The book "The dialogues of the curve" published for the solo exhibition in public spaces along the streets of Toledo, can be downloaded in full PDF version here
The following is an excerpt from this publication:
ART CRITIQUE "SPEAKING SILENCE" BY ANATXU ZABALBEASCOA
Austerity, abstraction, monochromatism, absence of ornamentation, impure geometry and effort. The organic component of Jorge Palacios's sculptures sets the roots of his work in the history of modern art and simultaneously breaks the minimalist precept that demands from essential and irreducible volumes an elementary geometry.
Palacios's work is irreducible and essential. But also contained, geometrically complex, singular. It is that concise form that confers specificity, character, humanity. It is not the sum of parts, but the reduction of an idea until it lacks parts, condensed, a single piece.
Jorge Palacios's sculpture is of eloquent gesture. In the singular: one only gesture per piece. And it is the result of a physical effort. An extreme subtraction that leads him to break machines until only the irreducible remains, the significant, the one that exists only if it's there. The formal simplicity is not equal to simplicity in experience. As Robert Morris pointed out, "unitary forms do not reduce relations, they put them in order".
History of art reveals cycles, usually in a consecutive way, of subtractive cultures, as opposed to cultures acting by addition, by the movements they add. Through different names, ideals and promises artistic movements swing between addition and subtraction, where satiation by an extreme unleashes the contrary. In this eternal cycle, cultures that add just alter what is added. The subtractive ones enhance what is assimilated and becomes rooted, what we learn to read as permanent.
Palacios is an artist out of his time. He seeks permanence, and today this means being on the fringe of the moment. Ideologically he belongs to a time where it was not considered that a sculpture could speak to disturb. Neither that a sculpture should disturb. His work speaks to the brain through touch and by the relation it establishes with space and time (the frozen moment of subtractive cultures). However, his sculptures also speak to us through the eye. They are touched by sight.
This visual touch is the result of several decisions. The first one is the choice of materials, alder wood, iroko, maple, belian wood, teak, ebony, seike, silver birch. However, it also reflects the effort Palacios puts into designing the foundations of each work. Like the painter who prepares the canvas' linen before starting to paint, this sculptor works the wood with gouges, rasping tools and sandpaper before releasing it for a life outdoors. Thus, he regains the ancestral relation between art and effort. Between hand and material. Beyond concepts, ideas or idealism. Or better still, on top of them.
Wood is a living matter. Even if someone tries to embalm it. In contemporary art, it is a seldom-used material for the outdoors. And thus is Palacios's first message: to take an interior outside, caring for public space as you would of your own home. Wood speaks in two dimensions, time and space. Since hard and soft woods exist, since they are alive and changing, wood is one of the sculptural materials that responds best to space and time in an equal manner. To the duration, the longevity of a sculpture. Wood worked unto resistance is the antithesis of ephemeral art. Even so, he composes pieces that respond to time and, even very slightly, mutate, change, live, speak without getting lost in the message.
Valuing the touch, also addressing the hand, in a world where almost everything is eclipsed by a devastating, all-devouring visual culture implies a choice. In Jorge Palacios's doing, a set of values is pointed out. It sets the priority of experience over the intellect. First the sensation, then the emotion and finally the reason, the understanding of what has happened.
The viewer may be reached by the material first, and then by the form. Like when one perceives colour before deciphering volume. Palacios does not give priority to the tactile, thermal sensation or the sense of living matter over the final shape. Thus, the fact that the wood arrives first does not imply that the working process is inverse: departing from the idea or the intuition, trace the strategy and approach the exploration of an unexpected emotion. In this way, Palacios establishes a Beckett and Proustian relationship, between radically direct and nostalgic, with his matter, wood. The physical references reveal ties to his childhood, to his parents, agronomist engineers involved in the research of seeds and landscape design. Nevertheless, they refer to sensations related to the material, first. To subtraction as a method and a belief. And to the curve, as an exploration and a truth, after.
Austerity is not an objective of Palacios's work. On the way to rotundity, to the pieces' eloquence, he tries to be precise, to find the adequate word. Therefore, austerity is almost logic. Like the logic Walter Benjamin ascribed to man, yearning for a world where the experience of external and internal poverty would regain validity so smoothly that something respectable could emerge of it. The strained effort in the work of this sculptor appeals to the essential. It does not speak to the brain. It invites touch, imagination, freedom. It does this from geometrical calculations. For instance, choosing Bezier curves (one of the forms most present in nature) for the piece Gota (Drop) in seike wood. However, the piece never suggests the effort. It remains swallowed, contained in the work, sometimes cryptically hidden or free and eloquent in other occasions, like the slippery pieces made from African woods, or the stretched work in belian wood, almost a tribal sceptre.
Everybody knows that thriving for simplicity is quite complicated. And in Palacios's timeless work, in addition to the chosen material, to the effort and the reduction, one must add the restrained emotion, the locked up, proposed, denuded, almost shy emotion which obtempers the curve.
If the meaning depends on the way any form of being contains the latent experience of its opposite, the frontier between rest and motion emerges from Palacios's work when the wood pursues a curve.
You could not say Palacios's work is biomorphic. But it is indeed the curve, which decides for the movement in its three dimensions. And who places the sculpture in the blurred frontier between abstraction and evocation. Its monolithic forms are abstract. The calm permanence of maximum reduction isolates them and makes them speak. His work's seclusion favours enigma. Rosalind E. Krauss spoke of a "deviation from an ideal geometry" to describe Brancusi's work. It is a matter of slight deformations, that do not disturb the geometric volume as a whole, but that speak as they divert. They place the sculptures in the changing and fortuitous world of the contingent. Thus, there are very few sculptures deriving from osseous forms in his work. However, some might evoke them. There are no rests of stony imperfection, but some of Palacios's pieces hold the soundness of a rock turned into a pebble, worn by time and shiny through the contact with water.
Palacios's woods are smooth as mirrors, polished to a stone-like extent. In some occasions, they achieve the cold appearance of minerals. Moreover, in this shine covering the wood with unreality one can read the sculptor's hand. The task to achieve that the material itself may express not only its temperamental character but also a yearning to further overcome its own nature.
Palacios does not transmit an ethical fidelity. His way of exploiting the natural properties of the material he works with, leads him to expose them, challenge and overcome them not from the clash with other materials, but through the effort the material itself demands. Thus, his woods turn into pieces of art after an odyssey of transformation processes that prepare them for the wide open, for the world, to establish a dialogue with the places they will be placed in.
The growth rings of the wood set the working plane of this sculptor. By interpreting them, following the grain's path Palacios addresses the viewer's sense of touch. Though doing it through the eye.
Closer to Barbara Hepworth's, Noguchi's or Henry Moore's line than to that of any other modern master, Palacios seeks for the wood to speak to him, he challenges it. He, like Barbara Hepworth, can perforate his forms, but unlike the British sculptress, he seldom unfolds, intersects or spreads them. Even when he perforates and approaches the interior Palacios always chooses subtraction. His search aims at the essence of the volume.
One can find the trend in modern sculpture to move away from the figurative in Palacios, but this has no weight with a sculptor who has chosen to work with wood to leave his mark, though he shares the eagerness to create work, which leans towards the representation of its own materials with the minimalists.
Sculpture and architecture
There was a time when the paths of architecture and sculpture ran parallel towards abstraction. Mathias Goeritz spoke then about an art with a sense, with faith. Palacios's work is neither conceptually nor physically dependent on architecture. However, it responds to it. The environment makes it speak. It questions it. Prevents it from shutting itself up. Breaks its secretiveness. Palacios's sculptures turn architecture into an active frame, instead of a passive container.
The mutual interest between sculptors and architects is legendary. The elegant arrangement of planes of Mies van der Rohe breathed for the explosive sculpture of Alexander Calder. Van der Rohe believed in the seamless relation between surface and structure. In Palacios's woods surface and structure are one, made up of layers. The garments are the essence.
In Toledo, works like Equilibrio e Inercia (Balance and Inertia) disrupt the city's weaving without upsetting it. They emphasize nooks, enhance turns, make up routes, lead glances. They invite the pedestrian to take a breath. They slow down everyday life. They are added so that we find a new look at the ordinary streetscape.
Dan Graham believes in the dialectical nature of all cultural discourse. In his opinion, the aim is to unveil the tricks of ideological representations. Disdaining the context make the best of intentions (the most radical and purist) often achieve the worst of results.
Last century's architecture has proven incapable to develop a new ornament. Any filigree results excessive. Any expression is aborted. Palacios enquires into touch and warmth as sculptural expressions. It is not a matter of rounding off or decorating, it is about developing a new perception. Accompanying another sense. About sending a new message made up of the sum of reactions. Not necessarily made up of visions.
Architect Adolf Loos wrote about the ornament as anathema and believed that "ideally the shape of an object should stay up to date as long as the object withstands time physically". Palacios looks after his sculptures preparing the wood, calculating the tensions and resistances of the volumes so that their enigma lives on beyond their time. Sobriety permits firmly withstanding fluctuations in fashion and changes of taste. But it is the material that perpetuates the work. For Palacios, as for Van der Rohe, only the authentic can be beautiful. And, as for the architect from Aachen, beauty rather reveals itself by subtraction than by addition.
Not everything happens on the level of the visible, Palacios is saying. Is it about building or finding form? A living exterior can only appear from a living interior. And Jorge Palacios chose to be a sculptor for the exterior. His work is an enigmatic one, set up in open spaces.
Japanese notion of shibui speaks of the knowledge of when one should stop. On the other hand, shakei describes the sum of contexts as if these were shock waves around an object. This happens with the shadow of a tree, with the moss growing around its trunk, but it can also happen with the landscape, which widens the vision of the garden, if the latter is designed taking this into account. Shakei amplifies the perception of spaces starting from the object, but it can extend its reading from the plant to the garden or from the garden to the mountain. Sometimes frames expand. And pieces awaken this expansion like a shockwave. Palacios's sculptures too lead the interest to the space around them. Sometimes they enhance a place. Others they set an accent. They may get lost in a frame, but they retain their essence, just like the seed that does not stop existing because of having turned into a fruit.
Besides the variable, but always tame size there is no monumental vocation in Jorge Palacios's work. His desire is dialogue. And this presence that demands to be completed by an unexpected reality is what places his work outside real time and in touch with his time's reality. Amending Rosalind Krauss, Palacios's sculpture is no more on or in front of a building, nor is it the building, but it may well be the one in the landscape without being the landscape. His work validates Siegfried Giedion noting that the visitor, the citizen, the observer was an active participant in the shaping of buildings and spaces.
Conditions delimiting different arts have changed in the last decades. We are living the moment of the ambiguous. The best definition is a lack of definition. There are sculptural buildings and sculptures destined to a use (design pieces) sold in galleries under the tag Design Art. In our time, the limits between disciplines become hazy. Frontiers are erased and typologies disappear. Gotthold Lessing defined sculpture as an art related to the deployment of bodies in space. Space is its environment. It does not want to be time. The XX century proved that sculpture exists in time. It moults. It transforms itself. It changes when the context changes. The relation with the context changes sculpture's three dimensions. It opens new ways, returns echoes, imposes a new (unlimited) limit to a sculptor's task and places Jorge Palacios's work closer to the casual stroller in a city who questions himself about life, rather than to the visitor that goes into a museum in search of certainties.