Luis Terán

Alberto Sendrós, Buenos Aires

By Sofía Dourron | April 17, 2014

We can imagine Luis Terán’s studio as a great building work, full of materials scattered all over the floor and with construction workers wearing hard hats swarming about.

Luis Terán

We can imagine him: a combination of master builder and crazy scientist, wearing a white lab coat and a small newspaper hat. A small imaginary window opening onto a universe in which references to historical sculpture movements (Arte Povera, Minimalist art, Concretism) and their poetics coexist with the most elementary techniques of homemade construction.

Terán’s works are something like the mise-en-scene of the aesthetic re-functionalizing of waste materials, whose past life as utilitarian materials remains latent in their artistic present. While the formal references to sculptors like Brancusi and Carl André are almost unavoidable, what repeatedly vibrates in each of the pieces are the processes of alteration and transformation to which Terán has subjected the materials. Processes of transformation which have taken place in the privacy of his studio with the greatest of his affections: the setting of gesso on plastic containers to transform them into slender and whitish sculptures; the cutting and careful polishing of glass bottles to obtain soft, minimalist circumferences; the assemblage of iron fragments that sound like church bells. Analogous to a millenary ritual assimilated to a primitive vessel, the process of transformation has become an immanent attribute of Terán’s works.

I walked for a long time among the thistles, annoyed, not knowing that I was transporting seeds. Thistle seeds, is a huge mobile made from fragments of weathered wood, with stars featured with rusty nails embedded in its extremes. A kind of rickety tree, loaded with air plants (Tillandsias), or in its more extreme version, a colossal truncheon used in mediaeval torments. Be that as it may, the ensemble acknowledges contradiction as ontological condition: in the same way that thistles and their beautiful violet flowers are as charming as they are annoying, Terán’s large mobile hangs over our heads, poetic and threatening. The work on the catalogue cover operates under the same principle. Viewers find The mask that makes me invulnerable has the face of death, a mash of welded nails which supposedly protects the bearer, brutal. Despite the delicate austerity of the pieces, danger is impending near the edges: nails and glass fragments lie in wait of some careless movement.

The weight of the concrete block that is the centerpiece of the show sinks hopelessly into the whiteness of the gallery walls, dragging the rest of the works with it and tingeing them with narrative ambiguity by means of a doubtful but undeniable If, a trace on the fresh concrete. In the irregular progress of the narrative, something persists and refuses to retreat: transformation as aesthetic ritual and the transformation of material signs; transformation of thistles into nails and of nails into thistles.