artist / participant
I will fear no evil presents works from the beginning of José Antonio Hernández-Díez's career in the late 1980s and early '90s—several of which have not been seen since they were first exhibited—in dialogue with a new project developed especially for the occasion.
Emerging on the international stage when the idea of contemporary art as a global language was being proposed, and the dominance of artists from Europe and the United States was being questioned, the work of Hernández-Díez (b. 1964, Caracas, Venezuela) has consistently rejected a signature style. During this period he participated in a number of landmark exhibitions including Aperto '93: Emergency/Emergenzia at the 45th Venice Biennale (1993), Beyond Borders, the 1st Gwangju Biennale (1995) and Cocido y crudo at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1994. His exhibitions have spanned photography, sculpture, video and drawing; metaphysics together with adolescent humour; high-end production as well as "poor" and unconventional materials. Furthermore, he has declined a straightforward contextualisation as a Latin-American voice, complicated by the fact that he relocated from Caracas to Barcelona in the late 1990s.
The present exhibition looks back to Hernández-Díez's first experimental works with video alongside early iconic screen- and vitrine-based pieces. Hernández-Díez's production from the late 1980s takes the form of monitor-based video-loop sculptures that evoke the notion of electronic moving pictures as haunted and magical phenomena. Drawing on sources such as literary horror and Romanticism (Annabel Lee, 1988), illusionism and special effects (Houdini, 1989), these brilliantly inventive works imagined video art as a form of electrified Gothic with privileged access beyond the rational world. They foreshadow many of the concerns that were inherited and extended by Hernández-Díez's first sculptural works from the 1990s—the relationship between superstition and orthodoxy, anatomy and technology, sacred symbolism, and the transgressive place held by children and animals in devotional consciousness.
I will fear no evil includes three works—San Guinefort (1991), El resplandor de la Santa Conjunción aleja a los demonios (1991) and Sagrado corazón activo (1991)—presented at the time of his landmark first monographic exhibition San Guinefort y otras devociones, held at Sala RG, Caracas, July–August 1991. The exhibition heralded what the artist termed a "new Christian iconography." This disquieting and seductive body of work deals with the application of communications and medical technology and its interlacing with systems of paranormal belief, most prominently Christian theology. Neither ironic nor profane, they are macabre works that hinge on death, consciousness, resurrection and the particularly baroque brand of Latin-American Catholicism.
In other works like La caja (1991) he addresses social injustice by referring to the gamines, children living rough in the streets of Caracas and Bogotá who are deprived of the most fundamental rights. Vas pa'l cielo y vas llorando (1992) refers to the velorio del angelito, a ritual for dead children performed in some rural cultures in Central and South America in which the deceased child becomes an object of adoration. La hermandad (1994) marks a turning point by setting aside earlier themes of an explicit gothic and religious nature. Still present, however, are some of the earlier conceptual concerns, such as an obsession with the thin and often violent line separating life from death.
Besides the undertaking of bringing these historical works back to life, I will fear no evil presents a new project by Hernández-Díez as a conceptual echo. This new series, "Filamentos" (2016), comprises an iconographic study of light bulb filaments, not only as an addendum to his earlier works' consideration of electrical revelation and visibility, but as a provocation to consider what is at stake in the sovereign metaphors of light itself.
Exhibition curated by Latitudes (Max Andrews & Mariana Cánepa Luna)