet. Yet, even the smaller ones exude a sense of scale. By virtue of their sheer numbers, the grouping of sixteen resin and bronze figures-- each only two-and-a-half feet tall--dominates the space it inhabits. Likewise with the 42 resin blocks shown either as two nine-foot-tall stacks or, as in this exhibit, strewn randomly about the floor. An individual cube is only a bit over a foot in each dimension, but its scale is larger-than-life. Every one of the fragmented body parts--a pair of bulging eyes, a classically shaped nose, or a swelling abdomen--dwarfs that of the viewers'.

Marín, born in 1962 in Michoacán, Mexico, relies on Western European art traditions as well as his own cultural history. The sixteen resin and bronze figures, titled simply Little Man 1 or Little Woman 2, assume familiar poses. From a distance, they're reminiscent of Renaissance marbles. Some, such as Little Woman 7 display the grace and elegance we attribute to the classical nude. Then along comes Little Man 4. The open mouth, furrowed brow, and uplifted head recall the visage of the center figure in the Laocoön group. Marín's man is static, lacking the dynamic movement of the Laocoön figures. Frozen by indecisive inertia, Little Man 4 embodies all the confusion and doubt that characterizes contemporary society.

These figures may pose in stances borrowed from earlier eras, but their execution is wholly modern. Still visible are the cracks, holes, streaks and other evidence of the process of their construction. These rough-hewn surfaces, which recall the work of Manuel Neri, among others-- give the work a raw immediacy that contrasts sharply with its classical roots. It is this contrast that gives these figures their edge.

In the materials, as well, Marín fuses the old and the new. Cast first out of resin--cheap & new--Marín clads the figures' legs with bronze--precious & traditional. In some of his newer work, represented here by a reclining figure, Marín combines amaranth, another traditional medium--this one from a culture indigenous to Mexico--with the resin. The amaranth seed, high in protein, was used by Pre-Hispanics to make idols used in ceremonies. Like Marín's resin, the amaranth produced figures that looked heavy, but were comparatively light weight.

This blend of culture--contemporary and traditional, Western European and indigenous Mexican--is basic to Marín's work. Perhaps this is why Door Cubes, his fragmented body parts, carries such a punch. Viewers can move the 42 resin pieces, displayed at random on the floor, about, mixing and matching at will. But they don't fit together neatly, like pieces in a puzzle do. Even arranged in a body-like way, the figure remains fragmentary, incomplete, with one part out of scale with the next. And, although cubical, they're one-sided, making them more like a series of dimensional paintings than sculptures. No matter how you arrange them, each part remains disembodied. Perhaps, as citizens of a global civilization, we are becoming like Marín's Door Cubes--an admixture of disparate elements, some of which fuse together more harmoniously than others, some which remain disparate, some which loom large, some which, though small in scale, still form an essential link in our fragmented identity.

Puerta Cubos (Door
Cubes)," cast resin,
253 x 110 x 40 cm, 2000.

"Hombrecito #4," exhibition
view, cast resin, 2000.

"Mujercita #5," exhibition
view, cast resin, 2000.

"Cabezas de Mujer," polyester
resin and amaranth, 2000.