The gregarious sense of sculpturing

Reflections on Jorge Pardo

/ 1 June, 2016

Among the most prominent of Cuban American visual artists actively working today, with a worldwide presence, Jorge Pardo (Havana, 1963) has succeeded in establishing a new ground for debating the boundaries of sculpture in contemporary art.

Within the larger context of 20th-century art, Jorge Pardo came of age in the United States by the 1980s, a critical moment for the visual arts in which modernism was giving space to post-modernism. It was a time in art in which everything that was created until then started to be re-observed, scrutinized and disputed. In a broader sense, Pardo’s approach did not fall far from some of the members of the Cuba-based Generation Volumen Uno (…). Like them, his idea of creation does not carry the direct line of his national origin, his Latin background or even his personal identity in the multicultural United States. Rather, Pardo is an American artist who has been interested in developing his own argument and aesthetic ideals, those that build upon a core notion of sculpture and ascribe it with new meaning and values.

Jorge Pardo’s idea of sculpture extends from a house, literally, to the traditional domestic objects that surround human life. The objects he creates are close to architecture and design per se; they are interesting mirrors that allow viewers to question and open the path to understanding the contemporary relation they have with those types of everyday objects and structures, taking into account their historical values.

Raised in a working-class family, Pardo left Cuba with them in 1969 and settled in Chicago. The first in his family to finish a college education (1984), Pardo attended the University of Illinois and finished a Bachelor in Fine Arts (1988) at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He was introduced and exposed to art at the Art Institute of Chicago and some other local institutions, while in Los Angeles he became conscious of the value of the local architecture he discovered throughout the city.

Interest in architecture was a way to resolve the damage and extenuation Jorge Pardo found in painting when he came of age in the 1980s. He envisioned himself as a sculptor drawn more into the sculptural space than in a referential sculptural system, and that led to increasing his attention towards architecture as a more definite manner of creation, as well as to viewing it in the form of architectural intervention.

Pardo challenged the art world when invited in 1993 to MoCA for a solo exhibition and his project became building a house as an exhibition space. The exhibit finally took place for five weeks in 1998 after the house was built, with partial museum financial support and funds raised by himself. Subsequently the house became his bachelor pad: he married, had a daughter and the family inhabited it. (…)

In Pardo’s projects the use of colors is paramount. He is an exceptional colorist who essentially draws with them through his lamps’ design. To a certain extent, Jorge Pardo takes after some of his Minimalist predecessors, among them Carl Andre and Dan Flavin, building upon his persona and opposing them through the use of intense color combinations, materials and the core of the social charge of his art, defined by the capacity of being useful. Without a doubt he follows their steps toward a more resolute and personal notion of contemporary art.

In 2012, during the 11th Havana Biennial, Pardo was invited to exhibit in Cuba for the first time, his first return to the island. He painted DADS CUBA, a multi-paneled oversized painting at the Wifredo Lam Center, by hand during the run of the biennial with the help of a computer routing machine.

The artwork was being created at the same time that the exhibition was running, so visitors could watch as each painting was made and hung on the wall. The artwork was a series of star-shaped wood panels with a color palette referencing the primal landscapes and hybrid iconography of Cuban born artist Wifredo Lam’s paintings. (…)

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