artist / participant
Jacobo Castellano. riflepistolacañon 08.02.2019 - 19.05.2019
The exhibition features works produced between 1999 and today
The title of this exhibition by Jacobo Castellano, riflepistolacañon (rifleguncannon), is taken from a drawing that visitors will see as soon as they enter the gallery space. Made by a child and found on the street by the artist years ago, the drawing displays an array of weapons as if it were a bellicose inventory. The phrase “riflepistolacañon” is written and pronounced as it would be by that child, ignoring the rigour of grammar and as if it were spat out. Much of Jacobo Castellano’s work originates from the memory of a childhood full of abject, fragmentary images. These images that appear repeatedly throughout his work are hidden to a greater or lesser extent and have contributed to shaping one of the most unique bodies of sculptural work in our country over the past twenty years of his career.
Co-produced with the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Andalusian Centre of Contemporary Art) in Seville, where it was on show last summer, riflepistolacañon reveals with remarkable clarity the shift in Jacobo Castellano’s sculpture from his initial attempts immediately after completing his studies at the University of Granada until today, based on the overcoming of a practice based on remnants and waste. As he came to discard the precarious fragments of belongings and architectures that he once used or experienced and would assemble in fragile and complex combinations, the most recognisable identifying feature of his work today became predominant. This is the extraordinary intuition he possesses when he decontextualises objects with a history of their own and the manner in which these are interwoven in a hard, sturdy matter that is almost always wood, a matter that evokes the artist’s own body. This endeavour has become defined in recent years and creates tension between two opposing practices, that of treating wood and that of finding objects. Although Jacobo Castellano is by now tired of the phrase “found object”, so overused in our artistic field, because he claims to resolutely seek what he ultimately finds, and what he seeks has to do with the will to reconnect with fleeting memory.
riflepistolacañon features works produced between the early 2000s and today. It is retrospective in nature, but this does not mean that it uses chronological procedures. On the contrary, it has been designed as a flexible, pliable reading of his work and its route has been structured around a central piece in the gallery space, a revolving window, a work produced specifically for Artium. Works appear towards and from this space that are linked more by conceptual, narrative or formal associations, aiming to merge these in a common mood. Two works are located at the aforementioned extremes. At one end, Casa I (House I), which was presented in a section entitled “16 Proyectos de Arte Español” (16 Spanish Art Projects) curated by María de Corral at the 2006 edition of ARCO, and at the other end, the work Sin título (Proyector con olivo) (Untitled: Projector with Olive Tree) from 2018, a large projector from the cinema that was run by the artist’s grandfather in the village of Villargordo in Jaén, where the family used to spend its summers. Casa I transfers fragments from that summer house, alongside photographs and belongings, to a light, shaky structure, although part of it comprises doors or parts of architectural structures. The piece is connected to a moment in the artist’s career in which memory was perceived as a fragile accumulation of images and forms. Photographs that are not exactly characterised by the sharpness or clarity of the things they represent also belong to that same era, as if everything were wrapped in a glassy membrane that would lead to total confusion. When it was assembled in Seville, Casa I had a slightly different layout than when it had been installed in Madrid many years earlier, as if everything in one’s memory was exposed to an inevitable expiry date, or at least to ever-changing contingencies and interpretations.
Sin título (Proyector con olivo) is a piece that is diametrically opposite in nature, in which the projector of his grandfather’s cinema is joined to a large trunk of an olive tree also found in Villargordo. There is something animalistic or catlike in the structure of the olive tree that contrasts with the staticity of the projector, an almost ancestral object that provided images to the inhabitants of the village in the scorching summers of Jaén. Memory continues to the main subject in Jacobo Castellano’s work, but today it is perceived as a clear substratum that shapes narratives of a very diverse nature after having overcome the imprecision of that time.
Between these two pieces that are distant from each other in time and form, Jacobo Castellano’s work has returned to motifs belonging to his personal memory, such as his allergy to lactose that conditioned his childhood, or memory of a collective nature, such as the dark rituals of the Holy Week in Andalusia. He frequently returns to Spanish artistic tradition because it is abundant in, for example, Goyaesque echoes, as in those dismembered bodies falling into emptiness that are known as “peleles”. The exhibition includes two magnificent examples that contain as many joyful Goyaesque amusements as that of the gloomy Final Judgment that has been represented so often throughout the centuries.
riflepistolacañon delves into an eagerness to fix and retain the vernacular character of experience. At a time when research has become an essential method in artistic practices, Jacobo Castellano emphasises the perpetuation of one’s own experience and memory as iconographic. The inescapable presence of wood as a symbol of an ever-active self in recovering these motifs, as opposed to the myriad of contemporary works in which we hardly see a trace of the creator, places him at the forefront of the most important Spanish sculpture of our time.