All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Art Of Jorge Tacla
Christian Viveros-Fauné

If all art is political, directly or indirectly, then our time is largely dominated by increasingly sophisticated evasions and diversions. Still, there are artists who buck the most long established trends. Among these is a peculiarly self-reliant artist who has remained steady in his commitment to confront the horrors of human history head-on.

The Chilean-American painter Jorge Tacla is that uniquely uncompromising figure. For more than three decades he has been singularly dedicated to the continuous representation of a psychic space that is run through by individual and collective trauma. Besides picturing figures, architectures and landscapes purposefully devastated by epic forces of havoc and destruction, his art challenges the most basic human assumptions about civilization: namely, the idea that people, buildings, landmarks, and cities, are safe, settled, and unshakable. A mere glance at today’s newspaper headlines reveals the obvious—few artistic oeuvres appear more fitting for our volatile times than Tacla’s.

To paraphrase Ezra Pound’s formulation about literature, Tacla has, over the years, become expert at painting “news that stays news.” *1 But his pictures, rather than offer fresh illustrations of the day’s atrocities, present deliberative depictions of the aftermath of these events. Patiently observed from the privileged aerie that is his midtown Manhattan studio—as well as extrapolated from his own personal and creative experience—Tacla can be said to have reformulated the art of witness. In his hands, the simple act of putting paint on canvas coheres into an unusually tenacious, thoroughgoing, ethically engaged and visually abstracted practice.

Born in Santiago, Chile, in 1958, to parents whose own mothers and fathers emigrated as children from some of the world’s worst trouble spots, Tacla grew up middle-class, well-adjusted and immersed within the well-guarded ordinariness of a remote provincial capital that is located literally (and in every other way) at the end of the earth. A descendant of professionals and tradesmen who originally hailed from the Middle East—his father’s family comes from Syria (Homs and Damascus) and his mother’s from Palestine (Jerusalem and Bethlehem)—Tacla was destined, like millions of other Chileans of his generational cohort, to peacefully sow the hard-earned fruits of his forebears. Instead, something far crueler happened: the young Tacla found himself the unexpected inheritor of the very legacy of destruction and devastation his progenitors thought they had escaped.

Like the collapse of the civilization that once was the Ottoman Empire, the implosion of civic life that followed Chile’s coup d’etat on September 11, 1973, had consequences that took on private and public facets in an authoritarian instant. For Tacla, there was no unexpected knock at the door, followed by imprisonment, torture, exile or worse. But if his parents weren’t especially political, his background as a third-generation grandchild immigrants was explicitly so.

The offspring of political and economic refugees, the teenage Tacla personified a particular cycle of far-flung disruptions and displacements that continues to spread and metastasize like a cancer today. In fact, it’s possible to affirm, at least in retrospect, that Tacla carried from birth the tragedy of geopolitics and exile in his bones.

During Chile’s blinkered and murderous mid-1970s, Tacla was raised in the posh neighborhood of El Golf, on Asturias Street. In time, the family moved to Manquehue Street, in the still more comfortable district of Las Condes. A child of relative privilege, Tacla attended the Colegio del Verbo Divino, a private Catholic academy. An excellent school, the institution has long been well known as a bastion of social and religious conservatism.

Because every social advantage is pregnant with its opposite, Tacla remembers feeling alienated at school for reasons that had a good deal to do with the conservative beliefs of his classmates and teachers. But there was also something else that kept him from fully fitting in. A descendant of non-Europeans, he was made to feel different—he was called a “turco,” or “Turk,” in the geographically challenged local parlance—from the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Castilian, Basque, German and Irish immigrants.

The ancestors of Tacla’s classmates’ had, of course, arrived in far-flung Chile in the same desperate straits as his own kin. But social hierarchies answer to a logic different from the exercise of conscientious reason. Consequently, even the most homogenous environments—an exclusive all-boys schools intended for an economic elite, for instance—can turn into a potential breeding grounds for a cultural rebel like Tacla given the right social conditions.

Because he was raised among musicians—his grandmother’s house was a home away from home for musicians like Chick Corea, Bill Evans and Stanley Clarke when they visited Chile—Tacla naturally drifted to music as a refuge. He learned to play percussion and the piano, among other instruments in his youth. When the time came for him to enter university, his first choice of study was to enter the National Conservatory—it had been faddishly renamed the Department of Music and Sonology of the University of Chile in 1968, the year the world enthusiastically embraced left-wing radicalism.

The decision proved ill fated, as the military junta closed down the conservatory shortly after the 1973 coup. Among other rationales, the university’s uniformed rectors alleged that the institution had become a hotbed of Communism. Tacla’s alternative course of study—his “placeholder,” as he remembers it 44 years later—was to enter the Escuela de Bellas Artes at the University of Chile.

Thankfully, the relative freedom and instruction of the university’s art school took: Tacla thrived in his newfound milieu like he had not done previously.

Once there, he came into contact with artists like the late Adolfo Couve, the conceptualist Gonzalo Díaz (later to be awarded Chile’s National Fine Arts Prize in 2003), and the painter Rodolfo Opazo. For a time, Tacla served as Díaz’s teaching assistant, while engaging in a mixture of music, performance, sculpture and painting at school and in the city’s few underground clubs. By the time Tacla left art school in 1979, he was anxious to find new creative horizons. That same year he traveled to New York for the first time.

Two years later, in 1981, Tacla would resettle in Manhattan permanently. Incredibly, he would repeat the trajectory of his émigré family going back several generations. He would start over in a brand new country, from scratch, with no guarantees for success other than his own unusual gifts and his dogged resolve. The artist we know today was born from that abrupt cultural transition—but also from his experience of more than 30 years of self-imposed exile.

“I am connected to New York by a number of feelings that mix love and contempt,” Tacla said recently about his adoptive home while considering the cumulative weight of the paintings included in this exhibition: “It is a city that is psychologically addictive, information changes hands very quickly, and the place is intellectually and physically very demanding. All of this leads to the idea that New York fosters a kind of paranoia, which it does. It’s a city that is capable of consuming great quantities of personal energy, where just getting by every day essentially becomes a matter of survival. It may sound contradictory, but I find that basic fact—those extremes—to be key among the elements that make New York such a humane place.”

About his relationship to Chile, to which the artist has traveled extensively during the last three decades of his North American residence, Tacla affirms simply: “Chile is always present in everything I do. It is the land my family emigrated to from Syria and Palestine. That is ground zero for my own identity. Conversely, it is also the cultural place from which I have always felt myself somewhat displaced from normal society.”

Somewhere between these two statements lies Tacla’s genuinely multicultural and multivalent approach to history. Far more than a merely condemnatory visual record of “the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind,”2 to quote Edward Gibbon from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Tacla’s oeuvre amasses an archive of images inspired by natural destruction, man-made devastation and global war.

Taken together, his artworks propose an inescapably painful truth well known to every refugee throughout the ages—from the Punic Wars to the civilian Holocaust taking place today in Syria. And that is simply this: disaster is the great equalizer.

There are few crueler or more humane realizations than that bitter nugget of arsenic-like knowledge.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

Over the past 30 years, Jorge Tacla has become one of the world’s preeminent artists. Largely a painter of monochrome canvases that depict things falling apart, Tacla’s powerful and compelling pictures consistently confirm the possibilities of the medium of painting as one of the best, most eloquent and evocative vehicles for conveying humanity’s most profound

and moving stories.

An artist who, like thousands of others creators in the 1970s and ’80s, survived the topsy-turvy politics of Latin America, Tacla moved from early depictions of abject bodies and desert landscapes to a career of painting sublime views of the world’s worst nightmares. Among his subjects are the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, various unending conflicts in the Middle East, and the 9/11 disaster (he’s one of the few contemporary artists to have depicted the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers). Throughout, Tacla has never focused on the violence itself, just on the damage. As a result, his paintings of crumbled buildings juggle themes of destruction, aggression, and the shifting light and shadow that shape fragmentary memory.

Tacla’s paintings possess a beauty that is haunted by history in addition to a conceptual rigor that, at once, participates in and divorces itself from the tradition of modern abstraction. The critic and scholar Donald Kuspit has written that Tacla’s work “stretches the limits of objective representation until it breaks down into subjective abstraction, allowing the expression of unconscious feelings that factual representation tends to repress.” *3 Additionally, Kuspit has allusively referred to the Chilean-American artist’s “negative vision,” his “fatalistic beauty,” and, more broadly, the artist’s penchant for “negative aesthetics.”

“All processes have been inverted; they are in the negative,” *4 Tacla wrote in 1991 by way of explaining the relationship between his finished paintings and their ubiquitous photographic source material. “The canvas has been prepared where it is not painted,” he continued: “The objects and landscapes are transparent and are the negative of their physical conditions. Only a photographic process can both give and make these places recognizable.” *5

What Tacla meant to underscore in those statements (written not long after the artist spent two months drawing and living in the Atacama Desert on a Guggenheim Fellowship) is the fundamental procedural difference between photo-based images, which serve as starting points for his artworks, and his own paintings. Where the former has historically developed a “positive” image from an actual negative, the artist’s canvases extract a “negative” monochrome image from the “positive” impression captured on paper and emulsion by photography (we will refrain from discussing the difference between digital and conventional photographic

processes here).

The result is an at times ambiguous yet seductively abstracted representation of a “hot” event—a spectacular disaster of the sort that

is currently carried by multiple media across myriad print, televisual and web platforms—that is transformed by what Tacla has referred to as his oil-on-canvas-based “dyslexic process of similitude.” Few artistic misreadings prove as enigmatic or, during certain specific instances of Tacla’s career, as oracular.

“And History, with all her volumes vast

Hath but one page.”

George Gordon Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

The present is only faced, in any generation, by the artist… the absolute

indispensability of the artist is that he alone, in the encounter with the

present, can give the pattern of recognition. He alone has the sensory

awareness to tell us what our world is made of. He is more important than

the scientist.”

Marshall McLuhan, from a conversation with Norman Mailer

The exhibition Jorge Tacla: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, as well as its accompanying catalog, contains three different bodies of work—brought together in as many different media—and four thematic sections.

The first body of work, which is easily the most important, is made up of 31 paintings, dating from 1988 to the present. They include several important pictures Tacla painted prior to settling on what would become his major artistic themes, and two brand-new canvases the artist made specifically for this exhibition. The second body of work consists of a collection of artist’s ephemera, which includes notes, preparatory drawings, clippings, photographs and notebooks. The exhibition’s third constitutive element features the video Injury Report, which Tacla originally put together for a show of the same title at the Metropolitan University of Educational

Sciences of Chile in November of 2016.

While Tacla’s drawings and news clippings are organized around the concept of a “worktable” that approximates the artist’s associative and generative studio practice, Injury Report alludes directly to the book burning that took place at “el pedagógico,” as Chile’s principal teacher’s school was known before the military takeover of Chile’s educational institutions.

The video also pointedly invokes the German poet Heinrich Heine’s lucid admonition, as found in his 1821 play Almansor: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.” *6

The exhibition’s four thematic sections concentrate, firstly, on certain early works that remain fundamental for the establishment of Tacla’s mature oeuvre. Among these are the canvases December (1988), the six-panel work Veil of Tears (injured images) (1989) and the landmark painting Wrathful Red (1996). If the first few canvases feature the artist working through the influence of Renaissance architecture and Francis Bacon’s tortured figures, the last picture presents arbitrary power as personified by an instantly recognizable “man in full.”

Featuring a grinning figure the artist drew from a composite of Latin American strongmen—Perón, Somoza, Pinochet, among others—Tacla’s painting portrays the history of Latin American politics in the 1970s and 80s as a Mephistophelian dictator. Uniformed, preening and flashing a bloody glove, Tacla’s figure is ghosted by the judgment of both art history and Catholic morality, as seen in the diaphanous outline of Andrea Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian.

While Tacla’s paintings of the Atacama Desert such as the dun-colored Time and Space in Negative (1990) and Miscarriage (1996) belong to the period when the artist began to interpret the idea of landscape as an injured body, later works made between the years 1995 and 2011 directly represent well-known territories and architectural structures that have become symbolic and real-world targets of modern terror.

Among these artworks, which together make up the exhibition’s second section, are three paintings from Tacla’s Rubble series, all of them depicting, in a mixture of oil and marble powder, different views of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by Timothy James McVeigh, the first homegrown U.S. terrorist of the modern era. Also in this group of paintings is the granular landscape Mass of Cement 1 (2002): an encrusted, melting vision of Lower Manhattan Tacla painted in allusion to the artist’s experience of witnessing the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 (see Jorge Tacla’s conversation with Lawrence Weschler).

Another painting in this group, The Distribution of the Primes (1995), nearly establishes an ominous argument for Tacla’s actual clairvoyance—an aerial image of the Pentagon the artist painted inside a set of crosshairs, it anticipated by six years the final destination of American Airlines Flight 77.

In the exhibition’s third and fourth sections, Tacla present three suites of canvases he confected after disasters of very different sorts. Where the series Altered Remains depicts the twisted aftermath of earthquakes in Santiago, Japan and Haiti, the paintings Tacla subsequently titled Rubble and Hidden Identities revolve around a different kind of violence that is strictly explosive and man-made. Besides picturing cities like Beirut and Aleppo—in the canvases Rubble 10 (2007) and Hidden Identity 40 (2013), respectively—the artist also turned his loaded brush to lovingly depict grisaille views of a Basque munitions plant in Hidden Identity 111 (2015)

and the city of Homs in ruins in Sign of Abandonment 20 (2017).

Key among this group of pictures is the large canvas Tacla painted of the Moneda Palace, Chile’s government house, in flames after being attacked by a squadron of U.S.-made Hawker Hunter jets that belonged to the Chilean Air Force on September 11, 1973. An instantly recognizable image Tacla has rescued from black-and-white photographic archives and rendered a gritty and lurid blue, the canvas—which the artist has titled Hidden Identity 25 (2013)—functions as a synecdoche for the idea of barbarism itself. Just as when commentators invoke the words “the White House” they mean the Office of the President of the United States, Tacla’s

flaming cobalt image of La Moneda stands in for an era of wanton, systemic violence that sought to bring about an end to reason, progress and civic order.

Which brings me, finally, to the title of the present book and exhibition. Besides making literal reference to the myriad buildings Tacla captures in the act of disappearing or, rather, being disappeared—the transitive sense of that verb is a direct legacy of South American dictatorships though it has found new usage as a result of the violence perpetrated by Al Qaeda and ISIL—the name of the current show makes direct reference to a celebrated phrase from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

The complete phrase in question is the following:

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” *7

Rather than a nod to outdated political allegiances or latent social fractiousness, the title intends to convey just a small part of the powerful feeling the viewer experiences when standing in front of one of Tacla’s sublime canvases. What Tacla chooses to paint—from all the possible subjects in the world—is nothing less than pictorial and metaphysical instability. The fact that he does so while invoking crises that are, alternately, internal and external, public and private, sets the stage for what amounts to this artist’s inversion of values. In Tacla’s symbolic world, it’s not just buildings that can melt into thin air and disappear tomorrow, but civilization itself.

Christian Viveros-Fauné


1. Pound, E. ABC of Reading (New York; New Directions paperwork; 1960), p. 29.

2. Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (Frederick Warne & Co.;

New York; 1872), p. 72.

3. Kuspit, Donald & Zamudio, Raúl. Jorge Tacla: Pinturas / Paintings, (Celfin Capital /

Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho / Ley de Donaciones Culturales; Santiago, Chile;

2008), p. 98.

4. Ibid., p. 104.

5. Ibid.

6. The line is from Heinrich Heine’s play, Almansor (1820): ‘Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt,

verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.’

7. Karl Marx and Friederick Engels, Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition (London and

New York; Verso, 1998), p. 38.

Jorge Tacla in conversation with Lawrence Weschler
Lawrence Weschler

The conversation that follows (condensed from a considerably longer exchange) focusses on a particular subset of themes that run through the career of the remarkable Chilean artist Jorge Tacla. It makes no attempt at being exhaustive, nor does it aim to provide anything like a full biographical overview (for more on which, see other contributions to this catalog).

Tacla was born in 1958 in Santiago, his father’s parents having hailed from Syria (Homs and Damascus) around 1910, and his mother’s from Palestine (Jerusalem and Bethlehem) around the same time, all part of a large influx of such Arab immigrants into Chile in flight from the collapsing Ottoman empire.  His father worked and co-owned an old plastic manufacturing establishment; his mother was a dancer and a musician and presently a ceramicist. The family was relatively apolitical (though his mother was devoutly Catholic) and Jorge himself too young to really participate in the leftist upsurge around Salvador Allende, though the music academy he attended afternoons during high school was downtown, right near the presidential palace of La Moneda, and many of his professors were devoted leftists. He was with his parents in an outlying district of town the morning of September 11th, 1973, when General Augusto Pinochet’s forces launched a coup by bombing La Moneda, and only witnessed the building’s damage some days later. Nor was Jorge especially active in the resistance in the years thereafter, though, once he had enrolled at the Escuela des Bellas Artes of Universitad de Chile, presently majoring in painting, he enthusiastically participated in the underground bohemian scene, such as it was. Early on he was drawn to the work of Francis Bacon, though he could only experience it in reproduction, and it was in part to be able to experience art first-hand that he first ventured to New York in 1981. After that he caromed back and forth between New York and Chile: he was in Santiago for the terrible earthquake of 1985, and he also spent some months, on a Guggenheim Fellowship, in the remote and desolate Atacama Desert near the Bolivian border. He continues to maintain studios in both New York and Santiago.

Delighted at being offered a chance to interview this artist whose work I had been following for some time, I arrived at his fourth-floor walk-up studio (roughly between Times Square and the NY Public Library) carrying a folder of passages from various poets and writers whose writings I felt might prove pertinent, as is my wont on such occasions. We made our way through a maze stacked canvases to a long table in a back room, where I set up my tape recorder, and we began:

Lawrence Weschler: For the purposes of this conversation, Jorge, I’d like to zero in on a particular subset of your production, which is to say the paintings of devastation, of rubble, of razed buildings and razed relationships (as in, for example, the beds). We might note that during the late eighties and early nineties, you had already done some images of cratered buildings in response to your experience of that terrible Chilean earthquake in 1985, for which you had been present.

Jorge Tacla: Indeed, the Algarobbo quake, off the coast of Valparaiso, which was a very bad one, with a reading of 8.0. Of course, earthquakes in Chile happen so regularly and with such violence, the whole world reeling and shaking and coming undone, that they have become a deep part of the collective memory. This sense of—what is the opposite of gravity? of vertigo. The mausoleums of cemeteries knocked over—even the dead not spared. I subsequently did some images of those. But just generally: buildings with their facades collapsed, the wires and piping all tangled and exposed-- 

LW: Like the sinews of a body.

JT: Exactly, and for me there is always this reference back and forth: the anatomy of buildings standing in for the anatomy of the body. For that matter, I feel like I keep an entire earth within myself.

LW: Your comments remind me of the late great American emigre sociologist Peter L. Berger, who wrote The Social Construction of Reality and other such books. He was born in Vienna in 1929, such that he was a teenager as the war was ending, and somewhere he recalls how it was the experience of walking thorough bombed-out cities at the end of the war, the rubble-strewn streets, the facades of buildings stripped off to reveal the everyday mundane lives being lived within, dangling living rooms, exposed bathrooms and so forth, family portraits on the back walls of wind-blown second-floor bedrooms, that first sensitized him to the secret life of the everyday and set him on the road to becoming a sociologist.

JT: Yes indeed, I can relate to that.

LW: On the other hand, during the early nineties, you yourself seemed to turn for a period to the depiction of intact buildings (though perhaps we would only think of them as such, as “intact,” in the context of what was to follow)—which is to say certain sorts of buildings as sites of power.

JT: Yes, precisely. I was interested in the topology of power. In portraying buildings like cathedrals and Wall Street headquarters and prisons, the FBI Headquarters and the Pentagon, trying to figure out how one might suggest or convey the outside and the inside at the same time, or one in terms of the other. A building represents something from the outside and then you go inside and it makes a different, or supposedly different, sort of demand. The Pentagon, for example, which is so huge on the outside, this supposed fortress of democracy, but when you go inside you yourself are expected to become tiny and keep quiet. 

LW: “Shut your mouth, private!”

JT: Or a cathedral, this magnificent call up to the divine but where when you go inside you are expected to become hushed, at most to bow down and pray. Or a prison, with its panoptical surveillance. I was trying to figure out a way to portray the exteriors, and in some cases the interiors, of buildings in such a way as to render such power dynamics naked. In some cases, I was even using sand in my paint, sand which was carrying over from my earlier depictions of the Atacama, to suggest the aridness and the existential solitude of the desert transposed onto these scenes.

LW: And then in 1995, on April 19th, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up by native-born right-wing American extremists. Where were you?

JT: Here in New York City, I was watching TV, grabbing up newspapers, magazines, everything I could find.

LW: It must have blown...

JT: Absolutely.

LW: This blown-up building would have been blowing your mind. For this was the very realization of your subject in the world. What you had been striving after, metaphorically, made manifest, rendered explicit.

JT: Exactly: the inside and the outside collapsed into one another. The exterior walls torn away to reveal the interior. Not to speak of the agonizing human toll.

LW: The entire image, when you soon thereafter took to painting a version, rendered all the more vertiginous because for a moment the viewer has a hard time getting his or her bearings, it’s hard to tell where one is with relation to the devastation…

JT: Which has only just happened.

LW: And, it’s as if one is floating in mid-air—a God’s eye perch perhaps, or is it that one has just oneself been hurled out of the building? A sense of vertigo which of course wends back to your stories about having experienced earthquakes in in Chile. 

But at the time, when you were watching the bombing’s aftermath on TV, were you yourself also harkening back to the bombing of La Moneda as well, for that matter, to imagery of the wars in the Middle East, Assad Senior’s devastation of Homs for example in Syria in 1982, the Lebanese Civil War throughout the eighties, with the Israeli occupation of Beirut and the resultant Palestinian massacres also in 1982…?

JT: Yes, of course. But it also struck me at the time, almost immediately, how This is the Beginning, this is what we are going to be seeing more and more of from here on out.

LW:  This may be the moment for me tell you a story about how I react to some of your work, those Oklahoma City paintings and the others of buildings and ruins that were to follow.

One of the things that is fascinating when you look at Vermeer, for example, is the way that while he was hardly the first artist to be using cameras obscura, there was clearly something different in the way that he used them: he became fascinated by the distortions that showed up when you used them, the little halations, the bubbles of light and so forth, and he made a point of including those. And I have the sense that, as a result, part of the power of a Vermeer painting is that it’s not just that you are looking, say, at a woman by herself who is unaware that she’s being looked at, but the image takes on the feeling of the deeply impressed memory of what it had once been like to come upon such a woman by herself. You are somehow looking at the memory of what that had looked like.

JT: Yeah.

LW: …that is why Proust is so blown away by Vermeer. The image looks like a memory.

JT: It is very…how memory looks. Yes.

LW: And Vermeer achieves that effect, it seems to me, by marshalling the blurriness of the camera projection.

Similarly, it seems to me that with your paintings of ruins and rubble, one association is with the image as mediated by way of an out-of-focus television, or a television with a bad antenna. A sort of clouded or pixielated immediacy.  And, indeed, standing in front of one of them—say, the one of the Oklahoma City aftermath—I find myself wondering whether your own associations were running to memories—Homs, Shatila, La Moneda—or rather, more like Blade Runner, say, that the blurriness is to suggest an indistinct sign of things to come. Nightmare, thus, as memory or as premonition?

JT: Both, really. My own prior history perhaps having rendered me more sensitive or receptive to those future implications.

LW: It’s interesting in this context the way that for example your 1995 painting of the Pentagon as seen from the air so uncannily seems to anticipate the events of September 2001. Were you already thinking of the Pentagon as target, or at any rate as vulnerable, when you first painted it?

JT: Yes! Absolutely. And it’s stranger still, because the year before 9/11, in 2000, I did an exhibition in an uptown gallery here in New York, and there was one painting called Dangerous Enterprise, which featured a towering building down around Wall Street, with anticipatory rubble tumbling down from its highest stories, and there was another big painting called Meat Carrier of the inside of a plane cockpit.

LW: All of which in turn reminds me of Jennifer Egan’s novel, Look at Me, which was published literally the day before 9/11, on September 10th , 2001, and included a detailed subplot about a cell of Arab would-be terrorists, pining away their days in hiding somewhere in American suburbia (a depiction so accurate that she got a call from the FBI, even though hers had been a feat of sheerest imagination). I’m also reminded of the BBC documentarian Adam Curtis’s demonstration, in his collaboration a few years back with Massive Attack at the Park Avenue Armory here in New York, of the way the assault on the Twin Towers on 9/11 had been anticipated by literally dozens of similar visualizations in Hollywood disaster movies over the decade immediately preceding the attack, indeed his suggestion that that is where Al Qaeda may well have gotten the idea.

It’s as if there were something in the air.

JT: Yes, indeed.

LW: Which in turn renders all the more remarkable your subsequent treatment of the attack itself. By the way, were you here in New York when it happened?

JT: Yeah. Taxiing back and forth between my home on E 50th and then over to my daughter’s school to drop her off and on to my studio on 32nd near the Empire State Building, but now the crowds were pouring uptown, at first we didn’t know what it was, but once we found out I instead returned to my daughter’s school to pick her up…  

LW: So you were actually in Santiago on the morning of September 11th, 1973, the day Pinochet bombed La Moneda at the start of his CIA-backed coup, and then in New York on September 11th, 2001, the day Al Qaeda went after the Twin Towers.

JT: Um hum (agreeing). And almost immediately in the days thereafter, people started saying to me, “The rubble! It’s just like in your paintings.”

LW: Which, and this is what I was starting to say, renders all the more remarkable the fact that when you eventually did take on the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers in a series of paintings the following year, you chose not to portray the rubble there but rather…

JT: A drifting cloud against the clear blue sky, a cloud of drifting smoke.

LW: An image far more poignant and powerful in its way than would have been just another vantage of rubble—certainly within the context of your wider body of work. (Though Joel Meyerowitz, for example, the photographer best known for his pastoral light and landscape vistas, chose to honor the same aftermath with an equally powerful series, within the context of his body of work, creating several months’ worth of sublime color-photographic documentation, precisely, of the ensuing rubble.)

           Your cloud paintings in turn remind me of the story a friend of mine told me about sailing out on Monterey Bay in California when the big Santa Cruz earthquake struck (back to earthquakes!), and he said that being on the water he couldn’t really feel the quake itself but watched in astonishment as the quake shook the town of Santa Cruz to its very foundations, as presently a big cloud of dust rose up over the entire place, as if it had been a shaken rug.

But coming back to those clouds of yours: All That is Solid Melting into Air, right there before our eyes. The title you gave this upcoming show of yours in Santiago.

JT: Well, actually, the curator, my friend Christian Viveros-Faune, chose that title.

LW: But you don’t object?

JT: Not at all.

LW: Good. Because that in turn launched me into a whole other trill of associations, thinking about the wider body of your work on ruin and rubble and the aftermath of devastation, work which of course resumed and was amplified years later in your Hidden Identities series. Because of course the phrase is…

JT: Karl Marx’s, indeed, from the Communist Manifesto.

LW: And the actual passage runs:

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away”…

This is about the sheer thrust, the incredible dynamism of Capitalism. One thing that is always so remarkable about the Communist Manifesto is that in addition to everything else, it’s an almost breathless ode to the power of Capitalism.  Setting aside all the human wreckage that its onslaught entails—in addition to being horrified by all that--Marx is clearly in awe: It’s an incredible thing to watch.

“All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify”….

 They get old before they can be borne…

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober sense, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

That’s where that phrase comes from.

JT: Yeah

LW: But what strikes me thinking about those lines--and this goes back to La Moneda—is that the great phrase that people kept bandying about during the Reagan years, and earlier, with Kissinger under Nixon, was this notion of capitalism as Creative Destruction. The phrase is their hero’s, the midcentury emigré economist Joseph Schumpeter’s, but he in turn became a hero to folks like Milton Friedman and others associated with the so-called Chicago School, gurus in turn of Pinochet, too; and when Kissinger interfered in Chile’s affairs to overthrow Allende, it was all in the spirit of ”Sure, we have to bust stuff up for globalization to succeed, but it is all going to be worth it.” Creative destruction! (There’s that great phrase of the Uruguayan chronicler at the time, Eduardo Galeano, who noted how “In Latin America, people were in prison so that prices could be free.”) But all of it –Schumpeter, Friedman, Kissinger, Kirkpatrick, Reagan—they’re all in retrospect playing off of Marx. The same Marx who, a few years after the Communist Manifesto in the Grundrisse noted how:

These contradictions lead to explosions, cataclysms, crises in which momentous suspension of labor and annihilation of great portions of capital violently lead it back to the point where it is enabled to go on, fully employing its productive powers without committing suicide. Capitalism has to destroy to make room for things to get bigger”.

JT: That’s it…that’s fantastic…”to make room for things to get bigger.”

LW: Which in turn is playing off Nietzsche:

If a temple is to be erected, a temple must be destroyed. That is the law. Let anyone who can show me a case in which it is not fulfilled, do so”.

Or for that matter the anarchist Bakunin:

The passion for destruction is a creative passion too”

This notion is just all over the place with those people.

JT: Yes…

LW: But it seems to me that it has everything to do with what you are doing, too.

JT: Indeed, it is at the root of much of my own thinking process.

LW: But that makes me want to go a little bit deeper into this notion of you, too, as a destroyer. First of all, one of the ironies here is that when people ordinarily invoke “creative destruction,” what they are evoking is blowing up and sweeping away actual buildings, actual institutions. Whereas, as a creative destroyer, you are doing just the opposite.

JT: Precisely, yes, the opposite.

LW: You are taking a blank canvas and painting, creating destruction. While an Ecstatic Capitalist, say an Ayn Rand, would glory in destroying things in order to build other things, you…

JT: I build destruction…

LW: You paint destruction, you create destruction. So it is kind of a weird flip of the ordinary usage.

JT: With wreckage, too, as a kind of landscape.

LW: But I guess what I am trying to get at…is all of this for you a sort of dirge, is it all done in the spirit of a mourning? Or are you, too, to an extent, also ecstatic in the face of all this destruction?

JT: I am attracted.

LW: You are attracted to it?

JT: I am drawn to, fascinated by, the psychology of all the destruction.

LW: If you couldn’t be a painter, would you be a terrorist?

JT: No, that is going too far.

LW: Nor would you subscribe to the Polish composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s notorious quip at the time (itself in all fairness probably misconstrued) that the Twin Towers attack was “the greatest work of art of all time.”

JT: No of course not. 

LW: At the time, I myself was reminded of the lines of the great French African master Aimé Césare:

“Most of all beware, even in thought, of assuming the sterile attitude of the spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of griefs is not a proscenium, and a man who wails is not a dancing bear.” 

JT: Agreed, and everything in my work bucks against, subverts any posture of mere spectatorship. It’s just that I cannot help but also be conscious—and unconscious—of the sublimity of such scenes right alongside their horror, BOTH at the same time. It’s like I said earlier about the earthquake, how at the time it rhymed with my own sense that everything is already unstable, everything is moving and crumbling all the time.

LW: So another way to put it is you are just being descriptive. You are just describing what the world feels like.

JT: And what I feel about the world…

LW: What the world feels like to you.

JT: It feels like…it feels like we are in war the whole time.

LW: Which in turn puts me in mind of another great and celebrated passage, this time by Walter Benjamin, the one where he is riffing off a completely charming watercolor that he himself owned by his friend Paul Klee, called Angelus Novus. He had it over his desk, and it’s funny, because when you actually see the painting, it’s this charming, almost child-like cheerful painting. But Benjamin had a markedly different take on it.

This is Walter Benjamin talking now:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating.”


That is, he is starting to stagger back in horror.

“His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the Angel of History. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.”

That’s what he’d like to do.

“But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call Progress.”

(long silence)

Does that make sense to you?

JT: Yes.  But it’s more than just thinking about history as an inhuman force, progress (creative destruction) as relentless and inevitable at the macro level. Rather, I try to keep an open face to our own personal involvement at the level of individuals more locally.

LW: It’s interesting that you say that, because I’ve wondered, for example, what it is like for a Chilean to look at your La Moneda paintings—or for that matter, for a Chilean of the Left to do so, versus a Chilean of the Right—but more generally for any Chilean as opposed to how it is for an American. For that matter, are you now an American citizen?

JT: Indeed, by now I hold dual citizenship.

LW: Well then, like me, you bear tremendous personal responsibility for the wreckage currently being wrought on a daily basis in Yemen.

JT: How so?

LW: In that our taxes directly pay for the weapons being used by the Saudis and their allies.

JT: Yes, I see, of course. But with these paintings, I also want to move from the global to the local, from the largescale political to the intimately personal, how we all nurse hatreds and hankerings for revenge (as well as love and longing), how we are all both victims and perpetrators, aggressed upon one day or in one facet of our lives, but then aggressors in another. That is a lot of what my more recent Hidden Identity paintings have been about. Both the wrecked buildings but also the more intimate sequences, for example, for individual bodies can be savaged as well, as in that series that begins with the empty, or rather perhaps, abandoned bed.

LW: Ah yes. I was fascinated by that painting. For, as you no doubt know, there are all sorts of artistic renderings of empty beds inviting all sorts of interpretations. Just in recent history, one has Rauschenberg’s Bed from 1955, one of his first combines and as such a precursor of Pop Art, but in its context perhaps more than anything else a youthful tweak at the previous abstract expressionist generation’s claims to authenticity, as if Rauschenberg were saying, “You want authenticity, I’ll give you authenticity, this is an actual authentic bed!” But then, for example, there is also Diana Michener’s photo of an abandoned bed, which looks very much like yours actually, though hers seems to be about the dailyness of marriage in some way. Or the great AIDS activist (and victim) Felix Gonzales Torres’s bed with two pillows, which if anything remind me more of your drifting cloud images after 9/11, something airy, a comfort on the far side of sufferting and death perhaps. And then there’s yours, which to me anyway has suggestions of the bed as battlefield, or even, with that faultline running through it, of seismic dislocation.

JT: It’s interesting that you see it that way because, indeed, I saw that painting as the first in a triptych, the three of which took inspiration from the famous case of Marcia Merino, aka 'La Flaca Alejandra', a Leftist activist, a woman, who was kidnapped during the Pinochet years and brutally tortured but somehow fell in love with her torturer and shifted to the other side. This is what I mean by the back-and-forth between victims and perpetrators.

LW: That in turn reminds me—maybe it’s because of my earlier invocation of Felix Gonzales Torres—of a remarkable poem by Marie Howe, about the last time she had dinner with her AIDS-stricken brother:

The last time we had dinner together in a restaurant 

with white tablecloths, he leaned forward 

and took my two hands in his hands and said, 

I'm going to die soon. I want you to know that. 

And I said, I think I do know. 

And he said, What surprises me is that you don't 

And I said, I do. And he said, What? 

And I said, Know that you're going to die. 

And he said, No, I mean know that you are.

JT: Wow. “That you are.” That they both are. That we all will. But it’s the same, and this is what I try to keep an open face about, with all these interpenetrating dualities. 

LW: “Mon semblable, mon frére.”

JT: Which is what Hidden Identities is exploring, as was much of my earlier work too, I now realize. The secrets, the manipulations, the evasions, and the guilt.

LW: I’d like to shift now slightly to speak with you about how you achieve some of your effects. Because you seem to be navigating a dangerous precipice—not just portraying one. And that is the seduction of beauty. Because there is an apocalyptic sublime, as it were, associated with much of this sort of imagery. The way for example that notwithstanding the horror, we can’t stop looking at those old newsreels of the blooming mushroom clouds welling up from nuclear tests: they’re just so—say it!—beautiful. In the first of his Duino Elegies, Rilke famously contends that

“Beauty is nothing but the beginning of a terror

we can only just barely endure

and we admire it so

because it calmly disdains to destroy us”

There are many translations, that’s just my composite. But the next line almost hearkens back to the Benjamin, for Rilke goes on to say, “Every angel is terrible.” Or perhaps better, “terrifying.” The point in this context being that the beauty is enthralling, absorbing, transfixing, entrapping. That vertigo again.

JT: Yes, but I don’t want to get stuck at the beauty in these paintings. I want to undermine that sense as well, to make it more complicated for the viewer, to rise up his or her complicity.

LW: You want to disconcert, as it were—is that a word in Spanish?  Does it have the same connotation: to dis-concert. To upend the easy harmonies.

JT: Yes, exactly.

LW: Which brings up another aspect of your method, going back to your days as a music student perhaps. For these wrecked buildings, at least on the surface, at the level of paint on canvas, look like crumpled, mashed-up musical scores: the horizontal slashes, the collapsing verticals, the scattershot of pointed details.

JT: I think you are right. They are organized as if on scales.

LW: And like atonal music, the images both pull us in and push us back, back and away and back onto ourselves.

JT: Yes.

LW: But producing such effects belies the chaos it portrays: it requires of you the artist a formidable technical precision. And here I am reminded of another poem, this one by the contemporary American poet Linda Gregg, from her collection Things and Flesh (now, there’s a title for you—she got it from a line by Camus she uses as epigraph for her collection: “This book should be heavy with things and flesh”), and in fact the first poem in that collection of hers is entitled “The Precision”:

“There is a modesty, in nature. In the small

of it and in the strongest. The leaf moves

just the amount the breeze indicates

and nothing more. In the power of lust, too,

there can be a quiet and clarity, a fusion

of exact moments. There is a silence of it

inside the thundering. And when the body swoons,

it is because the heart knows its truth.

There is directness and equipoise in the fervor,

just as the greatest turmoil has precision.

Like the discretion a tornado has when it tears

down building after building, house by house.

It is enough, Kafka said, that the arrow fit

exactly into the wound that it makes. I think

about my body in love as I look down on these

lavish apple trees and the workers moving

with skill from one to the next, singing”

JT: Wow, that is a great, great poem.

LW: But do you see what I mean, about how it pertains to your paintings? “The quiet and the clarity.” “The fusion of exact moments”. “The silence of it inside the thundering.” Your paintings remind me in that last context a bit of Jackson Pollock’s and how critics, when his drip paintings first began appearing, kept keying off on their silence, which was odd, because of course they were silent—they were paintings!—but I think the critics were being struck by a sort of galactic silence—all these gestures exploding as if in the vacuum of far outer space—whereas yours suggest the tinkling aftermath of a terrible explosion that has only just occured.

JT: Only just occured. But that business, too, about the hurricane…

LW: “The discretion a tornado has when it tears down building after building.”

JT: Yes.

LW: The key word there being “discretion.” I once had a professor who noted that for St Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order, the primary virtue of any monk was “discretion” and wondered what he could have meant by that, concluding that it must have had something to do with the Latin origin of the word, dis-excretio, which is to say the ability to know the difference between food and shit.

JT: But how one thing is linked with the other one.

LW: Precisely, in that one becomes the other, but the latter is also necessary, as fertilizer, in even making the former possible. Discretion being the ability to know the place of each—literally: you don’t eat shit—a sense of proper relation.

JT: Each thing in its place.

LW: Even after an explosion.

LW: It strikes me that these paintings inhabit a zone somewhere between two of TS Eliot’s most famous aphorisms: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins“ (from near the end of The Wasteland), on the one hand, and “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” (from his poem Gerontion), on the other: both products of the years immediately after the First World War.  

And in the context of the latter in particular, I’m also reminded of another ode to precision, this one by the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, composed in his case in the wake of the Second World War and the Stalinist repressions that followed it in his homeland, where, faced with the contention on the part of many that the horrors were just so vast that they should just be forgotten—what’s the point of remembering?—Herbert, speaking in the guise of his alter ego, “Mr Cogito on the Need for Precision,” countered:

and yet in these matters 

accuracy is essential 

we must not be wrong 

even by a single one

we are despite everything 

the guardians of our brothers

ignorance about those who have disappeared 

undermines the reality of the world

           Strange, though, that last phrase in the context of your paintings, which in one reading could be seen as an act of witness—and one by a painter whose country has seen its own surfeit of history. 

JT: You mean certain kinds of ignorance “undermining the reality of the world”?

LW: Yes, precisely, because in another sense, your work is all about complicating any simple act of witness or remembrance. You speak of vertigo: “undermining” is what you are all about. Far from being photorealistic renditions of wreckage, your paintings are if anything surrealistic. The reality of experience comes up for grabs.

JT: But not in a simple way. Because at such moments, this is what reality in fact feels like.

LW: Granted. But as against Herbert’s contention, one might consider a passage from Maurice Merleau Ponty, from 1945, also just after the Second World War, in an essay entitled La Guerre a eu Lieu (mistranslated as “The War Has Taken Place,” whereas it literally means, “The War Has Had a Place”):

” We have learned history and we claim that it must not be forgotten. But are we here not the dupes of our own emotions? In 10 years when we reread these pages and so many others, what will we think of them? We do not want this year, 1945, to become just another year among many. A man who has lost his Son or the woman he loved does not want to live beyond that loss. He leaves the house in the state that it was in”

That last applying to you: “leaves the house in the state that it was in.”

(continuing) “The familiar objects upon the table. The clothes in the closet mark an empty place in the world. The day will come however when the meaning of these things will change. Once they were wearable and now they are out of date. They are shabby and out of style. To keep them any longer it would not make the dead person live on, quite the opposite. They date his death all the more cruelly.”

Pretty amazing passage.

JT: Amazing. But it is true: with time, they end up blowing up the ruins to make room for new buildings. And we all become complicit in that.

LW: But your paintings get to stand as a sort of marker along yet another precarious border, in this case somewhere between Herbert and Merleau Ponty.


LW: In closing though, thank you, Jorge, for letting me subject you to what I realize must seem a veritable torrent of literary and historical associations. I just wanted to give you a sense of some of the things that your paintings had raised up in me. But in no sense was I intending to suggest that these various citations should serve, as it were, as captions to your paintings, as crude exhaustions of their meaning. That’s always a danger when you set, say, a poem beside a painting. Your paintings seem to me, first and foremost, mysterious, self-contained, sovereign. Response can only be tentative, approximate, fugitive.

           Which in turn reminds me—one last passage, if I may, and may I offer this one in the spirit a parting gift—from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s notebooks, his own advice on how to situate oneself in face of a landscape (and perhaps, in our context, in the presence of an upcoming exhibition of paintings):

I have before now experienced that the best way to get a vivid impression and feeling of a landscape is to sit down before it and read, or become otherwise absorbed in thought; for then, when your eyes happen to be attracted to the landscape, you seem to catch Nature at unawares, and see her before she has time to change her aspect. The effect lasts but for a single instant, and passes away almost as soon as you are conscious of it; but it is real for that moment. It is as if you could overhear and understand what the trees are whispering to one another; as if you caught a glimpse of a face unveiled, which veils itself from every willful glance. The mystery is revealed, and, after a breath or two, becomes just as great a mystery as before.

JT: Lovely. Thank you.

Lawrence Weschler, for twenty years a staff writer of the New Yorker, is the author of over twenty books of narrative nonfiction and cultural criticism, including A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (about Uruguay and Brazil); Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (about the Museum of Jurasssic Technology in Los Angeles); and Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (about the contemporary artist Robert Irwin).

For more, see

Before, During, and After the Ruins: Jorge Tacla's Hidden Identities
Florencia San Martín

A small painting seemingly in negative shows the façade of two adjacent houses (Fig. 1). Four long narrow windows are at the center of the canvas, and a slice of sky on the top left corner appears to lighten the almost claustrophobic sensation created by the framing of the architecture with its simple and compact structure. A curtain from one of the windows moves violently towards the inside of the house, while the blinds next to it fade to black. It all happens in an unexpected chaotic moment: the strip that separates both homes vanishes amid the brick below the windows, and the building’s moldings are destroyed by what appears to be a pile of house furnishings, before turning, in the moment that follows the painting, into rubble, into ruins. The house, the houses, have become uninhabitable places, just like the image in negative that emanates from the painting and even tarnishes it entirely; though, this uniformity has been caused by a devastating humidity that arrives suddenly and destroys everything in its path. Yes, a homogeneous gray stain will appear in front of the squinting spectator, and yet the objects and time inhabiting the painting are anything but a fixation. The first of a large series of paintings made by Jorge Tacla since 2011, Hidden Identity 1 depicts the last great earthquake to occur in Chile. 

A few years before, in 1977, Chilean poet Juan Luis Martinez published La nueva novela. Written and designed over the course of seven years, between 1968 and 1975, Martinez’s work, like Tacla’s series, begins with an image of an earthquake (Fig. 2). The image, selected from the extensive visual media archive and printed on the cover of the book-as-object, is a black-and-white photograph of the moment when three houses are destroyed during the 1964 earthquake in Alaska.[1] The houses, which were designed and built to withstand the arctic climate through thermal insulation, are simple and functional, and the photojournalist caught the exact moment when the structures detach from the ground and tip to the side, before eventually collapsing on top of the neighboring houses. Things we don’t see either in the image appropriated by Martinez or in Jorge Tacla’s Hidden Identity 1 are devastated marketplaces, malls, city avenues, and freeways. Also missing are forests, beaches, fields, rivers, and the sea. No, we never see the sea. Instead we see a small set of two or three homes in a brutal and sudden collapse, “unhinging one of the basic symbols of life and human interaction: the house. It has become an unstable and dangerous place which no longer offers shelter or protection.”[2] Three quotes from La Nueva Novela highlight and try to explain the cover image duplicated on page 120 of the book. The poet writes:



“La casa que construirás mañana; ya que está en el pasado y no existe.”


           “El hombre nace en la casa, pero muere en el desierto.”

                                                         Proverbio del Gran Lama Errante

Oído por S.J. Perse en el desierto de Gobi 

“Cuando la familia está hecha viene la dispersión;

          cuando la casa está construida, llega la muerte.”

                                                         José Lezama Lima

           *Véase: Adolf Hitler Vs. Tania Savich


As shown in the above series of quotes, the unavoidable destruction of the house—or seeing the home as a threatening and vulnerable place—inevitably drives the reader towards a different register: one of senses and their movement. “The aftermath of chaos that underlies La Nueva Novela—as we’re told by Enrique Lihn and Pedro Lastra—is the same which hides reality under its apparent pretension of order.”[3] In a similar way, Jorge Tacla, through his Hidden Identities series, has created an alternative way of telling a story that is different than the one used by the dichotomous spaces built by western rationality. This is why it’s not surprising that upon meeting with the artist a few days ago prior to the opening of his latest exhibition at the Tufts University Art Gallery in Boston, he answered my question about literature by saying that Juan Luis Martinez had a tremendous impact on his work.

However, this is not the first time that the focus is on both the destruction of the home and the ambiguity of the house as a place of shelter and happiness. One example taken from the history of art is Degas’s Interior (1868-1869), where the distorted perspective and irrational lighting threaten to destroy the constructs of order and gender in the household during the Second Empire. Created in a century that made people addicted to their houses, as Walter Benjamin said several times, the painting depicts a scene with two bodies: at first glance, a dominant male and a shrunken female. These two mysteriously interact in an indoor environment that, by the wallpaper and the bed, we know is a bedroom. The teenager’s face is surrounded by a visually inexplicable shadow, rendering her description impossible and negating the act of seduction as an unequivocal understanding of social construct. It is through this switching of visual references that, as Susan Sidlauskas argues, Degas proposes an alternative scenario: an interior that transforms the space as much as those who inhabit it.[4] Jorge Tacla has thought about all of this while creating Hidden Identities, building a narrative on the psychological complexities that emanate from the relationships between mind and space in both the human subjects and the architecture within his paintings. In other words, the painter makes visible the development of the humankind from the opaque, blurring the dualities of victim and victimizer, aggressor and attacked,  or any other possible binaries. In this essay, I analyze the Hidden Identities series, focusing on a few case studies in order to show the constant tension that calls for the incapacity of the mind’s transparency in relation to the trope of identity. In so doing, I also examine recurring concerns within Tacla’s work, such as the representation of memory, history, spatiality, painting, and human suffering.

Hidden Identities has been exhibited on four occasions so far, the first time being at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile between June and September 2014. The Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York was the second to display the series from May to July 2015, and next was the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) between October 2015 and February 2016. The paintings are currently being shown at the Tufts University Art Gallery in Boston from January to May 2016.[5] In all, the psychological tension occurs many times in the private space; like in Degas’ painting, in Tacla’s case there is also a bed. However, the latter always shows this object in a destroyed form. In Hidden Identity 81 (2014), for example, we see a bed in blue and grey tones, reminiscent of a mid-nineteenth century cyanotype, through a pronounced foreshortening that at first glance appears to be the focal point of the painting (Fig. 3). There is a window or precipice to the right, but this abyss emits a light that reaches under the bed and highlights its edges. The light slowly dims and the painting’s corners fade to black. But, after a closer look, the viewer observes how the creases in the sheets are converted into something else: now, they are bodies. Two intertwined bodies leaning into each other rest their heads on the edge of the bed, near the window that has now turned into a canyon. They sleep in an embrace and dissolve into the bed, almost becoming part of it through sleep. And then, next to the remains of the bed, forming a triptych, Tacla has added two other paintings: a portrait and a river. Each painting is separated by a very small space. In the one at the center, entitled Hidden Identity 78 (2014), the portrait of Marcia Merino appears behind a violent horizontal sweep. Also known as La Flaca Alejandra, Merino was a militant of the MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement of Chile) who after being tortured by the DINA (Chilean Secret Police) collaborated directly with Miguel Krassnoff during the Pinochet dictatorship. In Tacla’s painting, Merino is gazing at something not in the canvas: maybe at the torturer, the betrayed, or nothing at all. These are inscrutable and volatile eyes, or eyes that refuse to be seen. Meanwhile, the viewer is able to see a thin naked body in a claustrophobic interior space. We want to go into the canvas and find out more, but both the painting and the portrait seem to push us out, not letting us think in categories that could be all of the emotions at once. “I was the symbol of betrayal,”[6] says La Flaca at various occasions throughout Carmen Castillo’s documentary about her. “I was too weak to endure the torture.”[7]

In his book The Drowned and The Saved, Primo Levi elaborated on the “grey area” concept. Using his own life’s testimony as the only possible narrative, Levi wrote: “The only reason to live is to avoid the witness to die.”[8] The chemist turned writer described the psychological processes that underlay the living conditions endured in the Nazi Lager, where a group of deportees would become complicit in their own destruction.[9] Sharing Levi’s proposed inability of judgment, but including the context of local political history, Chilean writer Diamela Eltit identified a “chameleon-like” persona that attaches itself to places of power—first to the revolutionary left and then the DINA/CNI—culminating in the pardon given within the reconciliatory context of the Transition. “Within certain political entities there is a tendency, due to weakness or a desire for belonging and status, to shift in the direction of the more dominant ideological winds,” Eltit wrote in Emergencias.[10] But even though it is also possible that the eagerness to participate is dismissed at first because of the desire to survive,[11] what I think Tacla’s paintings are concerned with is related to what happens the moment before the unraveling: that chaotic time that happens too soon to be shown. It is, in other words, a puzzling instant that conceals itself while the painting occurs, as if the canvas were the only place for survival as it continues to defeat itself time and again. And it is during this struggle that a river appears in the last painting of the triptych. Like La Flaca’s stare, the river is also impenetrable. It is dark and violent, and what looks like a photographic panning over the river serves as an allegory of what it damages and what it contains. Many missing were thrown by the military into the waters of Chile.

The series features other beds, actually, many more. In Hidden Identity 17 (2011), the painter’s gaze finds itself in a brutally devastated room. The thick cracks in the wall at times turn into grey stains, reaching over the three-dimensional illusion and bringing the painting into pure abstraction. The evidential marks of disaster appear to be dripping, while the bed’s own fractured parts turn into creases. And these creases that were once cracks as well as paint continue the flow of the blanket towards the floor, turning everything to a confusing and realist scenario once again. We don’t know the exact cause nor the setting of the catastrophe, but we do know we are seeing it as it occurs and that the photographer—occasionally the artist himself— has captured the image from a high vantage point within the bedroom and with a wide angle, achieving a wide panoramic view of the scene. However, because of the long narrow window to the right of the painting, as well as the logistical details (the year and series number), we might think that this is an indoor view of one of 500,000 homes destroyed by the earthquake in Chile on February 27th, 2010.

Not even a month prior, on January 12th, an earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale with an epicenter in Port-Au-Prince left 316,000 casualties and 350,000 wounded, as well as rendered approximately a million and a half Haitian people homeless. Considering the current socioeconomic situation of this Caribbean country, the same one that only twenty years after being hit by the strongest earthquake in its history in 1770 began the first Latin American revolution that would result in its independence from France as well as in the abolition of slavery, the large quantity of casualties, wounded people and destroyed houses during the 2010 catastrophe were very significant, as were the images of bodies crushed and trapped by rickety construction that immediately traveled across the world. Many photographic lenses were unable to capture the moment these structures came down given the velocity of the destruction, and on more than one occasion Tacla has used some of these images to turn them into negatives.

At the Tufts exhibition, right after entering the gallery and seeing Hidden Identity 1, the spectator encounters a triptych about the earthquake in Haiti. The image on the left, entitled Hidden Identity 7 (2011), is a landscape divided into four parallel parts, including the sky, a narrow hill on a hazy horizon, and then the sea. The fourth part has rubble replacing the earth, taking up two-thirds of it all. Houses, streets, anything that may have been identified as furnishings or real estate has become rubble, losing all of their morphological recognition. It may be the case in this allegory of the present and its memory—where we see different kinds of construction, some more fragile than others—that there was never anything other than ruins. In any event, it is in the painting to the far right of the triptych, Hidden Identity 9, where the close-up of an unknown becomes anxiously permanent. There is nothing more than shapes made out of organic vertical and horizontal strokes; at first glance, there is nothing but geometric abstraction or flat painting. And yet, looking beyond that immediate impression, the viewer can identify some diagonals crossing through the canvas that keep the illusion of depth, and, by extension, the negative aesthetic (in the photographical sense) in Jorge Tacla’s work.

But Tacla’s aesthetics of the negative, as well as the simulated effect of pure abstraction and flat painting, first began in the late 1980s when the artist’s focus on the human body started to take the shape of landscapes and buildings. Since then it has become difficult, if not unlikely, for the viewer to recognize certain objects when he or she gets close to the paintings, and vice versa. The spectator’s body is now involved in the piece through its physical and participative proximity, rather than simply being an observer. This system, related to proximity and distance, is repeated in the choices made by Tacla considering the visual field of his paintings. And yet there are exceptions, and it is through those alterations that the artist produces a second reading revealing the differences between First and Third World relations. Thus, when in Hidden Identity 7 the viewer identifies two-thirds of the canvas with shapes that resemble mountains, sky, and the sea, below those shapes there is nothing but rubble, and otherness, making it impossible to recognize what it once was. Within this same perspective we then encounter Hidden Identity 4, an image alluding to Japan’s 2011 earthquake, except that this time the effect is used in an inverted manner. In the painting, a housing complex is brutally destroyed and yet we can still identify the windows, the front of the building, and the flat roof that because of the tectonic movement is bending diagonally forward with great force. As in the painting referring to Chile’s earthquake, where there was a section of sky in the corner of the canvas, in the painting of Japan we can also identify the differences between the form and background, as well as the names of the objects they were before turning into ruin. However, it is worth mentioning that these contrasting perspectives caused by Jorge Tacla’s distinct representational system are not trying in any way to measure pain, because to do so would imply another form of hierarchically categorizing human lives and suffering. This is about trying to reflect on a kind of suffering that has not been caused by human or divine rage (Susan Sontag once said that suffering caused by natural causes, either inadvertently or unexpected chance, is barely represented in Art History iconography),[12] but instead by the contingency of structural differences—architectural as well as economical— that underlie the allocation and distribution of nations designed at the start of the Cold War.

But if we choose to set morphology aside, we could also say that even though the rubble has disguised what these objects once were through visual abstraction, they are still named. They are ruins and memory; the building of a present that only inhabits in and within time as it affects the past and pushes it forward. As Walter Benjamin famously noted, the past must be reinvented and refreshed in every present moment, resisting the “Angel of Progress” that looks triumphantly at the future while clearing, and forgetting, any obstacles it may encounter.[13] Considering the ruins as the present, Tacla’s paintings oppose the modern Cartesian progressivist view of a house as being more than just its exterior, more present than past. “It’s about dissecting the architectural skeleton,” the artist explained, of showing that uninvited lapse of time that neither blinds nor reveals, in positive or negative, the presence of controlling systems within the buildings’ past, present, or future. In the moment that the photojournalistic images intervene with the oil paint and cold wax, Tacla accounts for the image’s morph into the darkness and then the blinding brightness through which the building’s skeleton is revealed. This process works in a magnificent manner in Hidden Identities, and it does so not necessarily as a metaphor for the human mind, but rather as an extension of it. The artist’s creative process is akin to its historical meaning. As Tacla explained in a recent interview:

I develop the image on oil over canvas primed with rabbit skin glue. While the fabric is still soaking I cover it with a thick layer of cold wax and pigment, almost concealing the image entirely. Then I start to cut the layers and reconnect the spaces, as a surgeon or psychopath would, until a very thin and vulnerable skin remains. The whole process happens very quickly because the surface needs to remain damp. I think of my process not unlike an autopsy, where layers need to be peeled and removed in order to access what’s inside.[14]

It is within that “inside,” I thought, that interior part of the structure that is violently relieved of its materiality, where the spectator’s gaze is thrown off-balance by instability and agony. Thus, in pieces, or better broken into pieces, it is now the viewer who enters Jorge Tacla’s battlefield. 

Last December I visited the artist’s studio on 39th Street and 6th Avenue with my sister, an architecture student. I remember her standing in front of a large scale painting with a blinding white stripe crossing vertically down the center of a devastated building. I remember her repeatedly asking the artist about the blueprints and the layout, noting the spatial importance in the painting. It was then that Tacla told us about his months in the desert. It happened in 1988. Seven years prior, he had moved to New York after attending the Fine Arts School at the Universidad de Chile from 1976 to 1979.[15] During those years, Chile was living under dictatorship. In 1973, the presidential palace La Moneda was bombed during a Cold War operation orchestrated by Chilean military groups and American aids, eventually silencing the voices and bodies of an entire country. Since very early on in his career, Tacla painted those shrunken, distorted, and broken bodies, suspended within the trauma of self-censorship that became known as one of the most successful tactics of the regime. The New York art community, reacting to those paintings made in the 1980s that consisted of “furious anthropoids involved in cruel pantomimes of primitive human behavior,”[16] rewarded the artist with a Guggenheim Scholarship. This eventually was what led Tacla to the Atacama Desert. “I would go there every day with a briefcase and sit on a rock. I never did anything,” the painter said in 1999.[17]

I became aware of space and connected it with pictorial space by turning everything into a negative[…] I began to focus on the spaces that embody different social attitudes [such as] landmark buildings, which bothered me simply because they were landmarks: their powerful representation, their presence, how a building could imply respect. Behind these façades there is an internal biology. For example, after the 1985 earthquake in Chile I was able to see, through a tragedy, the weakness behind constructions that appear indestructible… It was then that I looked into buildings that project this image of protection, like the Pentagon, constructions that appear to protect a society but destroy it at the same time. I started to work on architecture from its most vulnerable point: edifices that appear to be hanging from a foundation that doubts their presence from the most sensitive spot that the representation of construction has.[18]

As the quote above demonstrates, two main concerns began to develop in Tacla’s work after his months in the desert: the “inner biology behind the façade,” which translates also into the “architectural skeleton,” as well as the aesthetics of the negative. Both are related to spatiality, with the first alluding to the frailty of edifices in the modern states as occurs in Hidden Identities the moment we detect the concealed ghost that reveals itself through what the artist names “architectural skin.” We see then visual markers that mix with images conjured behind or in front of them, such as that white strip that dissected a building and attracted my sister’s attention, or the outline of the Chilean flag framing a painting of the palace of La Moneda in flames on September 11th, 1973 (Fig. 4.)

This last work, a large scale painting titled Hidden Identity 117 (2015), is based on one the most symbolic photographs Walter Heynowski and Gerhard Scheumann (documentarians from the German Democratic Republic) captured on the day of the coup from the windows and roof of the Hotel Carrera. Reproduced countless times throughout the world as an example of the occupied Chilean state, these images, not unlike Primo Levi’s literature regarding concentration camps during World War II or the photographs taken by Susan Meiselas during the Nicaraguan insurrection, show a story as seen through the eyes of the witness. More precisely, Heynowski’s and Scheumann’s images belong to the worldwide archive that preserves the collective memory of archetypal buildings destroyed by terrorist activities, of which perhaps the most famous, but not necessarily the most cruel, painful, sensationalist, or historically consequential, is the photograph taken by Richard Drew on the morning of 9/11 in lower Manhattan.[19] But, as previously stated, there is no way of measuring or comparing pain; thus, we can only think of these images and related events as consequences and how they shape a present that only constitutes itself in a “state of memory.”[20] And that is precisely what Jorge Tacla’s paintings achieve.

In the painting of La Moneda, the artist not only takes from the symbolic archive in order to intervene and pictorially convert it into the present time, but he also has it coexisting with the Chilean flag. This last symbol, established as the “country’s emblem” along with the coat of arms and the national anthem in the still prevailing-constitution signed in 1980 by Augusto Pinochet and the Junta, coincides in Tacla’s work with the ends of the canvas, making it difficult to differentiate between the object and its representation, like Jasper Johns did in the 1950s in his Flag series. In this way, Tacla takes the painting allegorically into the mundane, to the thing, alluding to the continuity of authoritarianism and its nationalistic patriarchal values that go beyond the dictatorship and the transition. The ghost of the regime, or its perverse continuation, was designed not only by supporters instead of oppressors, but also by a much more complex spectrum of subjectivities, or hidden identities, which is known as the successful introduction of the neoliberal model in Chile at the beginning of the 1980s by Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys. It is right there, in the overlay of images and in the matching of their borders, where the artist reveals the architectural skeleton during and after the coup d’état, turning the document, the proof that is Heynowski’s and Scheumann’s photographic journalism, into representation and object at the same time. Just as in Kiefer’s paintings, where the present’s frailty happens within vast landscapes of low horizons, alluding to the historical myth surrounding German nationalism through a mixture of traditional and organic objects, Tacla paints a claustrophobic weakness of the mind in the body and in space, making visible the gaps of the past in the contingency of the present. In this sense, it is interesting how Adorno’s thoughts from the 1960s are not as famous, such as when he reassessed his famous quote from 1951 after reading Paul Celan. If “writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” as Adorno said a few years prior to his death, not doing so is to not recognize history and to therefore exterminate it, since the figure of the witness is the only route of possible representation. But Kiefer and Tacla are a different kind of witness compared to Primo Levi, Luz Arce, or Pedro Matta.[21] Though neither Kiefer nor Tacla were ever prisoners of torture and extermination camps, nor were they forced into exile because of ethnic or political reasons, they share much in common with Celan. The painters are witnesses to societal consequential aftermath, subjects of a collective body that does not think of history from the side of progress, reconciliation, or the sentencing (whether it’s temporary or life imprisonment, or the death penalty), but rather from the clash of the contingency of the past through its history. The painters are, overall, witnesses that demonstrate how even after the ruins there is still a name to what once was, even though those names contradict themselves due to the fragility of the events time and again. It’s not by chance then that Hidden Identities was first exhibited at Chile’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights.[22]

As for the aesthetics behind his use of the negative, the second concern in Tacla’s work that came out of his months in the desert, art historian and critic Donald Kuspit detected a representational dialectic wherein the implicit allusion to infinity given by the desert contradicts and comes into conflict with the visual splendor of master architecture. “The desert is clearly architecture’s 'negative,' that is to say the 'original' absence of the social presence that fills the space through construction. This 'positive' filling is done with power and social authority,[23]” Kuspit wrote once, noting that within the “negative vision of history” proposed by the artist, the spatial conventions present in both the desert and architecture exist in more of a “hallucination” over “proximity with its material premise.”[24] Agreeing with the irony of Kuspit’s thoughts regarding “positivity” and the dogmatic reproduction emanating from landmark buildings, as well as with the allegory of the desert’s vastness which acts as the negative, the subjectivity in Tacla’s paintings regarding buildings destroyed in specific places and amid historical moments appears to be fighting with the mysterious and seductive that goes with the hallucinatory. Much like Degas’s Interior, the mysterious side is there, but the mystery does not have a larger or lesser meaning when compared to the preceding reference. Both the mystery and the materiality of the local in Jorge Tacla’s series can lead into more universal interpretations regarding the human mind’s way of perceiving and dealing with trauma and physical destruction. But these interpretations, indeed, are connected to each other by shared cultural, colonial, political, social, and ethnic histories. This is why, I think—and again this is a possible reading but certainly not the only or definite one—that Hidden Identities could be read in conjunction with the thoughts of Homi K. Bhabha, who warns about the trap of using only universal speech relating to masculinity. According to Bhabha:

“Masculinism” as a position of social authority is not simply about the power invested in the recognizable “person” of men. [In fact] it would be perfectly possible for woman to occupy the role of a representative man (Maculinism is instead) about the subsumption or sublation of social antagonism; it is about the repression of social holistic or universal discourse on the representation of the social that naturalizes cultural difference.[25]

An illustrative example of the problem Bhabha is referring to, which connects to my own reading of Tacla’s work where the negative of the human brain’s binary psychology intervenes, is the critique Idelber Avelar makes of Death and the Maiden (1990), a play written by Ariel Dorfman that was later adapted into film in 1994 by Roman Polanski.[26] In the play and film, the characters are turned into stereotypes and fetishes, which seem to personify the likely implausibility of the mind’s deepest subjectivities: Paulina, a former political prisoner who was tortured and raped during the Pinochet dictatorship, represents female hysteria, and Gerardo, Paulina’s husband, represents male rationality. On a dark stormy night, Paulina’s torturer ends up by chance at the couple’s beachside home. Recognizing her victimizer by means of his voice—one of the tactics of the DINA/CNI was to keep prisoners blindfolded—Paulina tries over and over to convince her husband she is telling the truth, that she has recognized in the visitor the man who tortured her during the dictatorship. Yet Gerardo, who in the play and film was part of a new governmental commission on the infringement of human rights, still chooses to believe the torturer instead of his wife’s account. “In other words,” Avelar tells us, “the Polanski/Dorfman film attempts to be feminist by featuring a couple composed of a hysteric and an idiot.”[27] In turn, we have Dorfman’s own ambitions of universality: “The play I wrote twenty years ago about Chile’s torture and trauma has a painful, global relevance today.”[28] The line that opens the film, “A country in South America, after the fall of the dictatorship,” makes us think, as Avelar argues, that the use of the prefixes “A” and “The” are nothing but contradictions on specific historical and geopolitical subjectivities.[29] All of the above brings us back to the erasing of cultures, the suppression of particular stories, and their connections to others that Bhabha predicted in the early 1990s while referring to a universalist desire. Agreeing with the complications that inspire the global aim of some representations of suffering, (Bhabha, 1992; Avelar, 2001) and with a narrative voice that, as in Martinez’s La Nueva Novela, could also “appeal to a historical reader, considerate of time frames (that the poet) has disguised through tricks and effects of timelessness, not unlike an illusionist,”[30] Tacla traces a geographical, political, historical, and catastrophic triangle between Chile, the United States, and the Middle East, making visible a likely account of shared stories where state acts of terrorism, civil wars, assassinations, and iconoclast periods intervene in the building of memory and in the contradictions of the human mind. Thus, if we observe the series as a whole, we notice that there are many images located within this geopolitical triangle. Examples of this are: the burning of La Moneda in Santiago, the destruction of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Romanic church which converted into a mosque in the fifteenth century and into a museum at the start of the twentieth century, and which has consistently captured the artist’s attention since 2006.[31] What are these stories? How do their memories and construction of subjectivities are connected through time? But first of all, why does Tacla have this fixation on the trauma occurring in the collective body and the human mind’s contradictions within this specific geopolitical and cultural triangle?

Refuting the orthodox discourse of a pure minimalism in the U.S. during the 1960s, Anna C. Chave[32] identified multiple minimalisms responding positively to the famous question asked by Foucault in the late 1970s, which was derived from Beckett in the 1960s: “What difference does it make who is speaking?”[33] Taking as a case study the political identity behind the serial latex, fiberglass, and polyester resin sculptures of Eva Hesse, a German of Jewish descent who in 1939 immigrated to New York with her family at the age of four, and questioning therefore the strategic absence of the author practiced by canonical minimalist artists of the time, a great example of which being Carl André, Chave concluded her essay by saying: “The answer (to Foucault's question) was and is: it matters crucially.”[34]

Descendant of Syrian grandparents on his father's side and Palestinian grandparents on his mother's side, Jorge Tacla was born in Santiago in 1958. The historic formation of intellectual circles, religious institutions, and mercantile centers created by communities of thousands of people who arrived to Latin America from the Middle East at the end of the nineteenth century during the Ottoman Empire on the one side; and the historic connection of the Mahjar with the political activism during, for example, the Syrian Revolution of 1925, the First and Second World War, and the current refugee crisis on the other side;[35] connect a pivotal aspect of Jorge Tacla's political identity with “an international public sphere that links the Latin American Arabs with their Middle Eastern countries and the diaspora communities around the world.”[36] It is not by chance that Tacla has focused on the Syrian civil war as well as the Gaza massacres time and time again. Beginning with the first one in 2011 and taken to the unexpected place of machining the destruction of life and culture after ISIS showed the world the video of the beheading of an American journalist in 2014, the second has a long story in contemporary history beginning with the formation of the Zionist movement in the nineteenth century. However, it was not until after the end of WWII, when England decided to separate Palestine into two states (the side that had 57% of the territory given to the Jewish people, and the rest to the Palestinian Arabs), that at different moments in recent history the Gaza Strip was systematically bombed and its people forced to migrate. First in 1948 after the formation of the State of Israel; then in 1967 during the Six-Day War when approximately 400,000 illegal Israeli settlements were installed in Palestinian territory; to what then turned into the Intifadas of 1987 and 2000. Most recently in 2014, after several disputes between Palestine and Israel in the twenty-first century, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) led an indiscriminatory attack against the population of Gaza with the objective to attack Hamas, yet ending with taking the lives of thousands of civilians as well as leaving numerous homeless.

In Hidden Identities both of the Middle Eastern conflicts appear so much that, considering the amount of Western press images where these massacres are displayed under terrorist-related headlines due to economic and imperialistic interests from the United States, it seems that the series is largely referring to a non-binary revision of said events, and, from there, the systems of power concealed within home, and by extension humanitarian, destructions that have occurred during the last few decades throughout the world. Indeed, going further away from the four exhibitions exclusively dedicated to the series, both the Syrian situation as well as that in Gaza gave way to two large-scale paintings of buildings turning into ruin that the artist showed at the Emergency Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial.[37] Set up in the wall at the front entrance of the Fondamenta Nuove Theatre, the intense white titanium of the paintings made the focal zenith light of the venue bounce off the canvases, tracing on the bodies of the spectators a mirage of silhouettes. By involving the viewer's body through light and lightness, creating a spectacle from the gaze alone, but at the same time turning the visitor into a participant of the paintings through their own shadows and through their collectivity, Tacla proposed a new way of seeing, criticizing western strategies that reproduce these catastrophes as solely terrorist, instilling fear and the generalization of the Arab world to justify the repercussions that occurred after 9/11. Tacla then, quite lucidly, built a narrative that distanced itself from the dominating relations that underlie the models of the victim and the victimizer.

But as part of the Mahjar diaspora, the artist does not nationalize his concern to particular massacres in the Arab world: the painting of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey is one example, and a small canvas where a woman cradles in her arms a recently deceased woman during the 2009 presidential elections in Iran is another (Fig. 5). This second case study serves as a starting point in order to think of the many possible relationships that occur in the geopolitics that frame the series, considering that the artist's political identity does not take his attention away from catastrophic events in Chile, where he lived until the age of twenty-three during the time of the Popular Unity and the dictatorship, and in the United States, where he has resided for thirty-five years since moving to New York in 1981. Being part of the Latino diaspora[38] as well as the Mahjar one, Tacla has maintained close bonds with the stories, local artists, and immigrants in the place of multiple identity crossroads that is New York, which resulted in his participation in the famous exhibition The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s, co-organized in 1990 by three institutions.[39] Obviously this is not about an identity related solely and entirely on the physical experience with geography, but about one that considers the experience from displacement, diasporas, as well as historical and cultural networks throughout the world. It is from there that, as Chave thought, it does matter who speaks.

Before continuing, it is worth mentioning that, at the same time, from each image or event other small stories emerge that cover different places across the world connected through time or theme, as in the paintings of the Chile, Haiti, and Japan earthquakes, or, in a different register, as in the paintings of the 1995 attack in Oklahoma and those large canvases representing a weapons factory in the Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War. But there's more: to these paintings, the author seems to say, we could add many others that do not necessarily need to exist materially or historically, given that the future of the ruins or the expectation of them has more to do with the construction of subjectivities connected with memory and the present than with foreshadowing certain events. So it is not the magician who paints or the one who thinks about the Pentagon being destroyed before 9/11, nor is it the psychic taking the place of the artist in the Syria and Gaza paintings shown at the 2013 Venice Biennial. Those paintings and those thoughts, I believe, are not coincidental.[40] Always paying attention to the mind's inconsistencies, or better said, to the "skeleton of architecture," for Tacla the contradictory ghost of the mind happens while comprehending a temporality that comes from inherent meanings of the creation of culture and power structures. It's worth mentioning that those contradictions appear in a series of drawings entitled Cuadernos that accompany the series, yet here form a more intimate reference. Installed in the four shows as a horizontal row, the drawings have their origin in a residency the artist did in Italy in 2013 at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center. While there, at the same time that Tacla was in conversations with psychiatrist Gianni L. Faedda, art critic Christian Viveros-Fauné, and philosopher Francisco de Lara, he began writing random phrases and sketches violently on paper, taking away from language its representative capacity and the composition of the linguistic symbol, just as the foggy consistency generated by the mixing of the oil paint with the cold wax in his paintings represents another layer of the mind's contradictions. Noting the shadows, the last shadows of his time,[41] the artist writes words that are then crossed out, repeated, extended, and contracted once and again. "Time terminates of the per present," Tacla writes in a drawing; "I have to go home." on another one. And so, through the crossing out of words and the reference to the house, the drawings within the Cuadernos bring us back to Juan Luis Martinez’s La Nueva Novela

But going back to the painting of the woman with another woman in her arms in Iran, a country where homosexuals are murdered and women are imprisoned if they do not fulfill the dress code, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected in 2009, awakening a series of protests in Iran as well as the rest of the world. Amid these protests denouncing fraud in the elections, many women and racial, religious, and generic minorities were murdered. Many of whom, one might add, the state already considered to be second-class citizens. One of these women lies in the arms of another who looks at her with deep anguish in Tacla's Hidden Identity 62 (2014). How can that despair, that death, that horrific image of human suffering connect with other images of architecture or landmarks being destroyed in the recent history in the other side of the Atlantic? The painting of La Moneda in Chile and those of the Pentagon in the United States (whether it's those from before or after 9/11) will work to trace, together with the painting of the women in Iran, one of the many contradictions as well as historic and symbolic narratives that can be observed through the geopolitical triangle of Hidden Identities (Fig. 4 and 6). Giving way for other multiple possibilities that happen more widely in the subjectivities of our present due to trauma and the temporality of ruins, these paintings involve both the body as architecture and the quotation of famous art works in history related to the iconography of suffering. But before referring to the connections between these two tropes, it seems important to refer first to the international relations between these three geographies in Tacla’s series, beginning with the coup d'etat in 1973, a "painful [event] in Chilean history" which, as Donald Kuspit well noted, awoke the "terror and trauma of history" in Tacla's oeuvre.[42]

In a recent edition of LASA Forum that was dedicated to the urgent issue of relations between the Middle East and Latin America in connection to the United States,[43] a connection that Tacla has indeed been making since his months in the desert in the late 1980s and that manifests quite notably in Hidden Identities, an illuminated essay by Fernando Camach

La perspectiva del después: las heridas, los escombros, la cama deshecha y vacía
Francisco de Lara

Sumido en un halo de negrura, el lecho se presenta como lugar donde los cuerpos se sometieron a la tortura y el amor, escenario ya tranquilo de una violencia lenta y continuada que ha dejado su rastro en los pliegues de la cama, como dejan su huella el dolor y la alegría en la piel del rostro y de las manos. La colcha amarillenta, con esa textura de saco viejo y de mortaja, parece ocultar miembros despedazados. Más que de una habitación privada, se trata de un escenario histórico, el paisaje irregular de una matanza. Está observado con una especie de melancolía amarga; como un hombre llevado a ser combatiente repasaría el escenario de una lucha recién concluida y en la que invirtió toda su crueldad, sin entender aún cómo se llegó a tal encarnizamiento y si acaso podría haber sido de otro modo.

En vano han intentado algunos filósofos estigmatizar el mal y exorcizarlo como defecto o privación, incapacidad culpable. Según ellos, el mal no sería intrínseco ni necesario, en verdad ni siquiera se trataría de algo positivo; no hay un principio ni un órgano que lo ocasione, no es una fuerza real, por lo que resultaría posible superarlo, hacerlo desaparecer. La pregunta es a qué se debe entonces, de dónde surge, qué defecto lo ocasiona y cómo superarlo. Una de las más tempranas y persistentes respuestas que los filósofos esbozaron fue que la maldad está ligada a la ignorancia. El mal como defecto en las acciones depende, según esta concepción, de un defecto en el conocimiento. El camino hacia la perfección del hombre pasa entonces por una vida dedicada al conocimiento, entendido como la preocupación pensante por los asuntos cardinales, la dedicación atenta a las cuestiones donde se juega la posibilidad de una vida plenamente humana. El hombre actúa (y vive) tanto mejor cuanto más esencial y completo es su conocimiento, por lo que la dedicación a la filosofía -al conocimiento supremo- se presenta como el camino más adecuado para alcanzar la perfección en vida. La sabiduría así entendida no consiste en erudición pedante o dominio de materias, sino que pretende ir formando una mirada para lo esencial, que no se deje desgastar por todo lo que desune y escinde, lo que rebaja y arrastra; una mirada capaz de atravesar ese ámbito de lo disperso y dar con algo permanente. Se aspira de este modo a llevar una vida plena y unitaria mediante la contemplación de una realidad ordenada racionalmente, en la que rige alguna forma de armonía y cada cosa ocupa el lugar que le corresponde. La vida teórica así entendida apunta con su mirada a un ámbito pleno de sentido y aparta los ojos de este mundo en cuanto espacio del conflicto, la multiplicidad, las pasiones, la violencia, el poder, la irracionalidad y el sinsentido.


La contemplación posee, en efecto, la virtud de dejar en suspenso todo conflicto de forma momentánea. Es probable que la filosofía ponga sus ojos en un orden mejor a fin de generar un contraste con la realidad injusta y erigir una medida que sirva de guía y a la vez de crítica ante la violencia del hombre contra el hombre. Pero una contemplación como la descrita, el ideal de la vida teórica, puede convertirse también fácilmente en una especie de mirada desentendida, proyectada a algo que en el fondo no me atañe, que no soy yo ni depende de mí; algo a lo que quizá me deba o a lo que estoy esencialmente ligado, pero de lo que no soy responsable por encontrarse más allá de la esfera de las acciones humanas. Lo que así se contempla no está en manos de los hombres, no varía ni depende de nadie, pues en el fondo no es parte de este mundo. Se trata de algo que prevalece frente a la multitud de posturas y posibilidades humanas, que va más allá de toda pluralidad y contingencia; algo que trasciende el mundo humano como lo conocemos, aunque se postule como la norma que debiera guiarlo. La contemplación que dirige su mirada más allá de la contingencia para erigir un ideal irrenunciable de humanidad puede convertirse de esta manera en un irresponsable cerrar los ojos ante este mundo y volverse indiferente a la injusticia. Así se va pasando de un ideal humano de sabiduría a una pedantería impasible y evasiva. Quienes más decididamente rechazan todo trato con lo contingente y pretenden que la filosofía se ocupe sólo de lo supratemporal, más ajenos se vuelven a la violencia que sin duda ellos mismos sufren y también infligen.


Frente a este último tipo de contemplación teórica, ajena a la realidad concreta y cómplice pasiva de lo injusto, está la perspectiva que desearíamos describir en lo que sigue, y que se caracteriza por poner en suspenso el conflicto un momento, sí, pero no para darle la espalda, sino justamente para situarlo en el centro de la consideración, meditar sobre él y dar lugar a un cambio en este mundo. Desearía llamar a esta mirada la perspectiva del después. Por contraste, la mirada del filósofo meramente teórico, ciega y muda ante la conflictividad de este mundo, es la propia de una perspectiva que se pretende eterna. Habla y se dirige a algo que no tiene lugar como tal en esta vida, que no es ni jamás ha sido; considerada desde el mundo en que todos vivimos, se trata de la perspectiva del nunca.






Como seres humanos que son, los filósofos buscan también una forma de arraigo y plenitud en esta vida, desean ir más allá de la contingencia y la dispersión, anhelan una vida armónica en alguna medida, tanto con ellos mismos como con los demás hombres, en sociedad. Es este impulso sin duda el que los lleva finalmente a sus consideraciones, a apartar momentáneamente el enjambre abigarrado de tendencias que pugnan tanto entre nosotros como en cada uno de nosotros para así mostrar una posibilidad de vida pacificada. “¿Y si estas incesantes tensiones y esta violencia no fueran necesarias?” –parecen decirnos- “¿Y si en el fondo rigiera un orden, por frágil que sea, al que no podemos renunciar?”. Qué forma tenga ese posible orden, cuánto pueda mantenerse en pie sin sucumbir a la violencia ni convertirse en ella… sobre todo eso han ensayado las más diversas respuestas los distintos pensadores y los tiempos, pero el afán de encontrar un fondo que oriente y permita iluminar unitariamente lo que nos va cegando día a día parece algo intrínseco a la pretensión del filósofo. Por ese motivo, al leer y empaparnos de sus discursos, al adentrarnos en sus complejos intentos por construir y ordenar la realidad, no podemos dejar de experimentar cierto placer. Esa capacidad suya de ordenación tiene el efecto tranquilizador de las ficciones, donde todo encuentra su lugar y sucede por móviles reconocibles. Se nos habla de lo que debería ser idealmente, de lo que sería deseable para que todo conflicto desapareciera o cobrara sentido. Sin embargo, basta dejar de ver el mundo desde esos discursos y sus estructuras ordenadoras, basta tan sólo con prestarse atención a uno mismo, para apreciar que las cosas no son así y que incluso esas mismas teorías suponen justamente una respuesta a ello. Sólo porque las cosas no son así es que podría aspirarse a formas de vida como las descritas, sólo por eso se volverían necesarios discursos que ordenan y orientan de esa manera. El problema es que este tipo de respuestas puede sucumbir a un afán constructivo que le haga perder de vista este mundo y extasiarse con los productos de su propia razón descontrolada. Por esa vía, los discursos que con más ahínco apelan a lo verdadero pueden volvernos ciegos para lo que es verdad e irresponsables ante lo que es urgente.  


El conflicto y su escalada en forma de violencia no parecen un aspecto menor de la realidad, un factor prescindible para una consideración que dice ocuparse de lo humano. No se trata de algo contingente de lo que sea necesario apartar la mirada para dirigirla a lo más esencial y duradero. Tal vez sea justamente esta dimensión de lo conflictivo y sus posibilidades de devenir agresión, dominio e injusticia lo más persistente de lo humano. Mirar más alto, aspirar a una vida sin conflicto, no puede ser más que una manera de lidiar con ello, de contrapesarlo; y una filosofía será tanto más verdadera cuanto más concretamente tenga a la vista aquello que desea denunciar, la intolerable injusticia y violencia con que lidia. Sólo así logra apuntar a un orden que, por utópico que parezca, puede servir como medida para la vida propia y la vida en común.


Es preciso entonces evitar tanto el cinismo ante lo injusto y la legitimación de la violencia en virtud de una supuesta naturaleza humana como un excesivo idealismo que no atienda al carácter real de lo humano en el momento presente. El intento de todo discurso que pretenda verdad consistirá en dar con una configuración que ni acepte sin más la multiplicidad caótica, violenta y arbitraria ni pretenda reducirla a un orden incluso más violento y arbitrario. La búsqueda de armonía, por legítima que se presente, puede en efecto caer en su contrario: devenir fanatismo y coartada para la intolerancia. Una posición que busca justicia y reconocimiento acaba por este camino volviéndose represiva e injusta. La cuestión en todos los ámbitos de la vida –tanto en el trato con uno mismo como con los demás, la pareja, los amigos, la familia, el prójimo y el extraño- es cómo permitir que cohabite lo diverso en forma cordial y solidaria, cómo impedir que la diferencia devenga negativa, cómo acoger lo múltiple en una forma de convivencia no sólo amable, sino más plena. La unidad que se anhela no es en absoluto tautológica o simple, no se trata de la pétrea unidad de lo idéntico o indiferente, pues siempre hay que hacer coexistir lo diverso y a veces hasta lo contradictorio. Pero, además, incluso allí donde tal vez se logra darle cabida, la construcción es frágil e inestable, su grácil armonía cambiante como los tiempos.

La vida se agota a veces de aspirar a algo que no llega ni permanece. Lo estigmatiza como ideal inocente y a la vez no puede ni quiere renunciar a ello. Una reacción no poco frecuente consiste en negar esa fragilidad y complejidad, reducirse y reducir al otro, domeñar toda diferencia y endurecerse, irse volviendo cruel y temeroso en partes iguales. Igualmente tentador es condenar toda unidad como violencia, afirmar y celebrar lo que es, indiferentes, supuestamente emancipados, haciendo pasar por lucidez lo que es renuncia. Por frágil que sea la posibilidad de una vida justa y plena, donde conviva lo diverso en formas libres y complementarias, renunciar a ello supone perder toda medida de crítica contra la injusticia y la violencia, volverse cómplice activo o pasivo de lo inhumano.





Es importante no naturalizar ni justificar una agresividad destructiva que, por arraigada que esté, va contra el principio de una vida armónica. Este principio actúa como guía en la vida personal, amorosa, familiar, social y política. Por muchas decepciones sufridas, por mucho cinismo que se haya ido instalando en nosotros y en la sociedad, es inhumano renunciar a él por completo. En toda vida hay una pretensión de vivir bien, de justicia y reconocimiento en lo personal y lo colectivo.

Es preciso despertar y mantener viva la indignación que provoca ver violado ese principio. Para ello, existe sin duda una vía activa enormemente necesaria, la vía de la denuncia, la manifestación, el grito que exige justicia. En ella prima la perspectiva del deber ser, de lo que debe cambiar porque es intolerable. Además de esta vía activa que apunta al mañana, también es posible adoptar la perspectiva de quien medita y deja que el daño cale en su alma: la perspectiva aparentemente tranquila de quien se detiene y contempla los efectos de una violencia desatada. Desde aquí miramos los restos, las heridas recién infligidas y, sin poder esbozar una dirección todavía, avistamos por un momento eso intolerable, descansamos de toda tensión, de todo designio de vida pasada o futura, nos liberamos de las tramas, cejamos por una vez de todo esfuerzo y observamos el horror a los ojos para guardar su rostro en la memoria. Lo intransable se nos manifiesta para permanecer así en el alma, para recordarnos siempre los efectos de tensiones que aceptamos e incluso legitimamos en nombre de alguna idea o proyecto de vida. La fragilidad de todo lo construido, su exposición no sólo al tiempo sino ante todo a la violencia humana, se hace audible y nos llama a guardar esta verdad en el fondo del pecho: no caigas de nuevo en esto, no le hagas esto a nadie ni a ti mismo, no te dejes llevar otra vez hacia la vida ciega, que nada te haga olvidar el horror que ahora estás viendo desnudo y sin ambages. Ningún programa ni consigna, por justa que se presente, nos distrae en un momento en el que ni siquiera queremos levantarnos y seguir, sino que, en una temporalidad inigualable, detenemos toda proyección y cobramos consciencia.

Hemos llamado a la perspectiva eterna de algunos filósofos la perspectiva del nunca, de la proyección, de lo deseable según esquemas. La perspectiva del tiempo, en cambio, permite mostrar un acontecimiento en sus tres grandes momentos: el antes, el ahora y el después. La perspectiva del antes permite revelar las tensiones apenas aparentes que darán pie al acontecimiento, o incluso captar el instante previo a que algo irrumpa, explote, desintegre la normalidad y haga pedazos el campo semántico establecido. Es posible también mostrar el acontecimiento en el momento presente, en su plena eclosión, asignificativo aún y máximamente violento. Pero también es posible adoptar la perspectiva del después, mirar desde ese instante de plena calma, cuando el acontecimiento sigue todavía vibrando, cuando resulta aún imposible reconstruir el mundo y seguir viviendo con esquemas orientadores, pero ya se hace posible ver, prestar atención y meditar. Sólo esta perspectiva es capaz de recoger todos los momentos y recorrerlos de forma tranquila, cuando ha desaparecido la agitación previa, cuando ha explotado ya el conflicto y la eclosión de la muerte se ha calmado. Es lo más parecido a una perspectiva eterna, pero inserta de pleno en el tiempo, responsable, ajena a todo escapismo.


En el antes las tensiones pueden no verse o justificarse aún, es el tiempo en que parece reinar la calma y los conflictos pueden ser asumidos y reconducidos a una normalidad sólida y complacida. El espectador de esta perspectiva puede respirar tranquilo, reconocerse con humor incluso, o hasta tomar partido en alguna dirección. Pero entonces estalla la violencia, lo construido se desmorona, los tejidos se despedazan y la supuesta normalidad cede su lugar a un golpe ciego que derriba la forma del mundo. La perspectiva que recoge el acontecimiento violento en su ahora, en el momento de la máxima movilidad y el caos, impide todo reconocimiento. Su golpe desmedido nos deja atónitos y nos sacude impidiéndonos tomar partido, ni siquiera es posible comprender, sólo encogerse y asustarse ante el terror. Se trata de un estallido que, como el de los insultos o las bombas, sólo permite escuchar el agudo silbido del ensordecimiento.

Al mundo construido y entero le sigue entonces la destrucción, que deja como efecto la ruina. Es lo que queda, lo que permanece después de la violencia. Según va desapareciendo la capa de polvo levantada, se pueden ir vislumbrando los escombros, algún gesto de solidaridad, hermandad de lo frágil y agredido… y por todos lados enormes, imponentes y enormes montañas de ruinas. Es lo que nos muestra la perspectiva del después –las heridas, los escombros, la cama deshecha y vacía. El daño consumado, sin más, a plena vista, imposible justificarlo o insertarlo en discurso alguno, sólo cabe contemplarlo y callar, saber quizá que hemos sido todos y ninguno, saber que en ningún caso se puede repetir. No cabe aquí sensacionalismo, todo entusiasmo por lo sublime de la destrucción siente vergüenza; contemplar este paisaje nos hace meditar por un momento, dar pausa incluso al odio, reconocernos y reconocer el mal sin disfraz ni justificación posible. El propio rostro endurecido y derrotado en el espejo, la habitación en la que amamos y destruimos el amor, el comedor familiar, donde tantos buenos gestos y tanta violencia compartimos, la ciudad hecha escombros por ideas agudas o intereses despiadados.




Las obras de Tacla nos exponen a esta perspectiva del después. Nunca muestran al agresor ni apenas la agresión en su irrupción violenta; más bien nos insertan en una mirada directa y frontal del resultado, del daño. Casi nunca presentan a las víctimas sino a partir del escenario arruinado y maltrecho, por lo que hacen manifiesto el estrago de una forma abstracta, pero a un tiempo enorme y hasta físicamente concreta. Tacla nos instala de pleno en ese escenario, sin mediaciones,  y evita así todo elemento narrativo, toda lógica habitual; su mirada impide las múltiples formas como solemos escapar de lo que importa, elimina incluso el horizonte o apenas lo deja entrever muy arriba, para no conceder puntos de fuga por los que el miedo y la irresponsabilidad escapen en forma de esperanza o de sentido. No hay dos puntos que permitan una orientación ni dialéctica que lleve de una cosa a otra, no se vislumbra posibilidad de redención alguna… no se permite, en fin, más escapatoria que cerrar los ojos y negar la obra misma. Pero ésta persiste, paciente, indiferente al ajetreo que ella misma ocasiona, llamando con su presencia a dejar de moverse por un momento, abandonar las tramas y pretextos, mirar de frente por una vez, mirar lo simple. Esta simpleza es la que no consiente que escapemos ni siquiera en forma de compasión por las víctimas ni del espanto sensacionalista, el color chillón de la sangre, la explosión cromática. Sin duda es el efecto de una preclara elección de los colores y la composición, pero no es eso lo que importa. Las obras se niegan a ser tratadas como objetos de una consideración estética tan desapegada y huidiza como la teórica; impiden que la técnica, la paleta o la estructura proporcionen otra excusa para no ver.

Ruinas casi espectrales, como las que arrastramos en nuestras almas, como las que esconden construcciones majestuosas que los hombres erigieron en símbolos de lo eterno, ruinas en cuyo nombre ocasionaron más ruinas, destruyeron y fueron destruidos. Ruinas de toda especie, pues múltiples son las formas como intentamos vivir, múltiple lo que daña y es dañado. La mayoría anónimas, desdibujadas, ruinas de término medio, de cualquiera. Como si la naturaleza en forma de pulsión aniquiladora apareciera carcomiendo y eliminando toda posibilidad de humana geometría y convirtiera a los mismos hombres en ejecutores de su sacrificio. La ciudad, el trazo más nítido de la sociedad humana, es repudiada, su esbozo maltratado, borrado a golpes por la embriaguez de esa sociedad misma; mancha apenas reconocible, escenario de alucinación o desvarío. 

En la perspectiva del después se alza una voz que ni siquiera es de protesta todavía, una voz queda y serena que reconocemos al escucharla, pues no es sino la propia voz tantas veces apagada o desmentida:


“Mira, medita, esto es lo que hemos hecho, esto es lo que cada cual ha hecho y está haciendo consigo mismo y con los otros. Esto es también lo que otros nos han hecho y nos hacen, lo intolerable”.

Tacla, The Destroyer
Christian Viveros-Fauné

Hamburg, September 16, 2001 – German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is asked by a music journalist whether the characters in “Licht,” his 7 day opera cycle, are for him “merely some figures out of a common cultural history” or rather “material appearances.” To this the composer replies, “I pray daily to Michael, but not to Lucifer. I have renounced him. Still he is very much present, like in New York recently.”


Intrigued, the journalist jots the answer down, and pushes on: “How have the events of September 11th affected you? How do you view the attack in connection with the harmony of humanity represented in your music?” Stockhausen gathers his thoughts, takes a deep breath and unspools at unfortunate length:


“Well, what happened there is, of course—now all of you must adjust your brains—the biggest work of art there has ever been. The fact that spirits achieve with one act something that we, in music, could never dream of, that people practice ten years madly, fanatically for a concert. And then die. [Hesitantly.] That is the greatest work of art that exists for the whole cosmos. That there are people who are so concentrated on this single performance, and then five thousand people are driven to resurrection… [Now, more forcefully.] In. One. Moment. [Hesitates, this time at greater length.] I couldn’t do that. Compared to that, we are nothing.”   




Writing poetry after Auschwitz, as Theodor W. Adorno said, is barbaric. So is painting after September 11—a crushing date, especially if one was unlucky enough to have lived through its horrors in Santiago, Chile, in 1973, and also in New York in 2001. Ditto for composing music. Or making any other type of art, for that matter.


There is nothing that can decently follow catastrophic events of such world-changing proportions. The tools normally at our disposal—the grammar of art, its ancient traditions, its durable symbols—powder away into insignificance. Instances when capitalized History shoulders in thuggishly through the locked gate, shocks like these are to human societies what the giant asteroid was to the dinosaurs: the light-switch blow that sets off what anthropologists blithely describe as “the extinction event.”


Adorno was more right than he ever knew: creating anything in the shadow of epic destruction presents an unforgivable offense to the victims of carnage. But, in its own awful way, it also constitutes a horrible crime against the perpetrators. Perfection demands respect—that and an acceptable interval of pause to gain perspective.


How long? A month? A year? Twenty years? Butchers like Joseph Mengele, Mohammed Atta and Augusto Pinochet are not, it must be understood, born every day. They are the Einsteins, Mozarts and Maradonas of death. Mere mortals puttering away in their terrible wake are left to absorb a crucial lesson recently summed up in a blasphemous newspaper cartoon. The cartoon depicts the biblical Joseph in bed with a whorish Mary. Beneath the doodle it chuckles savagely: “God was a hard act to follow.”


“Compared to that, we are nothing.” Yet certain naive folks abound—most call themselves artists—who take it upon themselves to interrupt the well-earned silence of Thanatos, the Greek god of death. I distinctly remember the efforts of a few such characters inside New York galleries following the attacks on the World Trade Center. One displayed a garishly realist portrait of then President George Bush, painted to look like an anemic porgy. Another featured live video feed from the wound inside the ground in downtown Manhattan—an ex-piece of real estate that came to acquire the unlucky sobriquet “Ground Zero,” in dark honor of the Manhattan Project. Still, neither these two fellows nor any other artist I know—excepting possibly Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, the designers of “Tribute in Light,” the illuminated columns that intermittently memorialize the lost skyline of New York—have gone so far as to commit the repeated crimes of painter Jorge Tacla.



Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer


Jorge Tacla is barbaric. He is a terrorist of art. A painter who has spent years engaged in a literal battle to the death with the withering reality of memory, he creates ashily colored remembrances of collapsing buildings, frightening gaseous implosions and ruined civilizations. His subject is historical annihilation, but—mind you—he is not merely concerned with its vaunted nugatory powers. Tacla’s greatest single offense—and he has many—is his celebration of the sublime. An idea so dangerous it is capable of alchemically sluicing the bad into the good, it provides the extra-added terror for this upstart figure to pitch gasoline into disaster’s roaring emptiness—its horror vacui.


Tacla has had help—you might call them accomplices. Among the rogue’s gallery of historical abettors on whom the offending painter is reliant, several will appear familiar. Some are mild-mannered writers. Others could accurately be described as bookish intellectuals. A third and larger group are made up chiefly of dispassionate-seeming artists, most of them painters. As with Hitler’s cabinet, Pinochet’s dark-suited torturers and Al Quaeda’s televisionary jihadists, real-life and symbolic death always sports the same inspired faces.


Consider for a moment Edmund Burke’s role in the commission of Tacla’s crimes. Like a latter-day Sayyid Qutb—the once forgotten author who in death became radical Islam’s most influential theorist—Burke’s philosophical incantations have proved invaluable to Tacla’s repeated production of terrible beauty. Burke was, in fact, the first to describe the devil’s pact struck between the sublime and the beautiful in his treatise A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. Of this freakish marriage he wrote: beauty may be accentuated by light, but either intense light or darkness—by which he meant simply the absence of light—becomes sublime when it obliterates the sight of an object. Burke further argued, contra natura, that the imagination is capable of being moved by things that are "dark, uncertain, confused." Going where Aristotle and Augustine feared to tread—both preferred to avert their eyes from the ugly—Burke opened wide Hell’s gate to a special type of esthetic fanaticism. The damage done to art has become since, in a word, indescribable.


From Burke’s time until today, the notion that horror can induce pleasure has compelled battalions of artist-terrorists towards investigations of the sublime. To take a few prominent examples, there have been extremist works like these: there’s Théodore Géricault’s cannibalizing castaways in his Raft of the Medusa; J.M.W. Turner’s pitiless renderings of the House of Parliament burning; Caspar David Friedrich’s landscapes, which he himself described as “stark and dead”; Pablo Picasso’s savage response to the first reports of Nazi death camps in The Charnel House; and Gerhard Richter’s Baader-Meinhof cycle, a cruel suite of fifteen canvases that feature, all too fittingly, the first images of terrorists the world saw through the medium of television. These paintings and other artworks have served as templates for what one interpreter has called Jorge Tacla’s “negative vision of history.” That vision—as recorded in past art and certainly in Tacla’s merciless canvases—holds us in its thrall, like a smoking, mangled wreck that holds no chance of survivors.



Before committing himself to his present day provocations, Jorge Tacla had already embarked on the unnatural path of addressing destruction and its long, grisly history. His earliest paintings featured naked, isolated figures. Serial versions of an everyman, his blustering anthropoids engaged in stark pantomimes of primitive human behavior. Existential beings that recall both Sartre’s remark that “hell is other people” as well as Francis Bacon’s struggling simian imagery, these figures animated the artist’s first washed-out landscapes— semantic junkyards that accumulated random-seeming notations. In his titles, Tacla called these places by their formal names: “topologies,” “spaces for discourse” and “places in common.” Their shared language, though, remains the lingua franca of pain.


In time, Tacla’s forests of marks coalesced into illusionistic landscapes. He rescued these canvases from the usual conventions by literally painting them in reverse—emphasizing the outlines so that their chalky scaffoldings might be obliterated by their monochrome backgrounds. What Tacla chose to paint—from all the possible subjects in the world—was nothing less than pictorial and metaphysical instability. He filled his dun colored wastelands with figures, trees, architectures and even “windows”—of the sort that anticipated computer graphics. The fact that he did so in the negative, like photographic film, set the stage for what amounts to a ruthless inversion of values.


“The canvas has been prepared where it is not painted,” Tacla declared defiantly. He formulated another idea with even greater force: “The objects and landscapes are transparent and are the negatives of their physical condition.” Up was down, and down was up—the natural order of things teetered in the balance. The stage was set then for Tacla to actively disavow beauty in order to paint implacably sublime representations of world catastrophe.



History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

James Joyce


Jorge Tacla was a witness to the events of September 11, 1973 in Santiago, and so was I. That gray day American-made Hawker-Hunter jets strafed and bombed La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace. After an intense gun battle, Salvador Allende—Chile’s President and the world’s first democratically elected Socialist—took his life, aborting a political and social experiment on which millions had pinned their hopes. I heard these now familiar words then: “It was like a movie.” That was the first time I took particular note of that phrase, which later became the stock response to the terror visited on Manhattan in 2001. Tacla was also in New York then, painting away; I was there, too—we were two tiny specks among the broad canvas of New York’s eight million souls. On both dates, the movie turned out to be very, very real.


Drawing inspiration decades later from his memory of the events in Santiago, Tacla painted several versions of La Moneda in flames. Turneresque in their near abstraction, these canvases described serial conflagrations that lean far more toward the hallucinatory than the realistic. Tacla titled these paintings with a vengeance. One purplish number he called Medium Rare (1995); Gas Machine (1996) another. A third painting, Nitrogen Cycle (1996)—a smudged view of the same lacerated structure violated by a grid of light and shade—extended Chile’s misery through Tacla’s trademark windows. Tacla guessed rightly that Chile’s pain would be redistributed into zones of unknown geographical contingency through exile and what one might call “historical karma.” It was as if Oswald Spengler had risen and someone had given him a brush.


Tacla’s variegated views of a shattered, luminous La Moneda became, in his words, “not the depiction of one place,” but a representation of what he termed “the place of painting.” By this Tacla meant a metaphysical arena—located somewhere between the studio and the scene of the crime—where both the real horror and the idea of mass destruction could be symbolically reconstructed. A visual echo of a spiritual revelation, Tacla’s canvases sound the same yielding note struck by J. Robert Oppenheimer’s famous borrowing from the Bhagavad-Gita. “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky,” the father of the H-bomb warbled as he watched the first mushroom cloud blaze over the New Mexico desert, “that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” Unsurprisingly, both Oppenheimer’s citation and Tacla’s smoldering works also recall the last words of Joseph Mallord William Turner: “The sun is God.”


From the hellfire of his serial depictions of La Moneda, Tacla moved onto confecting pictures of more recent bone-splintering, soul sucking disasters: the city of Granada after the devastation visited it on it by Colombia’s FARC, the bombed out Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, buildings obliterated in Beirut, Lebanon, after yet another exchange of rocket fire between Israel and Hezbollah. Suffused with radiant light and saturated color that suggest both faded newsprint and desert fields at dusk, Tacla’s renditions of these events take on the grandeur of Albert Bierstadt’s famous transcendentalist painting Sunrise On the Matterhorn. Oblivion has rarely looked so awe-inspiring.


What Jorge Tacla has consistently learned to marshal in his canvases is the “shock and awe” of painting. Impelled by destruction of a largely militarized sort—recent series, in fact, sport titles like Trauma, Rubble and Camouflage—his pictures often advance on our knowledge of catastrophe, and at least once, even on our intelligence. This is the case with a work Tacla made about the destruction of the World Trade Center. Incredibly, it is possible to claim that the artist “anticipated” the 9/11 commercial airliner attacks on the Twin Towers in a painting he made in the year 2000. Titled Meat Carrier, Tacla’s canvas eerily depicts the cockpit of a 767 from the vantage point of a standing, looming figure. Bathed in electric blue light, the image represents historical events in a way no one except the actual perpetrators could have imagined.


Which leads us directly to Tacla’s paintings based on the 9/11 attacks, whose effects are as arresting as they are plainly devastating. There are, among a raft of stirring works, the pictures Breaking Point 1 and Breaking Point 2—intensely colored and schematized canvases that display compositions in which, to take a line from W.B. Yates, “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” And then there is Total Eclipse: a distorted aerial view of downtown Manhattan with what can only be described as an anamorphic blur ghosting the left hand side of the canvas. Like Holbein’s skull in The Ambassadors, this volatile wraith represents the magnetic pole of an alternate reality—the perspective of death. It hovers over everything, forcing vision to radically exceed itself precisely at the spot where the missing buildings used to be.


Yet it is the canvases Mass of Vapor I and Mass of Vapor III that best illustrate the principles of Burke’s conception of the sublime. Gorgeously realized, intensely realist renditions of the pulverized muck Mohammed Atta and his team of hijackers made of thousands of tons of steel and concrete as well as the meat and calcium that once constituted 2,752 human beings, these works effectively redeem the anguish of collective memory by sublimating it in pigment and canvas. These paintings at once constitute Jorge Tacla’s biggest triumph and his greatest crime. A great artist, he has moved past the horror before the rest of us by depicting trauma so precisely. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the screams.



Christian Viveros-Fauné

Brooklyn, 2010

Les intermittences du coeur. Drawing as memory.
Francesca Pietropaolo

“Drawing may be the most haunting obsession the mind can experience…But is it quite, after all, a question of mind?”

Paul Valéry, Degas Manet Morisot


Drawing is central to Jorge Tacla’s artistic practice. Rather than functioning as studies for his paintings, his works on paper form a body of work in and of itself, in close dialogue with the rest of his oeuvre and simultaneously autonomous. A daily activity, drawing holds the promise of a discovery for Tacla, renewed each time he puts a pencil or brush to paper. Infused with a sense of both discipline and urgency, the act of mark making is to him one of anticipated pleasure. In his luminous studio in midtown New York, in a room next to the space where he paints he has arranged a long table where he draws, tools of the trade readily at hand: brushes, pencils, and tubes of gouache colors. Born in Chile in 1958, he has lived in New York since 1981, and regularly returns, for extended periods of time, to his native Santiago where he also maintains a studio.


For Tacla drawing appears to be an existential necessity. An accumulation of gestures that makes it possible for him to give visible form to an inner space of both mental and emotional resonance, thus suggesting infinite depths beyond the bidimensional flatness of the sheet of paper. While best known as a painter, he has always manifested a particular predilection for the medium of drawing as a vehicle for the exploration of the self and of the world around him, for a potential synthesis of the highly personal and the universal. Furthermore through drawing he delves into the history of art. In his sketchbooks one may find a variety of renderings made from direct observation as well as from memory. Images captured in their unfiltered immediacy, these pure pencil drawings encompass a range of subjects: they include portraits, landscapes, and musings on the art of old masters such as Masaccio, Leonardo, Rembrandt and Goya with whom he feels a telling kinship.


In 2003-2004 the Chilean artist created a suite of works on paper, all realized in gouache, a medium long favored in his drawing practice. A selection of them is presented in this book for the first time, on the occasion of an exhibition devoted to them at Galeria Animal in Santiago. Taken into account as a whole, these gouaches -all medium-sized- elicit the metaphor of an inner cartography, where each sheet is a distilled illumination of an interval of utmost emotional intensity. As such, together, they seem to compose a visual embodiment of what Marcel Proust once called les intermittences du coeur. Suspended between figuration and abstraction, in a space in-between, they depict fragments of landscapes or seascapes and figures caught in all their unmediated bodily presence. Such recognizable elements are combined with slightly irregular geometric or organic shapes and with flying lines that contribute to give architectonic structure to space, variously playing with and against the white blankness of the sheet of paper. These abstract components serve as composition devices, their careful placement and multiple interrelationships giving life to a calibrated, essential poetry of space. Handwritten texts populate these images here and there, traces of pensées plume, fragments of thoughts spoken to oneself in one’s mind and retaining an ultimately opaque mystery for the viewer. There is no linear narrative suggested through the unfolding of these pictures, and yet they cling together, hold one another, akin to the musical notes of an impressionistic score. (Incidentally, music has always been important to Tacla: he was a music student before choosing to study art at the School of Fine Arts of the University of Chile, and after moving to New York he worked as a percussionist for some time.) Rather than evoking storytelling, these gouaches suggest an unfiltered and marvelously incongruous unfolding of feelings and thoughts thus celebrating their restless flux and their open-endedness.


Art and life often intertwine in Tacla’s drawings where cryptic allusions to everyday experiences are transmuted into meditations of universal resonance on themes such as transformation, love, loss, vulnerability and violence. In this regard the 2003-2004 suite of works on paper presented in this exhibition is no exception. Realized in the artist’s apartment in New York, in a room temporarily devoted to this enterprise, these gouaches were produced over a year time at a transitional moment of personal vulnerability and inner searching following the dissolution of the artist’s marriage from which he has an only daughter. The act of drawing, which takes place in a private space, gives visibility to an otherwise invisible, intimate landscape of the mind and the senses. It appears animated by an experience of loss and sorrow, and at the same time by a quest for self-reflection and regeneration. A highly personal blend of reminiscences and fantasies is attained. In Tacla’s hands, drawing is memory retrouvé. Rather than depicting fully recognizable characters, specific places or events, drawing exists in the space of a rêverie where past, present, and hopes or fears for the future meet.


One of these works depicts a couple intertwined in an all-consuming embrace, a symbol of togetherness and at the same time a poignant reminder of the fragility of love and human relationships at large. These figures are fragmentary and rendered in distorted forms of disquieting effect. To a certain extent we are reminded of Marlene Dumas’s intensely expressive renditions of the body. Francesco Clemente’s synthesis of the mythical, the fantastical and the real also comes to mind. But while the fluidity of Clemente’s images –achieved through the use of watercolor- points at the power of continuous metamorphosis, Tacla’s accent seems to be rather on the presence of the body hic et nunc, in all its psychological and emotional density evoked through color. Here color has a distinctive sense of gravity to it, a pondus or an inclination to ‘touch ground’, so to speak. The emphasis on the body in its unfiltered physicality is a long-standing concern for the artist. Reaching back to one of his early drawings, we may find this impulse encapsulated in the following inscription in an “Untitled” gouache from 1988: “c-u-e-r-p-o  y  a-l-m-a”.

A seismograph of sensations, Tacla’s drawing employs color as its primary means of expression. The texture of the water-based gouache recalls the effect of painting with its inclination towards the density of the pigment. Unlike watercolor, gouache is opaque and dense. Deriving its name from the Italian guazzo, gouache is a term first used in France in the eighteenth century to describe a type of paint made from pigments bound in water-soluble gum like watercolor but with the addition of a white pigment in order to enhance the opacity. This makes gouache heavier and with greater reflective qualities than watercolor. Gouache forms a thicker layer of paint on the paper surface and does not allow the paper to show through. All in all, it may be loosely described as a drawing made through body color. The bodily presence of color attained through gouache –an effect often heightened by the use of multiple layers on top of each other- is an essential element in Tacla’s vocabulary. While in the past he has often combined pencil with gouache, in this particular suite he focuses on gouache to achieve a language based on the elements of stain and line. It is drawing as painting. (In this light, it is interesting to note that the artist’s concern for the expressive resonances of the stain as a symbol for the body appears very early on in his work, as demonstrated, for instance, by a 1988 “Untitled” drawing on the subject made in colored pencils and gauze.)


Attaining an idiosyncratic conflation of abstraction and figuration, in one of his 2003-2004 gouaches on paper Tacla takes what appears as a severed body, with no arms and legs, and turns it into a quasi-abstract organic form rendered in a palette of pinks and light browns referencing the flesh. Tied up, this vulnerable bodily presence suggests the idea of suffering and being held captive. While suggesting psychic discomfort in the form of pure sensation, this drawing also points at a concern for the inequities of the human condition at large. In Tacla’s work biomorphic shapes of this type also allude to the natural elements of barren or rocky landscapes. Both human and not human, these forms may punctuate suspenseful deserts and seascapes. In their blend of the fantastical and the real, these drawings convey inner and outer worldscapes of surrealist overtones. As such, they call to mind Yves Tanguy’s strangely desolate, disquieting landscapes and their otherworldly inhabitants. But, infused with a distinctive expressionistic tension, Tacla’s bodily forms also carry oblique allusions for the beholder to the tragic history of violence associated in Chile with the military dictatorship and by extension they stand for us as a reminder of the potential brutality of any authoritarian system as such. (It is worth noting that around the time when these gouaches were being made, Tacla had begun contemplating a possible project about the life and death of Chilean musician and activist Victor Jara, a victim of Pinochet’s regime, which has recently taken the form of a permanent installation at the Museum of Memory in Santiago.)


Notably, the Chilean Atacama Desert is a recurring motif in Tacla’s drawings. To indirectly illuminate its power as source of inspiration for the artist, it seems fitting to recur to the verses of the Chilean writer and poet Roberto Bolano, musing about the desert:


“Dice el saltimbanqui: éste es el Desierto.

El lugar donde se hacen los poemas.

Mi país.”[1]


In 1988, as part of his project as a Guggenheim Fellow, Tacla made an important trip to the Chilean desert and in particular “to a place called the valley of the moon, where the moon shines illuminating these weird salt rocks in organic shapes”, as he has recently described it[2]. If references to Leonardo abound in Tacla’s renderings of swirling waters and winds, his depictions of the natural world more often employ the desert as a space of memory and also as a metaphor for the aridity of contemporary life.


In its highly personal combination of image and word, Tacla’s drawing reveals itself as akin to the process of writing a journal. With a nod to the long-standing tradition of drawing as a medium of utmost intimacy, these works on paper are both notational and expressionistic, inhabiting a world in-between. Almost undecipherable, the texts point at the difficulty to communicate and thereby convey a sense of both mystery and frustration. Tacla’s handwritten words often become a means to suggest novel spatial directions within the field of the bidimensional paper sheet. Often tracing delicate lines, they ‘take flight’ turning into subtle indicators of multiple dimensions. They function as compositional elements, whispers of space, of possible, temporary architectures.


In some of the drawings comprising this suite the body gives way to organic linear forms beautifully rendered as essential, minimal gestures on paper. By way of repetition, these singular ‘characters’ turn it into the generative element of gracefully dynamic spatial compositions, designing flowing arabesques. Suggesting body fluids, these lines cross and mingle giving life to a dance in space. Shades of tender blues, greens, reds, pinks and yellows invade each other’s sphere, layer upon layer. Their agile forms touch, extend, engender and enmesh each other, overlap and intertwine. They are unstable signs of an elusive language. Line as color serves here as a means to create a highly personal form of calligraphy. It is an open system of symbolic elements, achieved through a balancing act between decision making and chance effect integral to the very medium of gouache. For Tacla drawing is simultaneously an act of disclosure and veiling. In the process, it opens up infinite horizons eliciting multiple interpretive possibilities. And in doing so, it quickens the imagination.


To use art historian Henri Focillon’s famous characterization of drawing, we may say that Tacla’s “brain in the hand” pulses through the fragile intensity of colored stains and lines, unfettering intimations of the transformative intertwinings of thoughts and feelings. Elusiveness, the desire to make contact, perplexity, tenderness, frustration and anxiety. All these elements resonate in Tacla’s drawings, in a marvelous synthesis of life’s contradictory complexity. These gouaches, then, take us firmly by the hand into the realm of distilled sensation and emotion, tethered as they are by the delicate filament of les intermittence du coeur. A journey, indeed, at the heart of drawing as memory.

[1] From the poem “Para Edna Lieberman.” In Roberto Bolano. La Universidad Desconocida. Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama, 2007, p. 93.

[2] In conversation with the author, February 2010.

Visión negativa: la belleza mórbida de las pinturas de Jorge Tacla
Donald Kuspit

El objeto de la estética es perfeccionar la cognición sensorial como tal. Y esto es la belleza.

Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Aesthetica(1)


La belleza queda como el único fin que por naturaleza se justifica a sí mismo… Y, sin embargo, cierto componente de Discordia es un factor necesario… La Discordia puede tomar forma de frescura o esperanza, o bien de horror o dolor.

Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas(2)


La alucinación negativa no es un fenómeno patológico. No es la ausencia de representación sugerida por la ausencia de la imagen en el espejo, sino la representación de la ausencia de la representación.

André Green, Le travail du négatif(3)


El trabajo de lo negativo se reduce por tanto a una pregunta: ¿de qué manera, ante la destrucción que lo amenaza todo, se hallará el deseo de vivir y amar?

André Green, Le travail du négatif(4)



           Al trazar la trayectoria del desarrollo de Jorge Tacla como pintor, se hacen evidentes dos cosas: (1) su alejamiento de la representación de la figura humana, a menudo angustiosa y abyecta, para enfocarse en la representación del espacio, por lo general desolado y vacío, aunque también curiosamente puro, y que existe sólo por su propia abstracción, incluso cuando señala la grandiosidad abstracta del desierto inhóspito y las ruinas arquitectónicas que Tacla a menudo pinta; y (2) el refinamiento cada vez mayor de sus formas, colores y tratamiento, que muestra que, por más socialmente críticas que sigan siendo sus pinturas, y sin importar con cuánta obsesión se enfoquen en el momento en que el líder izquierdista Allende fue derrocado por los militares de derecha con el apoyo del gobierno estadounidense (para Tacla, un momento sintomático de la tragedia de la historia como tal; un momento de sufrimiento “negativo” que otorga conciencia a sus pinturas), Tacla se ha convertido en un pintor puro. En efecto, un pintor de pureza aguda, porque la historia impura da sustancia a su pureza, haciendo que sus pinturas sean más estéticamente complejas que si su pureza fuera simplista, y denotara –con ingenuidad– a la pintura tan sólo por y en sí misma. El terror y trauma de la historia, simbolizados por un momento doloroso en la historia de Chile –de donde es originario Tacla– dan sustancia a su pureza, haciendo que su estética sea más mágica que si sólo abarcara el manejo de formas abstractas.

           En pocas palabras, mientras más históricamente nihilistas se tornan, las pinturas de Tacla adquieren una belleza más misteriosa: la serie Escombros (2007) es un ejemplo cúspide. Mientras más mórbida y catastrófica sea su imaginería, más estéticamente soberbia es su pintura: un episodio deprimente de barbarie en la historia que cataliza una enorme perla de arte exquisito. Las pinturas de Tacla muestran que el soporte irónico de la felicidad estética es una infeliz consciencia de la historia. Enfrentando con firmeza la pesadilla de la historia, Tacla se asoma a sus profundidades nihilistas, echando mano de todos los símbolos que humanizan su inhumanidad, yendo más allá de la representación convencional de sus víctimas (famosa en las imágenes bélicas de Goya y Dix) para evocar su cruda destructividad, reconociendo el hecho de que la historia provoca demasiada ansiedad como para ser representada de manera totalmente objetiva.

           Por tanto, Tacla desafía los límites de la representación objetiva hasta descomponerla en abstracción subjetiva, lo que permite expresar sentimientos inconscientes que la representación fáctica tiende a reprimir. Tacla se desplaza desde el exterior hacia el interior, desde la descripción hacia la sutileza evocativa: las ruinas arquitectónicas, que son una especie de tierra arrasada de historia apocalíptica, se disuelven en un ambiente abrumador que apenas sostiene su propia materialidad dentro de su inmaterialidad enigmática. Estéticamente desmaterializadas hasta la abstracción fantasmal, hasta una especie de espejismo incorpóreo, las ruinas pierden su objetividad histórica y adquieren trascendencia universal. Se convierten en el desierto espiritual celebrado en el mito arcaico: el espacio estético de la introspección, donde las visiones existenciales emergen espontáneamente desde el vacío. Para Tacla, la aniquilación estética disfraza el ansia de aniquilación, incluso al tiempo que da el toque final a la aniquilación histórica (el aura estética que da sustancia a sus ruinas y desiertos es el tiro de gracia final: permite que la historia deje de sufrir, por así decirlo), pero la estética también libera al espíritu del yugo de la historia. Es el antídoto que cura el veneno de la historia, lo cual sugiere que Tacla es tanto místico(5) como profeta de la fatalidad y de la condena histórica. La serie Camuflaje (2004) es misticismo estético puro: siendo una crítica sutil a la Iglesia Católica, las piezas se disuelven en un olvido extasiado (casi por completo en Melted Blue Church, 2004), pero el azul potente en que está cubierta la iglesia, como si estuviera abrumada por el cielo, señala su aspiración trascendental. Es como si la desmaterialización de la arquitectura sagrada liberara su espíritu del dogma que simboliza. Al igual que con las ruinas y el desierto, la desmaterialización es a un tiempo espiritualmente constructiva y físicamente destructiva: está llena de esperanza y desesperación.

           Al igual que el heroico e ingenioso Perseo, Tacla se percata de que la pesadilla de la historia sólo puede ser abordada y dominada de manera estética. Perseo vio el reflejo de la Medusa en su escudo, lo que le permitió verle los ojos sin volverse de piedra, y cortarle la cabeza, la que montó en su escudo como un trofeo apotropaico. Con este tipo de oblicuidad estética, Tacla mira sin peligro a los ojos de la Medusa de la historia sin quedar petrificado, pues observa su reflejo fantasmal en el escudo de su arte, es decir, desde una distancia estética. Así, la elude sin rehuirla, y es evidente que la historia no se puede evadir. A semejanza de Perseo, el mitridatismo estético de Tacla le salvó la vida. La estética vence a la historia al trascenderla sin cambiarla. Al trabajar a través de la historia desde una perspectiva estética, trascendiendo las emociones desde las alturas de una postura estética, uno se recupera de su efecto traumático, burlando su horror.

           La esencia del desarrollo de Tacla es la transformación paradójica de la fealdad traumática de la historia en un arte trascendentalmente bello; un arte tan absolutamente fiel a la historia que se vuelve arte perfecto, siendo la “Belleza verdadera”(6) el “único fin” de la “perfección del arte”. La “fealdad” es un “defecto del conocimiento sensorial”, apuntó Baumgarten, y como tal “debe evitarse”; pero sin una inyección de fealdad, sin el dominio sobre la fealdad (discordia, destructividad), la belleza, y con ella el arte, carece de verdad, es decir, su conocimiento sensorial quedaría incompleto. Sin esta transformación, Tacla quedaría aplastado por su consciencia histórica. Ofreciendo un testimonio artístico de los repugnantes hechos de la historia, encuentra en ella una especie de belleza inconsolable: una redención estética que mitiga los sentimientos repugnantes de furia e impotencia que ineluctablemente inspira. De este modo, la belleza pura de sus trabajos posteriores es para Tacla un triunfo sobre sí mismo –sobre el ‘yo’ furioso que está implícito en sus pinturas tempranas–, al igual que sobre la violencia de la historia. Tacla se vuelve más enérgico en la medida en que se hace más certero en su estética, y desde ella conoce, contiene y actúa la historia, transformándola en una cosa de belleza trascendental (la que permanece enervante y extraña, porque continúa mostrando señas del repugnante mundo histórico, ya que para ser convincente la transformación debe ser imperfecta). Por muy de otro mundo que sea su belleza, y a pesar de ser un monumento a la desintegración de la sociedad, a esa destrucción barbára de la civilización que es el sempiterno modo de hacer historia, las pinturas Escombros siguen latiendo con vida. Paradójicamente, cuanto más intenso es su diálogo con la muerte (Dead End, 1994, las irónicas Live Organisms y The Dissolution of Life, ambas de 1996, Out of Order, 1999, y la serie Masa de cemento, 2002, se encuentran entre las muchas pinturas “entrópicas” que Tacla ha producido), más avivadas y enérgicas –por no decir impulsivas y extasiadas– se tornan sus pinturas, como si resistieran lo estático e igualador de la muerte, simbolizado (sin duda con ironía) por la arquitectura pretenciosa que Tacla “deconstruye” explosivamente.

           Tacla se desplaza desde lo que los psicoanalistas kleineanos llaman la posición esquizo-paranoide de las pinturas “humanistas” de los ochenta, y la crítica social que abarcan, hacia la posición depresiva de las pinturas abstractas “post-humanas” de arquitectura y desiertos que comienzan a aparecer en los noventa. El cambio de un estilo de representación directo y paranoico, sin duda adecuado para mostrar a los indígenas torturados y oprimidos, hacia las abstracciones arquitectónicas y desérticas –que son una suerte de disección post mortem del cadáver de la historia, destazado por el bisturí de las líneas incisivas y pincelazos arrebatados de Tacla, y atestado de la siniestra fosforescencia de la descomposición–, indica el dominio triunfal de Tacla y el desencajamiento de su destructividad expresionista hacia una realidad social impersonal.

           La violencia queda imbuida de una sensación de pérdida y abandono; esto es lo que los desiertos naturales y arquitectónicos significan. De alguna manera, estos símbolos pesimistas encarnan una causa perdida, pues sugieren que todas las causas sociopolíticas son un callejón sin salida de desastre humano: mientras más revolucionaria y fanática la causa, más desastroso es el resultado. Tacla continúa identificándose con desterrados y víctimas indígenas, como lo sugieren varios de sus trabajos. Las figuras, maltrechas y torcidas, aparecen algunas veces como si hubiesen sido quebrantadas por el tormento de la historia, concretamente la conquista española de Chile (y la mayor parte de Latinoamérica). Las figuras fantasmales y patéticas en B (2002) lo expresan lacónicamente, con sus cabezas que se ciernen en el espacio mientras su carne es un borrón en blanco y negro, insinuando que han sido desollados vivos. En otros trabajos se presentan en toda su desnudez primordial, como si habitaran una naturaleza edénica, pero permanecen como trazos etéreos, contornos míticos. De dicho modo, en Great Canal (2001) marchan ceremoniosamente en fila india: las figuras masculinas líderes tocan instrumentos musicales hechos de materiales naturales, las mujeres van detrás cargando sacos (quizá de granos, o las primeras frutas de la cosecha), y las palmeras trazan el horizonte. Sin embargo, caminan en la sombra sangrienta de la Iglesia Católica, como lo insinúan los domos fantasmales.

           Pero, con las pinturas de finales de los noventa, Tacla comienza a dilucidar el fondo de la sensibilidad primordial, dando a sus pinturas una nueva profundidad y sutileza estética. Las pinturas tempranas, por lo general, son figurativas, a pesar de la abstracción diagramática de los significantes que proliferan en ella. Y están no obstante marcadas por pincelazos rítmicos que evocan la llamada abstracción musical. (Sonata for Piano No. 4 in E Flat Opus 7, 1989, es explícitamente “musical”, lo que sugiere que Tacla, al igual que los primeros artistas abstractos, concuerda con Walter Pater en que la pintura debe emular a la música, siendo ésta la expresión más elevada y sutil del arte, ya que en ella contenido y forma –la expresión del sentimiento y la estructura lógica– son una y la misma cosa.) Pero la abstracción cada vez mayor y más intensa de las pinturas posteriores de Tacla sugiere la dificultad, incluso la imposibilidad de transmitir por medios figurativos los sentimientos elementales o las respuestas primordiales ante un ambiente social resquebrajado, ante un escenario histórico desierto que se repite, compulsivo e inagotable, en cada pintura, como para enfatizar que cada actuación termina en la misma tragedia, que no hay actos ni actores políticos que puedan sorprender a la historia, que la muerte es la única gran actriz, victoriosa sin remedio sobre cualquier pretensión histórica. Esto pueden hacerlo únicamente las abstracciones alegóricas: las abstracciones de Tacla, en las cuales arquitectura desintegrada y el desierto yermo se relacionan con los sentimientos elementales de desintegración y vacío inspiradas por la disgregación de la sociedad (por ello el desierto vacío, con sus piedras redundantes, es un cosmos desintegrado de materia elemental, del mismo modo en que la arquitectura desintegrada es un desierto de fragmentos de piedra). Tacla reduce metódicamente los espacios del desierto y la grandiosidad arquitectónica a su minucia material, recortándolos así hasta un tamaño anónimo. La revelación de la sensibilidad primigenia de Tacla puede ocurrir a expensas de la representación, pero nunca a expensas de la historia. Indica la profundidad de su abstracción. Le da a la abstracción una inyección de vida inconsciente al atarla con un nudo gordiano a la historia conscientemente vivida.



Tacla ofrece una visión negativa de la historia, y en un sentido más amplio, una estética negativa. No se puede comprender del todo su arte sin comprender su noción del negativo. “Todos los procesos han sido invertidos; están en negativo”, apunta Tacla. “El lienzo ha sido preparado donde no está pintado. Los objetos y los paisajes son transparentes y son el negativo de sus condiciones físicas. Sólo un proceso fotográfico puede tanto otorgarnos estos lugares como hacerlos reconocibles.” Donde uno suele imaginar el proceso fotográfico como el revelado de una imagen “positiva” de un negativo, Tacla revela una imagen negativa desde una percepción “positiva”, una suerte de abstracción seductora a partir de una representación sin sentimiento, por así decirlo, sugiriendo la reversibilidad de lo que él llama “un proceso disléxico de similitud”.

La representación negativa desestabiliza la representación positiva al tiempo que subyace en ella, lo cual indica que el negativo es más potente y primordial que el positivo. La mimesis invertida o reflejo negativo es la esencia radical de la estética de Tacla. Consiste en la incorporación irónica del positivo en el negativo, haciéndolo más memorable que si fuese meramente conocido, es decir, si existiera simplemente en un estado positivo o “natural”. (Un recuerdo es un “negativo” de una percepción “positiva” o históricamente verídica y “natural”. Reflejar en la memoria es una manera básica de procesar emotivamente los hechos conocidos de manera positiva o procesados de manera intelectual, mitologizándolos de hecho al subsumirlos al mito de uno mismo. En la memoria no son ya hechos sino espejismos, es decir, tienen presencia alucinatoria).

La elevación de la representación en negativo sobre la representación en positivo transforma por completo el significado del arte de Tacla. Como él mismo menciona, Tacla nos muestra “no un paisaje… no la representación de un lugar” sino “el lugar de la pintura”. Es el espacio del negativo; el espacio donde ocurre la negación del paisaje. Se hunde en las arenas movedizas del espacio negativo, como si estuviera reprimido en el olvido del inconsciente, en el sublime negativo del vasto y vacío desierto y de la arquitectura desmaterializada, incluso cuando deja en la memoria una huella emocional que lo torna inolvidable, atemporal y fantástico. Desmaterializando la realidad material, o metafisicalizando lo físico, por así decirlo, por medio del negativo, Tacla crea un espacio interior multidimensional cuyas coordenadas no son ya lo largo, ancho y alto de un espacio exterior, sino, como él dice, “la historia del arte, historia de luchas sociales, y estructura mental”, incluyendo la suya propia, podríamos agregar. Para Tacla, la historia refleja una estructura mental, es decir, es un proceso mental que ha sido externado, o en cierto modo dramatizado, mediante un proceso social. El desierto y la arquitectura son en el fondo construcciones mentales o “sentimientos conceptuales”, para usar el término del filósofo Alfred North Whitehead, sin importar que el desierto literal sea un producto de la historia natural y la arquitectura sagrada un producto de la historia del arte y de la sociedad. Tacla los “profana”, desacreditándolos con su pintura, restaurándoles mágicamente su significado mental. El riguroso proceso de la pintura los restablece al proceso mental, de manera que uno se da cuenta de que son productos abstractos de una mente y no simplemente productos materiales de la historia. Es evidente que Tacla es un pintor conceptual, con lo cual quiero decir que usa el material fluido de la pintura para transmitir una idea vivida.

De este modo, la negación pictórica de lo que está material e históricamente presente (esto es lo que logra Tacla con su proceso hiperestético de abstracción) prepara el camino para la consciencia de lo ausente e inconsciente: la mentalidad invisible que dio existencia a lo histórico, que inevitablemente da sustancia a su visibilidad. Se podría argumentar que las pinturas de Tacla demuestran la reciprocidad entre lo visible y lo invisible, la dialéctica de la representación consciente y la representación inconsciente.

Estos polos de estructura mental están implícitos en la contradicción entre la saturación visible de la gran arquitectura y el vacío invisible del desierto implícitamente infinito. Queda claro que el desierto es el “negativo” de la arquitectura, es decir, la ausencia “original” que la arquitectura llena “positivamente” con una presencia social; con poder y autoridad social. (La arquitectura a menudo afanosamente adornada sugiere un horror vacui, mientras que el desierto simboliza el vacío emocional que la arquitectura llena, al menos hasta que el vacío se reivindica al destruir a la arquitectura. Los indígenas afligidos de Tacla están a menudo aislados en un espacio desierto y vacuo disfrazado de campo colorido, como muestran las obras In between, 1985, Blue, 1986, y Out of Towner, 1987. La sensación de soledad ineludible de estos trabajos tempranos permanece aún en las pinturas posteriores de Tacla).

La arquitectura y desierto de Tacla, por lo tanto, existen en la ambigüedad material de las alucinaciones más que en la inmediatez de su premisa material, sin importar que el tratamiento contundente de Tacla los dote de una aparente presencia material. Precisamente por ello son memorables, como he sugerido. Al existir en una forma alucinatoria en negativo, nunca son verdaderamente el tema. Uno siente en ellos la ausencia; por eso las alucinaciones son enigmáticas y seductoras. La ausencia se vive a través de ellas, y ellas le otorgan vida y presencia. Abordar en serio a la historia tanto artística como social (sugiriendo que lo sublime y lo pesadillesco son inseparables) es avalar emocionalmente los espejismos que perduran en la memoria colectiva, lo que significa encontrar en ellos nuestras más persistentes emociones. De este modo, el proceso de negación estética de Tacla hace que la historia impersonal parezca profundamente personal. Dada su presencia alucinatoria, se vuelve “sensacionalista”, como lo atestiguan los colores “sensacionalistas” de Tacla. Al alucinarla, la historia se vuelve “irreal”, es decir que adquiere el estado estético supremo, argumentaría yo. Es un término que he usado para describir la manera en que la arquitectura y desierto de Tacla parecen al mismo tiempo ausentes y presentes: apariencia desvanecida y realidad ineludible, si se quiere. Éste es el planteamiento evidente de Physical Absence (2006).

Lo estético tiene un planteamiento mayor, sugerido en el segundo epígrafe del psicoanalista André Green: es el modo de experiencia en que el deseo vive y ama a pesar de la destructividad que le rodea, pues existe un deseo de morir y odiar al igual que de vivir y amar. Destructividad y deseo convergen en la belleza mórbida de la alucinación en negativo, incluso cuando ésta sugiere que son, en última instancia, irrepresentables. Estoy planteando que las pinturas mórbidamente bellas de Tacla constituyen el punto medio estético entre un deseo de vivir y amar y una destructividad mortal y llena de odio. (De ahí que ese “algo extraño”, proverbialmente presente en las “proporciones de la belleza”, sea la muerte).

Las pinturas de Tacla a veces irradian color y luz viva, otras generan una atmósfera turbada de la oscuridad y la desolación de la muerte. A menudo hacen las dos cosas al mismo tiempo: son una suerte de vivencia de la muerte y muerte de la vida. Algunas veces los trabajos están completamente saturados de color y su luminosidad es cegadora, como en Healing Ceremony (2000) y Composición histórica 5 (2001). La luz sublime y la vitalidad del color se corresponden con el espacio glorioso de la catedral.

        Algunas veces la luz se rompe paso entre la penumbra, aunque sea solamente para revelar con ironía una ruina arquitectónica y un desierto pedregoso, como ocurre en Well Done (1995). Tacla a menudo usa el artificio de la pintura dentro de la pintura para sugerir una visión milagrosa de la verdad espiritual: una revelación que surge espontáneamente de las turbias profundidades del inconsciente. De manera más general, su trabajo es abiertamente Bipolar, para citar su pintura de 1996. Los extremos muchas veces se sintetizan y entretejen en una composición totalizadora, a veces exquisitamente atmosférica, como en Masa de vapor 3 (2002) y Camuflaje 32 (2004), a veces cargada de un drama pictórico, como en Internal Biology y Organic Materials, ambas de 1996, y Room 605 (1998).

Finalmente, uno debería notar que la perspectiva también desempeña la función del negativo en las pinturas de Tacla. Como se muestra en Complementary Angles (1996), mientras más real, definitiva y sublime sea la perspectiva abstracta, más alucinante, indefinida y hueca se vuelve la arquitectura. En Higher Topological Structure (1996) el edificio cobra una perspectiva sombría; una estructura negativa, podría decirse. Algo similar ocurre en St. Mary Resting (2001). Según yo lo veo, la perspectiva de Tacla desempeña su magia negativa con mayor elocuencia en el desierto urbano, como se muestra en Masa de cemento 3. La visión alucinatoria resultante es trágicamente leal a la moderna sociedad de masas, pues insinúa la obsolescencia prevista –esa autonegación– que la convierte en un desierto emocional y una ilusión vacía. Para Tacla, la perspectiva invoca una visión sub specie aeternitatis. Indica que uno puede sobrepasar la antinatural realidad socio-histórica para llegar a un estado divino puramente artístico y conceptual, y adquirir trascendencia intelectual y estética por medio de una geometría axiomática. Así, la perspectiva se vuelve el impertérrito impulsor de una nada que lo abarca todo. Prolifera exaltada, propagándose como una plaga incurable, alcanzando el horizonte y más allá, ahogando al mundo en su belleza mórbida.



           (1) Citado en Harold Osborne, Aesthetics and Art Theory (Londres: Longmans, Green, 1968), 196

           (2) Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (Nueva York: Mentor Books, 1955), 265

           (3) André Green, Le travail du négatif (París: Editions de Minuit, 1993)

           (4) Ibíd.

           (5) Robert Motherwell pensaba que “el arte abstracto es una forma de misticismo” que “surgió de un sentido primigenio de vacío, un abismo, una brecha entre el mundo y el propio ser en soledad”, agregando que en lugar de “cerr[ar] el vacío que siente el hombre moderno… la abstracción es su énfasis”. Stephanie Terenzio, ed., The Writings of Robert Motherwell (Nueva York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 86. Esto se aplica directamente a Tacla, quien utiliza la abstracción para crear un efecto de alucinación negativa, otorgándole a la ausencia que es el vacío una presencia visionaria.

(6)Whitehead, 266.

Donald Kuspit

Jorge Tacla: The Third Space of Painting
Raul Zamudio Taylor

Painting’s discourse is one that is fraught with dichotomies. Possibly the oldest, well known account that manifests this dialectic is the ancient Greek debate about mimesis and painting’s (in) ability to capture truth. One narrative revolves around the ancient artists Zeuxis and Parrhasius who, according to Pliny the Elder, were painters of astonishing realism. So masterful were these artists at mimesis, that when the former created a painting of grapes in his studio, birds that happened to descend through his window pecked at them mistaking them for actual fruit. But, as the story goes, it was Parrhasius who was considered the superior artist by painting a curtain that Zeuxis presumed as real. Whether this anecdote is factual or not is beside the point, for it does signal at such an early date in painting’s past where the ideal rubs against representation and the symbolic.

Another paradigmatic moment in painting’s mimetic development occurs in artistic criteria articulated by the eleventh-century Chinese scholar and aesthetician Lieou Tao-Chou En: “In a flat painting look for space." The space that Tao-Chou En searched for is, however, antithetical to that of Zeuxis, Parrhasius and the heirs to a correspondence theory of art. Tao-Chou En was a Taoist and follower of the philosopher Lao-tzu, consequently space within Taoist cosmology is not, in contrast to the West, the absence of something or a void, but an invisible presence that is tangible as matter and an ontologically necessity in the formation of any epistemology. The Taoist notion of being/nonbeing as indivisible couplet, which is curiously akin to Martin Heiddegger’s “hermeneutic circle” germane to his Origin of the Work of Art(1950), is also integral to the radical slashing and puncturing of Lucio Fontana’s concetto spaziale. Fontana’s elegant and refined aesthetic, paradoxically imbued with formalist aggression and violence, sought to obliterate the space between a painting and its support wall in order to erradicate the difference between them. In the wake of this artistic destruction materialized a potentially different modality of painting that was metaphysical in orientation. What Fontana attempted to reveal was what lays beyond a painting’s surface; an amorphous, transcendent register that negated the either/or ontological conundrum of figure/ground, planarity/depth, within/without; in short, being and nothingness. It is this liminal space where the paintings of New York-based, Chilean artist Jorge Tacla reside as well. That is to say, there is an interfacing in Tacla’s paintings between form/content, figure/ground, and figuration/abstraction that cultivates a different lexicon of mark-making. Tacla’s modus operandi is tertiary in that like Tao-Chou En and Fontana, he undermines dichotomies that have been endemic to mimesis in the West underscored in the ancient Greek anecdote on up through Leon Battista Alberti’s On Painting (1434), and culminating with Eduoard Manet’s flattening of pictorial space which, according to the formalist critic Clement Greenberg, signaled the emergence of Modernist painting. As such, Tacla is a painter’s painter who deftly explores the medium for its formal advancement and philosophical disquisition as well as way to investigate the self and the world, albeit that he pursues this with a poetic and unflinching, brutal honesty.  

 Jorge Tacla’s aesthetic is conceptual in nature and consists of a painterly métier on the one hand, and a critical praxis on the other that drive his work into interesting terrain subsuming a variety of genres including landscape, architecture, figuration, abstraction, still-life, and history painting. At the sake of eliding the cultural and contextual specificity of Tao-Chou En and Fontana, then, there is a myriad of formal and conceptual currents in Tacla’s artistic strategies that converge, among other things, form/content, surface/depth, and figure/ground that create a unique ontology of painting. This, however, is not articulated as Taoist mysticism or metaphysical polemics, but more as a kind of critical phenomenology that locates mark-making and materiality as a kind of sign that produces an aesthetic that is visual yet often operates like language. When Tacla uses marble powder, for example, it is not only incorporated as an aesthetic device or formal element of his picture’s narrative totality, or as compositional component combined with other parts that congeal into an iconographic whole, but they are independently embodied with meaning subsequently layering his work with multiple narratives.

This manner of working is analogous to concrete poetry where words that constitute a sentence not only evoke emotion or stimulate the imaginary, but the way words are placed for their visual presence either sequentially, vertically, diagonally, or even in circular fashion amount to using language physically rather than just grammatically. Or one could parallel Tacla’s formal operations with the sound poet who uses words and their vocalization for nuance and emotive texture: consonants, vowels, words and sentences are conflated with gurgitations, yelps, screams, and moans, and collectively amount to language morphing corporeally. Language, in this instance, acquires tactility; inversely, Tacla’s use of pigment, staining, impasto, marble powder, and so forth are about making the materiality of painting more than a mean to an end or subservient to the image. Thus Camouflage 25, Camouflage 40, and Camouflage 32, all painted in 2002, for instance, title, subject matter and form all triangulate into a conceptual approach to the brush and easel that differentiates Tacla from his contemporaries.

Camouflage 25 and Camouflage 40 exemplify this very well: they are vertical paintings whose iconography is discernable as interiors of churches. Both works have a similar palette of blue, yet the paint is also mixed with marble powder. Here, the powder is not only used as a way to build up texture, for Tacla can certainly do this with pigment alone, but the marble powder creates a kind of semiotic link between it and the marble used in the actual church that is depicted. There is a mirroring effect via the image of the church within the picture that uses marble, and the painting's deployment of it in powdered form across the surface that, in turn, is instrumental in constructing the image while partially concealing it, and hence the titles. Using matter as a sign is usually the province of sculpture, and the parallel to Tacla’s incorporation of marble is underscored in the Brazilian Conceptualist Cildo Meireles’ Money Tree (1969). The sculpture consists of 100 Brazilian cruzieros wrapped in rubber bands and placed on a sculptural pedestal. The relevance of this work within the context of Tacla’s camouflage paintings resides in its form: money metaphorically grows on trees if it happens to be trees that produce rubber, which Brazil did extract and export at one time. So the sculpture’s material, the money and the title triangulate into a conceptual work where the semiotics of form play a germane role to the work’s narrative; thus, form and content are indistinguishable. Likewise, Tacla uses marble not only for its aesthetic properties, but also because it acts as a sign within the context of the camouflage paintings. Configuring materiality along this kind of signifying mode is not formal sleight-of-hand, but a conceptual strategy that expands the practice of painting beyond ether pure abstraction or mimesis, into another register altogether. In the same way that Fontana had liberated the area behind the painting and used the void to, among other things, formally transform painting into an idiom of sculpture creating neither painting nor sculpture; and Tao-Chou En’s insistence on space through a Taoist framework was an ontological and epistemological puzzle that revealed the limits of materialism, Tacla’s use of marble powder in these works opens up form as content. It collapses the academic dichotomy of form/content and folds figure into ground and vice versa. The camouflage paintings, moreover, are further complicated with Camouflage 32; a work that is purely abstract in contrast to those from the same series that are representational.

It is important to see this work and the camouflage paintings in general as parallel, but in a conceptual vein, to what Monet painted in series. Whereas Monet’s Rouen Cathedral (1892-94) works depicted the quotidian moment as eternal now as well as exploring the effects of seasonal light on the surface of the Gothic Cathedral, he could only convey his ideas in serial form. It would be impossible to articulate the complexity of his artistic vision in the singularity of one painting. Similarly is Camouflage 32, which is awash with a painterly deluge that offers insight into the other works of the same series. Camouflage 32 pushes pure abstraction into the register of representation, while the other representational paintings curiously move in the other direction. What Camouflage 32 reveals is that pure abstraction is more than sensorial, intellectual and emotional experience; and this holds true with other artists who explored this as well: Gerhard Richter and his monochromatic Eight Gray (2002) that blurs painting, sculpture, and architecture; and David Reed and the insertions of biomorphic, swirling abstractions into the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The representational works from the camouflage series convey something else in their oscillation between palpitating interiors that--in a Postmodern twist on Hans Hoffman's push/pull optical vibration—push the background into the foreground as well as the other way around. This particular technique, which is a given in pure abstraction, becomes a visual device that produces a force field within and over pictorial space in which Tacla de-sublimates representation and sublimates its other. This is also the case in other works were there is a radical tension between pure abstraction and the image that gives birth to something in between; they are akin to the ripped canvas of Fontana; the Taoist space of being/non-being, and in Poststructuralist terms, the absent presence of language. There are many works, both early and recent, that underscore this unique quality that has become an element of Tacla’s signature style that can be discerned in Crossing the Nile (1985), Time and Space in the Negative (1990), The Doctor Wilhelm “Orgon” (1999), the works from the series titled Mass of Vapor, and Mass of Cement, and the more recent Rubble paintings.    


In the purely abstract Time and Space in the Negative, for example, Tacla uses unprimed canvas as a trope for space in the negative, for space in the positive certainly refers to the amorphous forms that undulate across the surface of the painting. They, of course, can also allude to time; but Tacla has also used the mark as a way to articulate temporality in the manner of a stroke that is not dense -as in his other works- but via their faintness there is a poetic allusion to the passing of time. The use of form as meaning is also intrinsic to The Doctor Wilhelm “Orgon”. In this work orgone energy, which was Wilhelm Reich’s theory of animated, invisible substance that in the mind/body Freud characterized as the libido, Tacla has configured as an orange mass that makes its way across a bridge and urban setting. Pushing this kind of antimatter even more is Mass of Vapor, which is paradoxically the embodiment of nebulousness where the olfactory ostensibly comes into play. The image is almost spectral as the mass is barley distinguishable from the background in which it is set. Form, in this instance, begins to dematerialize, and the gestation of this painterly formlessness resides in earlier work that more recently has taken a more political valence.  


In Crossing the Nile II (1985) and Rubble # 12 (2007), for example, the paintings are radically apart both formally and in subject matter, but have a compositional affinity that underscores how Tacla’s métier has been consistent and aesthetically recognizable throughout his career. The two paintings, which can be seen as bracketing the corpus he has created so far, seem to be the inverse of each other and serve to underscore Tacla’s insertions of the socio-political into his purely abstract work, whereas in the Mass of Vapor his explorations were more philosophical in nature. Crossing the Nile II is first and foremost a figurative work that has painterly passages that dissolve into a kind of liquefied abstraction. The swath of white in the bottom foreground is not only viscous and reminiscent of bodily fluids such as breast milk or even semen, but it is in formal counterpoint to the earthy tones of the figure itself that, in turn, is sandwiched by the lapis lazuli type blue in the background. The chromatic triad of blue, white and an earthy red, is nuanced by the centrality of the figure that is in a taut pose vis-à-vis the head that turns one way and is in profile. This, in turn, is rhythmically offset by the contorted body in frontal repose. Indeed, there is something concomitantly ancient and modern via this posture that is peripherally recognizable as it is archetypal. It may be that the pose itself has a faint allusion to classical statuary as well as Neoclassical painting reminiscent of Jaques-Louis David or Jean-Baptiste Greuze.  While the figure is delineated within an environment articulated with a limited palette, there is a haunting quality to the work that nonetheless bespeaks of Tacla’s later existentially inclined investigations of the social world that touch on catastrophe and the human condition.

The works from the Rubble series, made 2007-2008, are images of landscapes violated by war, terrorism, and military conflict with their resulting apocalyptic wasteland. Although Tacla used source material from conflicts in Beirut and other areas of the world to make these paintings, locality is secondary; for the catastrophes he depicts are more like unconscious recollections and thus have universal affectation rather than being pinpointed as authored by a specific ideology. As such, they do not commemorate this war or that invasion, but are archetypal; and subsume not only the ruin in the guise of societal rubble littered throughout history, but also landscape and the sublime are part of Rubble’s narrative purview. In one sense, the works are the progeny of a tradition that includes Casper David Friedrich and Joseph Mallord William Turner, but philosophically the Rubble series are evocative of the sublime and psychoanalytic notions of death. Whereas Friedrich depicted landscapes as having a mystical sway over humans, and Turner rendered civilization and its flawed institutions at the mercy of nature’s destructive powers, Tacla presents the ruin as horrific sublime and as evidence of a collective death drive. The sublime, as originally explicated by Edmund Burke, was the antithesis of beauty; and the horror was only equivalent to the latter in it capacity to install awe, which is what Tacla renders in paintings as the confluence of the beautiful and its other. The paintings are exquisitely rendered; yet, once the subject matter is detected they become even more compelling by way of a tension of attraction and repulsion. The strength of the paintings resides in their distinguished use of impasto, heavy lineal demarcation producing a rich, albeit sinister tonality. As such, the works are situated in the continuum of historical images that have imprinted themselves in collective cultural memory, though their power is more abject. Exemplary of this are Matthew Brady’s albumen prints of the devastated landscapes and carnage of the American Civil War. Dark, shadowy phantasmagoric buildings that are broken and leveled are set against a soft, luminous sky. The Rubble series also embody this dichotomy of beauty and horror, but Tacla exagerates the contrast between figure and ground to theatrical levels that push them into a more abstract register as is the case with Rubble #5 (2007); a work made with acrylic, oil and marble powder. Like the camouflage series, Rubble #5 has pronounced vertical format that is made more unsettling by its limited palette of black, brown, subtle pink and white. In order to understand the power of these paintings configured upright, simply imagine them horizontally. The sparse colors have a peripheral affinity to the albumen print, but it is closer to a kind of grisaille technique, which was a drawing method often used in illuminated manuscripts that would evince the prowess of an artist who worked mostly in the monochrome. It is testament to Tacla’s artist intelligence how he can cull so many formal sources, both historical and contemporaneous, into fresh configurations.

In his sense, history will situate him as an artist who mines complex subject matter all the while advancing painting in altogether new ways; for his practice is visually intoxicating, intellectually stimulating, mutable, anomalous, and protean; in short, it is a third space.


Art Among the Ruins
Richard Vine

The modernist imagination is littered with rubble. From the massive devastation of two world wars to Freud’s metaphor for the interior self as a jumbled, multi-layered archeological site—a city built upon strata of its own former habitations. Indeed, the very project of modernism—the continuous “make it new” of Ezra Pound’s 1934 dictum—implies not only a progressive building-up and creating afresh but also its complement, a relentless tearing down, dismantling, and clearing away of whatever is past, depleted, or simply in the way. Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, and all the rest, yes—but not without first decimating the Academy, the Salon, the tenets of good taste, and the centuries-old patronage system. In our era this is, largely, what it means to be a “developing” nation or an adaptive, innovative individual.

    In his new body of work, Jorge Tacla has given visual form to this persistent dilemma. The nine large-scale paintings fall into two groups: Trauma #1 and #2 offer close-up fabric- and flesh-related images, while the seven canvases of the “Escombros” series (the Spanish title translates as “Rubble” or “Debris”) depict a bombed-out cityscape based on a newspaper photo from Beirut. Tacla blends these seemingly disparate references into a single cohesive, though multivalent, viewing experience—a meditation on wounding, rife with latent analogies between human skin, the social fabric, and our built (and often willfully demolished) environment.

    Looking closely at Trauma #1 (2006), the earliest work in the grouping (all others are 2007), we see that the artist clearly began with a fascination with both actual and figurative interweaving. Thread-like and organ-like forms are knit together in a loose, flesh-hued network. If the vulnerability of exposed intestines is evoked, so too are the exceptional flexibility and strength of such systemic interconnections, whether physical or social. Trauma #2 takes us even closer, its myriad globular components resembling pinkish skin cells, disrupted by an ominously redder central bruise or incipient cancer.

    With the “Escombros” series the focus shifts, in effect, to the civic body. In each example, we see—from various ranges of view—shattered and half-fallen buildings rendered in lacey marks that retain associations with cloth or porous hide. It is not that we are seeing ruin through a veil, but that the devastation itself is endowed with openwork texture, at once visually penetrable and liable to collapse. There are passages (in Escombros #1 and #5) that recall Victor Hugo’s haunting, architectural dream-sketches; elsewhere (in #3, #6, and #7, for example), the fracturing of space within of damaged structures becomes almost Cubist.

    Despite restricting himself to a fixed subject and head-on point of view—choices that force the viewer to confront war’s difficult facts and limited options—Tacla achieves varied effects through his deft manipulation of composition, color, and surface. No dead or wounded bodies are to be seen; buildings are the human stand-ins here. Yet we are plunged deep into the site of conflict by virtue of horizon lines that are either exceptionally high (in #2, #6, and #5) or nonexistent (in #3, #7, and #4). We are within the rubble, and there is, visually, no escape. Where a strip of sky appears, it is streaked and mottled, reflecting psychological turmoil like the troubled heavens in a Munich landscape.

Overall, the hues are muted and uniform, congealed into one or two chromatic blocks that give each painting, at a distance, the blunt impact of a big-field abstraction. By eschewing bright, “explosive” color, Tacla directs our attention not to a melodramatic burst of violence but to its lingering, soul-numbing aftermath. His oils and acrylics are diluted with heavy admixtures of turpentine and water, and overlaid with a dark hand-drawn tracery that, upon close inspection, suggests broken walls, exposed interiors, aimless staircases, and blown-out windows.

The paintings’ surfaces are matte, as though intended to transmit a subdued mourning. In fact, marble powder has been worked into the pigments, so that—in a heightening of the aftermath effect—everything appears as if covered by a thin layer of settling dust. Although what we see must have been preceded by a horrific blast, the formal emphasis of the work is on an informed but dispassionate response—equipoise in the face of tumult, forbearance amid murderous passions.

    Thus one can see in Tacla’s “Escombros” a certain affinity with the shards and fragments, echoes and half-remembrances of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Both works contemplate loss and confusion, both convey a wounded sensibility, both seek to redeem disaster through artful equanimity. Often, very personal crises lie behind such therapeutic works. But biographical impetuses, though vital to the origin of a work of reclamation, are largely irrelevant to its critical worth. We value “The Waste Land” for, among many other things, its melding of countless voices and emotional registers and levels of diction. We stand in awe of Eliot’s ability to persuasively connect wide-ranging allusions (to ancient Greece, the Bible, WWI, Dante, vaudeville, cheap pubs, pagan myths, etc., etc.) and to bring them all into the poetic present, the eternal.

    In Tacla’s case, the components are less diverse but the resolution equally intense—think of Guernica not as Picasso commemorated it, at the frantic hour of bombardment, but the day afterwards, when each surviving citizen surveys the mute debris and asks how—and why—to begin again. It is a moment we all can relate to, even if we have never experienced literal war. Tacla seeks to unite the private, suffering, persevering self and the battered body politic in a timeless fashion, without ever violating the historical specificity of his visual sources.

These mildly schematized, nearly monochromatic depictions of war-torn Beirut hark back to the artist’s early treatments of La Moneda, the government building bombed in Santiago during the 1973 CIA-backed coup that overthrew Chile’s leftist president Salvadore Allende. At the same time, they also resonate with dreadfully familiarity for anyone who, like Tacla, was present in New York on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers collapsed under assault from Muslim terrorists. Thus the political implications of these images are as tangled as their obsessive fretwork of lines, yet their basic human import is as simple, as foursquare as their underlying Rothkoesque compositions. In an age of globalized conflict, as W.H. Auden once wrote, “We must love one another or die.”

Hope, however, does not exactly spring eternal in Tacla’s pictorial universe. In fact, desiccation and waste are among his longstanding themes, rehearsed in paintings (such as Land Claim of 1995) haunted by his memories of the Atacama Desert. Such scenes of desolation put the emphasis in Auden’s sentiment where it truly belongs—on the must. Even the most successful life, these new works remind us, is riddled with projects begun and abandoned, relationships built and destroyed, plans marvelously executed and plans scotched by cruel whim or changing circumstance. Our history, personal and collective, is built, as a great cathedral rises, in the midst of its own debris. In the long run—through age, accident, or disease—every biography ends in ruins. Yet Tacla’s “Escombros” are not emblems of total despair. For their conceptual intelligence and technical finesse remind us that meaning—and perhaps even a disabused joy—can subsist in the artistry, the wisdom, and the compassion with which we confront our catastrophes.

Diez cosas que quiero decir sobre las pinturas de Jorge Tacla
John Yau

Uno     A menudo cuando me encuentro en Berlín, pienso en las pinturas de Jorge Tacla. Esto podría parecerle extraño al lector, pues Tacla nació e Santiago, Chile, en 1958, realizó allí sus estudios de arte y en 1981 se trasladó a Nueva York. Pero aunque Tacla no haya estado jamás en Berlín, sus pinturas de fachadas en ruinas y edificios destruidos expresan la inevitabilidad del cataclismo y del cambio, de la historia que permanentemente es escrita y vuelta a escribir. Estas pinturas registran, entre otras cosas, las grandes y pequeñas convulsiones que toda cultura y toda ciudad deben necesariamente soportar, y hacia las cuales están siempre deslizándose, incapaces de detener el paso del tiempo y de la historia.


           Berlín es una ciudad de encrucijadas. En este mismo momento, al Reichstag se le está agregando una cúpula, y muy pronto el gobierno trasladará de Bonn a Berlín la totalidad de sus funciones. Y, sin embargo, al recorrer ciertas calles en el medio de la ciudad, mientras las altas grúas amarillas dominan un horizonte urbano relativamente bajo, sorprende observar los distintos tipos de arquitectura de los tiempos de la Guerra Fría enfrentados unos a otros incesantemente, como un recordatorio del Muro que hasta hace poco dividía esta ciudad. A un lado de la calle se alzan los sombríos proyectos habitacionales que los alemanes orientales edificaron en los años ’60 y ’70, tras levantar el Muro de noche, a toda prisa; al otro lado, lo que encontramos son modestos edificios de departamentos construidos durante el mismo periodo –por los alemanes occidentales.


           Los habitantes de estos edificios fueron, en una época, vecinos y enemigos al mismo tiempo: uno se pregunta qué serán ahora. Un angosto reguero de basura corre junto a la calle, como última indicación del lugar en que el Muro se alzaba. Si bien derribar el Muro fue fácil, a la Alemania unificada le está resultando bastante más difícil deshacerse de estos conjuntos habitacionales que se extienden por manzanas enteras, entre fábricas obsoletas y enormes torres de departamentos. Si vemos a Berlín como una ciudad que se apresta a ingresar en el próximo siglo, y quiere ser la primera en darle la bienvenida, en más de un sentido nos parecerá muy típica: Berlín se esfuerza por convertirse en una ciudad ultramoderna. Enfrenta una tarea imposible: mantenerse a la par con el paso de tiempo. Porque el tiempo siempre termina por erosionar cada estructura y cada superficie, y por otra parte, la historia suele interrumpir los periodos más tranquilos. Esta sensación de que la catástrofe está siempre a punto de irrumpir desgarrando tejidos es lo que preocupa a Tacla; él sabe que nunca estaremos preparados para lo que pueda suceder, que de algún modo debemos estar conscientes del mundo, ser sensibles a sus no muy evidentes fluctuaciones sísmicas.



Dos   Jorge Tacla reconoce el hecho de que toda ciudad, y tal vez todo país, se halla dividida por líneas arquitectónicas, y que la construcción y la destrucción van entrelazadas. Una imagen recurrente en estas atmosféricas pinturas suele ser la del exterior o el interior de una construcción, desde catedrales a torres de oficinas, o bien, otras más anónimas, como edificios institucionales. A menudo estos edificios, a un tiempo simbólicos y funcionales, aparecen pintados de modo esquemático, como si no fueran otra cosa que una suerte de esqueleto flotando ante nuestros ojos. Sea como superficie o como espacio –a veces ambos elementos se desintegran–, estas construcciones evocan un pasado y una historia que tal vez ya no sean viables. Otra imagen recurrente son las chozas y otras estructuras precarias que los habitantes han logrado levantar en los espacios entre un edificio institucional y otro, o bajo los puentes, o a orillas de una autopista. Se trata, en este caso, de estructuras concebidas de acuerdo a una función: proteger a sus habitantes de los elementos. Y aun así, en las pinturas de Tacla estas construcciones carecen de techo y a menudo les falta una pared.


           Las fachadas derruidas, entonces, los interiores abandonados y los cúmulos de escombros, son imágenes sobre las que Tacla vuelve una y otra vez. El mundo –lo sugieren sus pinturas– se halla en un estado de permanente deterioro. Sin embargo, a pesar de la recurrencia de estas imágenes, no hay en el artista una intención didáctica. El espectador tiene la sensación de que el interés del artista por los edificios, las ruinas, los cúmulos, los exteriores, es más bien metafísico. Lo que le interesa es el espacio imaginativo que estas estructuras derruidas generan tanto en nuestro pasado como nuestro futuro. Al pintar esas estructuras colapsadas –que al principio le parecen al espectador una representación abstracta, topográfica, pero que lentamente cristalizan en un foco perturbador–, lo que Tacla ha hecho es transformar dos corrientes diversas de la pintura moderna en un solo lenguaje posmoderno que le es absolutamente propio.


           Una de estas corrientes comienza en el surrealismo, particularmente con la propuesta de Giorgio de Chirico. La otra es la corriente abstracta norteamericana de posguerra y los campos atmosféricos de Mark Rothko. No es inverosímil pensar –estoy seguro– que estos espacios desorientadores, las estructuras esqueléticas y temblorosas que vemos en las pinturas de Tacla, y esa sensación de que uno se halla a la vez muy cerca y muy lejos de lo que está contemplando, tengan algo en común con las pinturas metafísicas de Giorgio de Chirico, con sus plazas vacías y sofocadas por una luz dura e inquietante.


           En el caso de Tacla, el piso sobre el que se para el espectador parece no existir, de modo que uno experimenta una suerte de vértigo. La razón de esto es que Tacla ubica deliberadamente al espectador en una relación imposible con lo que está viendo ¿Estamos parados en el borde de este paisaje? ¿Nos hallamos dentro de él, explorando las ruinas? ¿O flotamos por encima, como si de alguna manera lo que contemplamos no nos afectara? Abiertos y planos a la vez, volumétricos y bidimensionales, los espacios de Tacla son acertivos visuales, lugares en los que no podemos realmente entrar, aunque tengamos la sensación de caer hacia ellos, o de flotar encima o frente a ellos.


           Si las preguntas que estas pinturas nos provocan resultan perturbadoras, es porque nos desafían a articular nuestra relación con un edificio que se ha derrumbado, o con una construcción que –sin razón aparente– ha sido abandonada y se encuentra en un estado de deterioro que parece irreversible. Tenemos la sensación de enfrentarnos a un desastre sin nombre. En varios casos, el edificio representado por Tacla son los restos retorcidos y destrozados del Edificio Federal de Oklahoma, algo que casi todos nosotros hemos visto solamente en la televisión o en los periódicos. No hemos sido, por lo tanto, testigos del suceso que causó la destrucción del edificio. Y tampoco somos inocentes observadores de paso. Por el contrario, somos personas que leen el periódico y ven televisión, y nos sentimos simultáneamente –en diferentes grados­– conectados con lo ocurrido y separados de ello. Se trata de incidentes que suceden en la periferia de nuestra conciencia. Y somos a la vez, observadores distantes. Podría decirse que esta sensación de aislamiento y, en cierto grado, de impotencia, es el vínculo que nos une. Nos parece estar viviendo el momento posterior a algo que ha ocurrido, tenemos la sensación de que la historia ha afectado nuestra vida en mil aspectos diferentes, algunos de los cuales ni siquiera podemos identificar con claridad.


           La explosión del Edificio Federal de Oklahoma logró lo que se proponía: que a todos nos recorriera un escalofrío. No pudimos sino sentir que éramos vulnerables. Despertamos a la fría, lúcida conciencia de que encontrarse en el lugar equivocado en el momento equivocado ya no es algo que podamos predecir, puesto que continuamente corremos el riesgo de hallarnos en el lugar equivocado en el momento equivocado. No importa dónde habitemos, en un condominio cerrado en una torre de departamentos, nos sentimos como la víctima de un crimen, pero no sabemos exactamente de qué crimen se trata ni cómo es que somos sus víctimas ¿En esto se ha transformado la historia? ¿Una presencia amenazadora y fantasmal? ¿Una sensación de la que no logramos desprendernos?



Tres   Los colores de Tacla son sombríos, crepusculares, arenosos, fundidos. Predispuesto a manchar la superficie con aguadas monocromáticas, este pintor subvierte la pureza abstracta de Rothko al recordarnos que los crepúsculos rojos o rosados que inundan nuestro horizonte urbano pueden ser el resultado de elementos químicos liberados en la atmósfera. Tacla sabe que incluso el color ha sido contaminado por la civilización. El uso que hace de los rojos y anaranjados despierta en el espectador asociaciones con el óxido, con el ladrillo, con la permanencia de las manchas de sangre, mientras que sus oscuros azules parecen al mismo tiempo crepusculares y químicos. Tacla da la impresión de haber elaborado su paleta con colores derivados de la industria, o de los desechos industriales, más que de la naturaleza. En estas pinturas, la luz clara del día nos parece tan distante como Saturno o Júpiter.


           Al aplicar delgadas capas de color, Tacla no sólo consigue desarrollar un amplio espectro de superficies posibles, sino también controlar el campo visual y convertirlo en una abstracta topografía de tonalidades cambiantes. Las construcciones abiertas y las fachadas torcidas parecen estar emergiendo y a la vez hundiéndose en las superficies saturadas. Pensando nuevamente en De Chirico y en Rothko, me sorprende comprobar hasta que grado Tacla ha transformado estos dos lenguajes ya históricos, perfectamente conocidos, en un nuevo lenguaje, poderoso y contemporáneo. El hecho de que lo haga sin ironía es aun más notable, porque obliga al espectador a reconocer que sus pinturas no son paródicas, que no representan ni un santuario ni una fuga. Sus casas abandonadas, sus habitaciones vacías y sus edificios derruidos conjugan la visión de un mundo que se derrumba bajo su propio peso. Sin duda, este dilema pulsa un cuerda familiar: ¿no nos sentimos, acaso, agobiados por todo lo que, aparentemente, estamos obligados a saber para poder continuar viviendo?



Cuatro La visión aérea que Tacla elabora del Pentágono –esa anomalíaa arquitectónica que es también el centro neurálgico del poder militar de los Estados Unidos– nos recuerda que ningún edificio es, a fin de cuentas, neutral; cada construcción nos habla tanto de la cultura como del momento histórico que fue levantada. Desde el aire, el espectador se convierte en personaje de una narración no específica, de final abierto ¿Somos terroristas? ¿O somos los pasajeros de un avión que sobrevuela Washington D.C.? ¿Es esto un sueño o algo que estamos viendo? ¿Es el terror, finalmente, algo que experimentamos todos los días, y que se ha infiltrado en cada aspecto de nuestra vida y nuestros sueños?



Cinco   En varias de sus pinturas, Tacla aísla, dentro de la composición general, una serie de rectángulos de forma irregular. Estos rectángulos o insertos, cada uno de ellos encarnando el fragmento de una imagen, sugieren que nuestra forma de ver está siempre dirigida hacia una pantalla. Si bien la pintura pudo considerarse alguna vez análoga a una ventana, y en este siglo a una superficie quebrada o tramada, las estructuras sin cuerpo pintadas por Tacla, fantasmales y físicas a un tiempo, parecen sugerirnos que estamos frente a una pantalla. El mundo en que habitamos existe en algún punto entre la materialidad y la inmaterialidad. Se ha convertido en una especia de obsesión fantasmal que sigue nuestro pasos. Al mismo tiempo, aquello insertos nos recuerdan que ver es un acto lleno de interrupciones.



Seis   Pienso que la conciencia de que estamos viviendo la secuela de innumerables desastres es algo central en la pintura de Tacla. Es como si, dondequiera que vayamos, adonde sea que volvamos nuestra mirada, y sin importar lo que estemos viendo, continuamente nos encontraremos ante los restos de una edificio o de una estructura. Puesto que somos miembros de una sociedad, y que en alguna medida deberíamos estar conscientes de lo que les pasa a los demás, podríamos preguntarnos qué es, si es que existe, aquello que nos une.



Siete Las visiones de Tacla son a un tiempo completas y parciales. En un comienzo, el espectador deduce que las visiones parciales son indicios claros de que el artista piensa que no existe un lugar privilegiado desde donde observar y comprender el mundo. Luego llegamos a pensar que Tacla apunta a algo mayor y más inquietante. Vivimos en un estado de desintegración implacable, y no hay manera de modificar este hecho.



Ocho   Mediante el colapso simultáneo de la abstracción y la representación, de lo atmosférico y lo lineal, y –finalmente– de lo documental y lo ficticio, Tacla logra algo inesperado. Trasciende los límites regionales y nacionales para convertirse en un artista cuyas preocupaciones se extienden bastante más allá de las fronteras del mundo del arte. Al mismo tiempo, al equiparar sus pinturas con edificios destruidos y construcciones abiertas, desprovistas de techo y con sólo tres muros, Tacla subvierte la noción de que una pintura debe ocupar un lugar sacralizado e una pared. Expuesta en una galería o un museo, por ejemplo, sus imágenes de fierros retorcidos, pisos hundidos y techos desmoronados indican un futuro hacia el cual tanto la construcción como la pintura se precipitan.



Nueve Mientras sus pinturas expresan el desastre de un pasado que contamina el presente, Tacla deja a los espectadores la tarea de decidir qué traerá el futuro. En este sentido, es un pintor narrativo que busca derribar las barreras entre el arte y la vida. La narrativa que aporta el espectador debe desplegarse tanto dentro del territorio de la pintura como fuera de él, en el mundo. Esta misma posibilidad, el hecho de que lo que narremos, individual o colectivamente, deba extenderse más allá de los límites de la pintura, es lo que hace de las obras de Tacla creaciones tan poderosas. Son pinturas que nos involucran.



Diez  Un vistazo a las secuelas de la destrucción en nuestra propia vida, aquellos sucesos ante los cuales nos sentimos distantes, impotentes para cambiarlos o alterarlos: éste es el estado de conciencia al que nos llevan las pinturas de Tacla. Nos sentimos encerrados, sin escape. Y solos. Porque todo lo que nos rodea son las vigas retorcidas, los ladrillos pulverizados, las tablas rotas –los huesos– de nuestro antrópico mundo.   

John Yau

La poesía del Instinto de Muerte en la Pintura de Jorge Tacla
Donald Kuspit

Donald Kuspit es Profesor de Historia del Arte y Filosofía de State University of New York at Stony Brook, y Profesor A.D. White at Large Cornell University. Es autor de varios libros y cientos de artículos sobre aspectos del Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, incluyendo The cult of the avant-garde artist, Signs of the psyche in modern and postmodern art, e Idiosiosyncratic Identities (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1996).


El principio del placer parece servir directamente al instinto de muerte.

Sigmund Freud

The Economic Problem of Masochism


Señales de desastre proliferan en la pintura de Jorge Tacla. La muerte está en todas partes, algunas veces creada por los seres humanos, otras veces ocurriendo de forma natural. A veces, la muerte es el resultado de la violencia –la inhumanidad del hombre hacia el hombre, como el caso del Edificio Federal de Oklahoma, destruido por una bomba –y otras veces la muerte se halla implícita en la indiferencia de la naturaleza, que para Tacla está significada en el desierto: las fotografías del edificio en ruinas y del desierto inanimado, ambos son despiadadamente inorgánicos e inanimados, como lo indica su naturaleza inerte (concreto en el caso del edificio; piedra, en el caso del desierto), son los puntos de partida de muchas pinturas, confirmando su obsesión por la muerte como substancia e idea, un hecho literal además de un tema de especulación.


La muerte y la destrucción hechas por el hombre y la mortandad natural a menudo se sobreponen, como en un matrimonio irónico. Y en la pintura de Tacla, ambas son representadas siempre en una gran escala que resulta irónicamente desmesurada. La muerte nos introduce a la nada y el sin sentido, y esta nada y este sin sentido son opacados por el espacio inmenso y vacío, que constituye el tema principal de Tacla: un espacio cósmico que promete mucho, que parece tener un significado (recordemos la creencia ilusa de Kant de que el patrón de las estrellas significaba un orden moral), pero que, después de todo, es nada y no significa nada. Ciertamente son la nada y el sin sentido irónicamente personificados.


Las pinturas de Tacla hacen tangible el pánico al espacio: el horror subliminal de la muerte se manifiesta como la inquietante experiencia de vacío, la aterradora sensación de vacío total. Ninguna otra obra de la pintura moderna tiene “ansiedad agorafóbica de la caída en el vacío, incontenida y desintegradora” (1), una sensación que sin duda tuvo Pascal cuando alzó su vista al cielo nocturno, y no estuvo seguro de haber visto a Dios, plasmada de una forma tan directa y valiente. (Esta ansiedad, especie de horror vacui, es la típica experiencia emocional moderna, ya que significa el sentido de aislamiento, vacío y abandono que son inseparables del anonimato modernos, de la sociedad anónima que carece de mitos que la sustente). La ansiedad agorafóbica, una forma de ansiedad aniquiladora, es el instinto de muerte en su expresión más emotiva. Tacla representa en toda su insidiosa gloria e intensidad, sin que el temor lo lleve a pestañear.


El instinto de muerte hace sentir su presencia a través de la ausencia: la ausencia que es el espacio de Tacla, una ausencia que se intensifica por la grandeza del espacio. Irónicamente, el espacio abierto del cielo, que la religión ha intentado llenar con dioses desde tiempos inmemoriales, y que llenamos con nuestro deseo de vida eterna y felicidad, la trascendencia del tiempo y el sufrimiento (siempre están ligados) se convierten en el emblema del cierre y la pérdida, de la finalidad que trae la muerte. El espacio sagrado de la catedral, su idealizado cielo sustituto, sugiere que el cielo es posible en la tierra, pero Tacla transforma el espacio alegórico de la catedral (una imagen recurrente en su pintura) y lo revierte, mostrando que, de hecho, es un desierto. Su espacio es, irónicamente, tan grandioso como el de la catedral, pero es su negativo. La fantasía de la trascendencia que otrora hiciera del espacio infinito algo vitalmente sagrado ha sido reemplazada por la sensación entumecedora de la nada y el sin sentido que trae la muerte. El espacio inmenso e incomprensible de Tacla ya no es el cielo abstracto de la aspiración, sino el olvido concreto que es nuestro destino deprimente, real. El espacio de los cuadros de Tacla permanece tan alegórico como el espacio de la catedral, pero simboliza el fracaso del temple humano ante la faz de la muerte, en vez de la victoria emocional sobre la muerte representada por la religión.


Tacla no se limita a reconocer esa realidad y la inevitabilidad de la muerte. Usa el instinto de muerte, la tendencia psicobiológica hacia la destrucción y la desintegración, de forma creativa y crítica, oponiéndola contra la sociedad que la niega aun si los acontecimientos la revelan. Usa la poesía del instinto de muerte para desmitificar y desenmascarar a la sociedad. Ve a través de su autoengaño el instinto de muerte que se esfuerza deliberadamente por celebrar y proteger a la vida. El instinto de muerte colectivo, la forma en que las personas se mueven, como ratones, hacia la muerte, sin darse cuenta, es su materia de trabajo, junto con las ilusiones colectivas de grandeza (evidentes en sí mismas en la arquitectura religiosa de Tacla) que lo compensan, mientra simultánea e irónicamente lo encarnan.


Más específicamente, Tacla sugiere de manera subversiva que el instinto de muerte motiva las ilusiones absolutistas de la inmortalidad y la invencibilidad, ideologías dogmáticas de vida eterna, simbolizadas, defendidas y sostenidas por las instrucciones autoritarias de la Iglesia y el ejército. Ambas instituciones declaran que la vida no puede ser derrotada, pero usan la amenaza de muerte (la maldición eterna es su forma más intransigente) para defender la vida. Ambas intentan contener y controlar a la muerte (dominar y minimizar su daño), pero traicionan la vida a favor de la muerte. La arquitectura eclesiástica y la militar son igualmente intimidantes (Tacla ha pintado tanto el Pentágono como la catedral), como para aplastar toda diferencia de opinión y resistencia a la verdad supuestamente infalible que encarnan. Tacla expresa la militancia de esta arquitectura (tanto la catedral como el Pentágono son símbolos dramáticos del poder bruto); pero, más enfáticamente, expresa con claridad que no son lo que parecen: no son la expresión más inventiva de la vida, sino bastiones de la muerte. Se han convertido en lo que pretendieron resistir.


No hay escape de la muerte, ni la ilusión de la vida trascendente ni en la realidad del poder militar se convierten en nada, y nada fueron desde el principio. Su técnica de “pintura negativa” aniquila la arquitectura de la autoridad. La catedral y el Pentágono parecen disolverse en la nada, desvanecerse en recuerdo absurdos, frente a nuestros ojos, revelando el instinto de muerte que los motiva. Además, Tacla implica que la Iglesia y los militares son los enemigos de la expresión espontánea de la vida. Frágiles signos de espontaneidad aparecen, impredeciblemente, en la baldía vastedad de la muerte que Tacla representa. El nos ha dado un nuevo triunfo de la muerte –uno más ingenioso de lo que hemos visto en el arte tradicional. Para Tacla, la muerte no es un esqueleto amenazante (como lo es, por ejemplo, en la brillante representación de Hans Baldung-Grien), sino un vacío completo, esto es, la nada antropomorfizada por el esqueleto. Esto desmitifica la muerte, mientras la hace más aterradora e inescapable, ya que no podemos huir del vacío que habita en nuestras mentes, al igual que no podemos huir del esqueleto que habita en nuestros cuerpos.


Por lo tanto, en Ecuación de Líneas y Curvas (1995), una franja del desierto cuadrada –un espacio temible de muerte natural, irónicamente vitalizado con el color en la versión de Tacla –se ubica al centro de una catedral gris como la ceniza. El espacio del desierto y el espacio de la catedral se correlacionan física y emocionalmente, a pesar de que el primero empequeñece al segundo, casi en burla. En esencia, la catedral está tan seca como el desierto. Igualmente vacía e inanimada, a pesar de su apariencia ostentosa. Podría ser vista como un teatro de la vida trascendente, pero para Tacla la función ha terminado. Juntos, el espacio vacío del desierto y la catedral vacía crean un sentido sobrecogedor de mortandad y de la nada: el vacío absoluto. Tacla expresa la nada traumática del espacio, que se hace aún más traumática porque es una gran mentira. El espacio de la catedral supuestamente se halla colmado por el espíritu invisible de Dios pero, de hecho, no hay nada allí. Es la ruina de la trascendencia, porque Dios ha muerto, como lo sugiere el gris funerario de la catedral. Es un edificio deprimente, lleno de esperanzas fatuas, un símbolo desgastado de autoridad y poder que, desde el principio, fue un fraude.


Una y otra vez Tacla revela el vacío esencial de las ínfulas sociales de grandeza. El desierto es el secreto de la espiritualidad, que revela la infortunada verdad subyacente. El desierto es la verdad interior de la catedral, sugiriendo que no tiene nada que ofrecer. La catedral no es un oasis de vida eterna en el desierto de la muerte, sino la máscara del desierto. Jamás podríamos tener una visión del desierto en la catedral, no importa con cuánta vehemencia su grandeza nos implore que llenemos su vacío.


En la Distribución de los primarios (1995), el Pentágono, ese símbolo ominoso del poder militar y de la autoridad gubernamental, es tan gris como la catedral. El gris aniquila; transforma la piedra en una atmósfera suave, la gloria en polvo. Aquello que parece una fortaleza hermética (un universo militar ensimismado, que no responde ante nadie) se disuelve en la nada, hasta casi desaparecer en una sombra de sí mismo. Ya no es una fuerza positiva sino una forma negativa: el espectro de lo que una vez fue. En Peso Específico (1996), un gran anfiteatro, lleno de arte y conocimiento, un verdadero triunfo y símbolo de la civilización y la comunidad, sufre la misma suerte. (La estructura se basa en un palacio de Palladio). El colorido niño indio al centro, rodeado por dibujos espontáneos llenos de imágenes primitivas, niega el anfiteatro, y de hecho lo derroca. En Forma Energética (1997), esporas de vida-piedras parecen metamorfosearse espontáneamente en microorganismos, el milagro alquímico de la muerte generando la vida, florecen en el desierto, pero nada cambian. Como el niño en Peso Específico –la vida humana en su expresión más primitiva-, estos fragmentos primitivos de vida no alternan nada esencial. El desierto sigue siendo el espacio dominante. El anfiteatro, el Pentágono y la catedral son todos desiertos, zonas de desastre, como lo confirma una vez más la catedral en Ascensor de pasajeros (1996).


Una y otra vez Tacla construye una contradicción irónica. Una expresión colorida, íntima y elemental de la vida, que existe en un espacio pequeño, herméticamente sellado, como una semilla, subvierte una estructura incolora, impersonal, civilizada, que parece llenar todo el espacio con su grandeza. El fragmento de vida primitiva hace que la arquitectura gloriosa parezca una ilusión hueca, una fachada vacía. Irónicamente, el fragmento es la ilusión, ya que en la pintura de Tacla la vida no es más que un espejismo, una prueba final de que nada puede crecer en el desierto en que se ha convertido la sociedad moderna.


De una forma u otra, Tacla aniquila la autoridad. De hecho, es la muerte encarnada: la aniquilación de la autoridad hace evidente lo que siempre fue la realidad. En Conceptos fundamentales (1992), Cristo es casi enterrado por una avalancha de rocas, que en efecto se convierten en su atributo. Implican que, pronto, Cristo estará tan inanimado como ellas: su cuerpo no resucitará, sino que se disolverá en una materia tan cruda como la piedra. Algo similar se sugiere en Estudio de una Transformación (1992), que presenta a la virgen María vestida de monja, y el Cristo muerto, cargado por ella (es una cita de un famoso cuadro) en un desierto. En Mi casa es tu casa (1992), una catedral es despojada hasta los huesos, por así decirlo; es reducida a una suerte de copia, un insignificante esqueleto de sí mismo, un guijarro flotando en el desierto del espacio, representado por las rocas que son su atributo. En Operación inversa (1992), el paisaje se halla más muerto que vivo; las señales de vida colorida son una ilusión. El desierto es nuevamente el héroe en Línea al Infinito (1992). Incluso cuando es primitiva (las líneas espontáneas de Estudio para un problema irracional de 1992 son un ejemplo), la vida irracional parece proliferar en el desierto, permanece sobria y serena, esto es, un espacio muerto. En la superficie, el desierto es un lugar apocalíptico, pero ya que el juicio del Apocalipsis es un preludio a la resurrección, y no existe la resurrección en la pintura de Tacla (aunque los fragmentos de vida primitiva podrían sugerir su posibilidad), el desierto sólo puede ser un sitio de reposo final, un lugar que es el perfecto correlato objetivo (citando a T.S. Eliot) de los sentimientos de vacío y sin sentido creados por la muerte.


Los cuadros de Tacla están llenos de muerte, de manera casi fatalista; pero también son hermosos, de una forma abstracta. ¿Halla el pintor atractiva la muerte? ¿Está medio enamorado de ella, como Keats? Algo más sutil está sucediendo, y es específicamente evidente en las numerosas pinturas de Tacla sobre la ruina del Edificio Federal de Oklahoma City, que considero su articulación más consumada de la ansiedad agorafóbica, y una de sus obras más hermosas. Estos cuadros: Horizonte Imaginario, Biología Interna, Organismos Vivos, Mecanismo Biológico y Materiales Orgánicos (todos de 1996)- son representaciones pictóricas de la caída pura. Son obras maestras de la abstracción –imágenes paradójicas, que se hallan en el límite entre la representación y la abstracción. Parecen ser abstractos y representativos a la vez, aumentando la ambigüedad de su significación, así como lo hace mezcla de citas fotográficas y gestualidad expresiva. Vemos un edificio en ruinas, un símbolo de la civilización, construido con tanta dificultad y esfuerzo, aniquilado por el gesto destructivo de la bomba: vemos un símbolo de la barbarie que siempre se halla presta a destruir la civilización que tanto nos ha costado alcanzar. Pero también vemos una maraña agitada de gestos primitivos, el residuo regresivo de la destrucción.


Las pinturas de Oklahoma City de Tacla son pinturas all-over, que ingeniosamente llevan a un nuevo clímax lo que parecía insuperable en las pinturas all-over de Pollock. Tacla añade una nueva dimensión expresiva al all-over, ya que él se convierte en una imagen abstracta de la ansiedad agorafóbica, como lo sugiere su agitación vertiginosa (movimiento obsesivo). Es una imagen emocionalmente precisa: la ansiedad agorafóbica transforma el mundo en una abstracción aterradora y fluida, una absurda arena movediza de gestos transitorios (parecida a la avalancha de rocas en otras pinturas), en la que no hay pisada, sino caída. Estas pinturas son la substancia visionaria de la articulación de Tacla sobre la ansiedad, la muerte y la destrucción. Al mostrar las vísceras gestuales del edificio en ruinas, Tacla lanza la muerte a nuestras caras, muestra cómo la muerte se pavonea. Los gestos primitivos son los movimientos caóticos de la danza de la muerte.


Pero el punto es que, en la pintura de Tacla, las horribles imágenes de muerte son bellas, una epifanía de placer visual puro. Irónicamente, su extático placer visual está al servicio del instinto de muerte, para referirnos al epígrafe de Freud. Las pinturas de Oklahoma City hacen a la muerte atractiva, y también espeluznante. Nos seducen hasta la muerte, sin que nos demos cuenta. Nos hacen olvidar nuestro miedo a la muerte al hacerla hermosa, en términos abstractos modernos, en contraposición a los términos tradicionales, donde la muerte aparece como una mujer, la proverbial femme fatale. (De hecho, Freud señaló que la muerte tendía a tomar una forma femenina, cual si fuera un regreso alterno). Las pinturas de Oklahoma City de Tacla sugieren que la muerte puede ser placentera, y no dolorosa. Puede ser una experiencia placentera, y por esto no debemos tenerla. Las pinturas de Oklahoma City nos alejan de la muerte al mostrarla como una abstracción dinámica, aparentemente llena de vida espontánea. Esto sugiere que sintetizan los instintos de vida y de muerte; según León Grinberg, la principal tarea y señal de ego, (2) de la fortaleza del ego. La confirmación se encuentra en los títulos de Tacla, que ambiguamente unen lo orgánico y lo mecánico. Sin embargo, estas pinturas, las más seductoras de Tacla, nos invitan a morir. Por esto, son la ironía final de la obsesión de Tacla por la muerte.


Traducción: Beverly Pérez Rego



(1) Hanna Segal. Dream, phantasy and art (London and New York: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991), p. 54

(2)  León Grinberg. Guilt and depression (London and New York: Karnac Books, 1992), p. 39

THE SPRAWL: Recent Paintings
John Yau

Jorge Tacla continues to distinguish himself from this generation of postmodern painters. For while he knowingly embraces the innovate modernism of Jackson Pollok and Mark Rothko, he is also deeply aware that what he has inherited from these precursors is extreme states of decay and disintegration, a world fallen to pieces. It is this world of destroyed structures, and their decomposing fragments, that he investigates in his trenchant views of vacant towns, collapsing buildings and destroyed rooms.


Tacla’s synthesis of sinuous lines and stained, atmospheric fields enabled him to push deeper into a territory which is understood as being synonymous with postmodern civilization’s erasure of the self. Largely of concern to site-specific artists, such as Gordon Matta-Clark, and filmmakers, such as Won Kar-wai, this zone of anonymity has seldom been explored by postmodern painters. This is what connects as well as separates him from Rothko and Pollock. In Tacla’s paintings, the vibrant, color saturated field and gravity defying space in which we encounter the deteriorating emptiness inhabiting the core of our psyche. It is the space of anonymity and disintegration, where exterior façades and interior spaces have collapsed in a heap. Thus, it is both the dimly lit, clandestine spaces inhabited by the contemporary soul and a crumbing urban lanscape where heroes and myths no longer exist.


In Won Kar-wai’s film Happy together (1997), the two characters Ho Po-wing and Lai Yin-fai have left Hong and gone to Argentina, its antipodal opposite, ostensibly to see the Iguaza Waterfall (South America’s equivalent of Niagara Falls). Iguaza is both a tourist site and a symbol of the disintegration around which Ho and Lai are always drifting. Throughout the film, which shifts effortlessly between various kinds of black-and-white to seductively irritating color, the camera never opens up a breathing space between the audience and the characters; it neither seduces nor reassures the audience with a long panning shot of Buenos Aires, where much of the film’s action takes place. By refusing to use the camera to give the viewer a visual and thus emotional distance from the film’s urban setting, Wong subverts any association we might have with the alluring silhouette of the Emerald City. Think of Manhattan, either as crowded, gritty island or as a popular film by Woody Allen, and one thinks of its skyline at certain times of the day or night, as well as its familiar topography of skyscrapers and dazzling allure of neon lights. Within this context, Manhattan (like Oz’s Emerald City) becomes a destination rather than a place, an ideal rather than a fact. It is the place that lies somewhere over the rainbow and thus for both Wong and Tacla is an illusion.


Tacla is a painter of incontrovertible facts. And yet, he recognizes that such facts have both an emotional and fictive power over us. He may base compositions on the aftermath of the bombing of Oklahoma City Federal Building, as he did in a number of paintings from around 1996, but he doesn’t make his paintings into anecdotal narratives about heroes or human suffering. Rather, he brings the viewer into claustrophobic proximity with the image’s disquieting power, its eery, ghostly presence in our lives. In these paintings, Tacla addresses the troubling emotional distance that is an inherent aspect of media’s presentation, as well as its incessant recycling, of particular images such as the Federal Building’s bomb blasted interior. By both transposing and transforming familiar, close-up images of the blast into an all-over composition of sharply contrasting colors reminiscent of bleached-out photographs, Tacla registers the different kinds of distance that separates us from each other and from ourselves. We are belated witnesses, and our belatedness ensures us of having a privileged view. Instead of reinforcing this privileged vantage point, Tacla’s compositions shift between recognizable image and elusive abstraction; and this tautly articulated visual disturbance pulls us closer to the painting’s surface, making us aware of the distance, which, with the intervention of the media, enables us to stay apart from what is unfolding in the world. Our existence, Tacla’s paintings make clear, has become of vicarious experiences.


Thus, by integrating a partial view of the building, largely the interior of a collapsing structure (or disintegrating grid) with an all-over composition, Tacla is able to reveal the distance afforded us by the mass media’s interventions. For whereas the mass media turned a real event into a symbolic one, Tacla used abstraction to direct our attention back to which was real and unknowable, the event itself. At the same time, the disturbing seductiveness of these paintings not only serve to remind us of our own voyeuristic interest in events that occur far from our daily life, but they also suggest that beneath our calm exterior there may exist a month-like interest in contemporary manifestations of an all consuming flame.


Tacla focuses on the complex emotional power imbedded within an irreducible fragment. Like Wong, his emotionally cool, yet visually seductive views of exposed buildings, deserted towns, and uninhabited (and perhaps uninhabitable) rooms are discrete fragments; they suggest but they do not show the larger, more expansive mileu. We can neither determine where Tacla’s empty towns or ruined interiors end, nor deduce where they might actually be. Their anonymity is disturbing because Tacla doesn’t provide us with an emotional distance; he doesn’t enable us to step back and see the painting’s view as if it existed anywhere but here in front of us. This proximity reminds us that no matter how peripheral one might believe one’s existence is to disaster, that distance is no longer guaranteed. In this sense, Tacla can be said to have re-envisioned Warhol’s “Death and Disaster” paintings by making it evident that that possibility has moved much closer to the viewer, even if he or she feels more disconnected from reality than ever before. In contemporary society, its overloading of media images and statistics, suffering is no longer endured by individuals, but by largely anonymous figures.


For Both Wong and Tacla, the boundaries between one habitat and another are no longer evident. The walls and doors separating us from each other have been literally and figuratively destroyed. This has not helped us overcome our isolation, but immersed us deeper in it. In refusing to provide the audience the privilege of experiencing this decaying world from a safe emotional distance, both Wong and Tacla resist reassuring the public. Rather, Wong’s camera caresses the characters, while Tacla’s seductive compositions pull the viewer closer to the site of decay and decomposition. At the same time, their views are partial and, like the lives of its absent or vanished inhabitants, seemingly detached from a centering whole.


Both Wong and Tacla have replaced postmodern contingency with something more harrowing, a state of free-floating disconnectedness. And because the places they explore are seemingly detached from the world we inhabit, and are almost completely anonymous in their architectural details, they become contemporary civilization’s equivalents of the abyss, the black hole into which anyone of us could disappear, our existence on the roll call of daily life quickly and efficiently erased.


Tacla’s paintings disturb us precisely because they compel us to realize that the abyss isn’t an abstraction, but something very real and present in our daily life. In this regard, he shares something within the wave of speculative fiction writers that began gaining in the late 1970s. In his celebrated cyberpunk novel Necromancer, William Gibson has his characters use the term “The Sprawl” to refer to the dense, overlapping, urban clusters spreading along the entire length of the East Coast, and from Atlanta to New York and Boston. Gibson envisions a not-so-distant future in which the open spaces between one urban center and another have been filled in with peripheral communities whose connection to the center, if there actually is one, is tenuous. In Gibson’s vision of the world, all of us siding towards complete anonymity.


While Gibson designates a specific geographical area as “The Sprawl,” there are echoes of it throughout the world. How far does one have to go to see moldering buildings, shabby towns, and ramshackle constructions, whose inhabitants will never be reached by the census takers? It is this world that Tacla’s recent paintings articulate, a place where a state of anonymity is the closest one comes to achieving an identity. Hong Kong, Baltimore, Istanbul, Tokyo, Berlin, Madrid, Caracas, Moscow, or Santiago (where Tacla was born and first attended art school during the murderous Pinochet dictatorship): all of these places are in the process of upheaval, decay and renewal. But urban renewal, as anyone living in an American city knows all too well, is most often a dismal failure, because the city planners disregard human life in favor of cosmetic makeovers.


City planners like an area to look good, not necessarily be either inhabitable or even useful for more than a few hours a day. Berlin’s Postdamer Platz may be an architect’s dream, but what about the neighborhoods of Pankow and Wedding? What will the city planners do with the rows of tall, cold, demoralizing housing projects in what was once East Berlin, and what will they do be that much better? How about the closed-down factories and half-deserted neighborhoods far from Pastdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz? What about the outskirts and forgotten pockets of that huge, spreading city?


Tacla doesn’t try to answer these questions: he isn’t a didactic painter who offers the viewer evidence of his wisdom and insights. He has more respect for, and more faith in, the viewer than the contemporary artist for whom either a chic didacticism between those who are on the census roles and those who aren’t, the viewer and the unviewed. To his credit, the unviewed remain so in his paintings, as the public sees only empty rooms and open-faced buildings. There may be signs of life everywhere, but there are never any figures. It is a world devoid of human life, a place that has been abandoned out of a necessity which is seldom if ever spelled out. Thus, we find ourselves examining a ghost town, poring over the remains of what might have once been a busy intersection full of life. Civilization may believe it has conquered the wilderness, but Tacla knows that within every city there are zones of anarchy few of us would enter, as well as largely uncharted states of decay and entropy we try and ignore.


In this recent paintings of self-sufficient fragments and clusters of detritus, Tacla continues to extend out of, as well as revise, the infinitely spreading, centerless space Jackson Pollock achieved in his breakthrough paintings. In his use of spare, matter-of-fact lines combined with a shallow, vertiginous space to evoke a downward view of piles of planks scattered in disarray (For Rent, 1989), and in his merging of lines with an atmospheric space (Downtown, 1998), Tacla transforms both Pollock’s dense, overlapping weave of poured skeins of paint and Rothko’s contradictory abstract space into their decomposing opposites. In Tacla’s paintings, Rothkos’s rich somber light has become a noxious, chemically infested landscape, at once shadowy and vacant, while Pollock’s swirling skeins have become a falling, fallen structure. The promise of transcendence that lays at the heart of both Rothko’s and Pollock’s project is no longer possible. In Room 605 (1998), a disturbingly seductive painting of mangled ruins, Tacla has effectively replaced Pollock’s fluid all-overness with the claustrophobic aftermath of willful destruction, a no man’s land in which both further disintegration and destruction are inherent to the very existence of what are looking at.


Tacla’s paintings embody views of exposed interiors and empty, disheveled towns, torn roofs and piles of detritus. The drawing is both complete and open-ended, descriptive yet ambiguous. The rooms are simultaneously open views and schematic silhouettes, and thus embody a contradictory space. We see into them, but we cannot enter them. As viewers, and as one who is a witness to this landscape, we are confounded. We want to know what is it that we are looking at. In The town (1998), for example, the streaked, atmospheric, largely red ground shifts between soft, muddy landscape and misty sky. It’s as if one is looking at a Classical Chinese painting, and compelled to ask: Are the buildings resting on the ground or floating in the air? The open, exposed rooms evoke both early Renaissance paintings and Persian miniatures. At the same time, Tacla’s method of staining the canvas in tandem with his use of red evokes toxic spills and chemical poisoning. Was the disaster that befell this town natural or manmade? What happened to its inhabitants? Does this place exist in our past, future, or present? Or perhaps al three?


Such questions lead us back to our own lives, to what we choose to see and not to see. By motivating us to locate, as well as analyze, our experience within his provocative transformation of classical modernist means, Tacla compels us to keep returning our attention to the painting itself. In doing so, he impels us to consider that both we and painting occupy a similarity exposed and vulnerable state. Destruction and disintegration, his work suggests, are simultaneously unpredictable and inevitable processes. Thus, we cannot escape the consequences of the world we and our ancestors have set in motion; we can only attempt to alter its course, however slightly.


Tacla knows that in making a painting, he is presuming that there will be a place in which it will be safe, a secure wall on which it can be displayed. He also realizes that to embrace that aesthetic security is to ignore the larger, more disturbing truths confronting contemporary society. In Tacla’s insightful vision of the postmodern world, there are only three walls to any structure and the roof has long since caved in. Not only do wind and rain continually penetrate our sanctuary, but we are always at their mercy. Tacla’s paintings remind us that museums are not permanent structures, and that upheaval and deterioration are the only constants. Instead of offering us either a pleasing soporific and fashionable cynicism, he has chosen to look at daily life’s bitter truth in the eye. It is his determination to see the world for what it is, and to bring it to bear in his paintings, that singles him out from his contemporaries. Knowing there is no other world but this one, Tacla’s paintings invite, as well as help, us to dwell among the decaying ruins of our time.

Jorge Tacla: Self Feeder. Thought in the Wilderness
Richard Vine


In the recent paintings of Jorge Tacla, the elemental and the cultural are held in troubled equipoise. This tense standoff—between rational systems and visceral needs, between crude materials and ethereal longings, between collective expectations and personal fears—bespeaks the modern individual’s sense of abandonment in a world ill-suited to his authentic self. There is no connectedness here, no common intimacy. With Salle-like insouciance, images are juxtaposed on the canvas, but their combination suggests no reassuring master schema. The works are anguish made visible.

Tacla conveys this anomie through a private but by no means indecipherable pictorial vocabulary. Buildings, usually grandiose and in partial ruin, embody the emptiness of public life and “official” culture in an era of mass consumerism. Barren rocks and stretches of wasteland (often based on memories of the Atacama Desert) signal the earth’s endurance, and its blank indifference to human endeavors. Odd forms reminiscent of organs and bones suggest the danger—and futility—of operating too far from our natural processes and animal origins. Scenes photo-transferred from newspapers remind us that contemporary struggles take place in historical (and metaphysical) contexts that transcend their present urgency. Snatches of language obsessively hand-lettered on the painting surface evoke the magic, but also the imperfections and limits, of complex verbalization—a skill often considered the defining endowment of humankind. Rectangular insets, framing scenes that constitute a visual and associational counterpoint to the painting’s dominant images, serve as windows into other areas of awareness and memory, other modes of (sub) consciousness.

Tacla’s principal technique consists of layering these components on his canvas in a way that echoes the multiplicity of references and experiences within an active intelligence. Indeed, his response to the mind-body problem seems to be an insistence that the two fundamental elements of being—flesh and psyche—are simultaneous and mutually inextricable, as perfectly melded as Yeat’s dancer and the dance.

In “Parallel Shadows,” for example, Tacla’s typical backdrop—a cosmic blank slate, here manifest as a stony no-man’s-land rendered in tones of dirty brown and gray—is overlaid with a shadowy image of La Moneda, the governmental building bombed during the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende. The canvas itself, punctuated by rough seams, is a much-used tarp from the back of a vegetable truck. Several rectangular insets reveal colorful rock piles or similarly volumetric organlike forms. And here and there among the images floats a repeated Spanish phrase meaning “imaginary horizon,” a navigational term used by pilots.

Like many of his Chilean countrymen, Tacla, who emigrated to the United States in 1981, despised the Pinochet regime that replaced Allende. Despite the specificity of the political allusion in this painting, however, the artist’s larger purpose is clearly to depict a more fundamental betrayal. The “parallel shadows” generated by desert boulders and a bombed-out urban structure indicate an affinity between natural desolation and a civilization’s—or an individual’s—active destruction. Only the sturdiness of the tarp and the beauty of certain passages of brightly colored rock, both elements transformed by art, give hope for a phoenix-like resurrection.

That stern hope is echoed in “Land Claim,” which uses many similar devices—a blue semi-transparent edifice on a murky limbo background, a central pile of colorful stones, five white inset boxes bearing outline drawings of biomorphic forms. The very title—like so much else in Tacla’s repertoire—seems double-edged, evoking both our wishful claim on the land and the land’s more primordial claim on us.

An admonition is therefore evident in “Gravity Fault,” where the visceral “feeling” for landscape is literalized through the superimposition of an organic system (its boxy upper and lower tracts conjoined by long parallel tubes) over several abutting rectangles containing rocky vistas notable both for their lack of depth and for their disturbing blood-and-feces coloration. The land is sick, with no Fisher King in sight—afflicted to the degree that a scattering of painted pustules has broken out on the “skin” of the canvas. Again the phrase “imaginary horizon” weaves through foreground. Tacla speaks of this work as a metaphoric translation of a social pathology (the racism he encountered during his early days in New York) to a more universalized level. We orient ourselves by gravity, but if something so basic as this elemental force (analogous to the natural coherence among peoples) suffers a disabling “fault,” only pestilence awaits us.

Pestilence or perhaps “Miscarriage,” the disaster that Tacla examines by splitting open his picture plane to reveal intestinal protuberances in a vertical channel between scalloped bone-like forms. The internal sausage-shaped swellings are akin both to rounded rock formations and to the humanoid form that huddles in an inset at the upper left, completed by more ambiguous, perhaps eponymous, figures in two insets below. Elsewhere on the skin-colored canvas, forms and figures—emblems of potential beings—have been painted on and the rubbed away ghostly outlines. Marble, once the noblest of buildings materials, is here reduces to a grainy powder that veils these sketches of the earth’s lost, or never realized, inhabitants.

The isolation in which we begin and end, the solitude we can temporarily transcend only by living in harmony with nature and other mortals, is powerfully evoked in two canvases that suspend lone human figures amid monochromatic fields broken by abstract marks.

“Self-Service”—with its hints of onanism both literal and metaphoric, its grim play on the banality of “getting in touch with one’s self”—is a study in the futility (and even perversion) of radical self-sufficiency. The stoic ideal of autarkeia (utter autonomy, complete indifference to anything outside the self) is here treated as a dead end worthy of Beckett’s stagecraft. A sepia-toned human figure of indeterminant sex, its head bald and its nakedly squatting body hunched in upon itself, engages in an orgy of vigorous self-touching. Rendered like a photographic “multiple exposure” (another Tacla pun?), the figure, adrift against a flat backdrop of grayish-blue crosshatching, fractures into a plurality of closed-eyed duplicates. The composition thus emphasizes the melancholy of a subject trying vainly to be all-in-one, driven to a fragmented proliferation of the self that never yields the satisfaction of genuine intercourse.

The triptych “Self Feeder” amplifies this theme by separating two solitary crouching figures (or figure composites) with a visual block: an entire central canvas of nonrepresentational brushstrokes subsumed in a brownish-gold expanse. The involuted figure on the left looks inward and downward, in a classic attitude of dejection. The figure on the right throws its head back to peer beseechingly upward, as though craving a heavenly deliverance that will never come.

Such vignettes confirm that Tacla’s greatest concern is with the contemporary loss of face-to-face relationships—whether between person and person, city dwellers and nature, or humankind and divinity. A spiritual heir of Giacometti and Bacon, he repeatedly portrays one harsh truth: that when the social covenant is broken, or never adequately formed, only desolation and deformity can follow.

The delight that nevertheless communicate itself through his work is that of a man saved by his own esthetic integrity. He is alive to the moral dangers of his profession, as images like “Self Service” testify when they warn that solipsism is the most common—and ultimately most disastrous—of all artistic temptations. Tacla therefore permits himself no exploitation of acid color or juiciness of texture. Surfaces remain relatively chaste, as if a seductive threat lurked in the gooey voluptuousness of paint itself. His austere works imply that art, t be redemptive, must be not a mild indulgence but a discipline.

La Tierra Incógnita de lo catastrófico
Donald Kuspit

"Arte ... es el refinamiento de un acontecimiento afectivo incesante."

Adrian Stokes

Painting and the lnner World (1)


"...Aquellos que evitan la contemplación, incluso de la naturaleza, tienen una mayor probabilidad de defenderse excesivamente del contacto con su interior, de tener actitudes de negación…”

Adrian Stokes

Painting and the lnner World (2)


"La naturaleza, en su incomprensibilidad, se ha convertido en símbolo de Dios, quién-según Lichtenberg-es 'la incomprensibilidad personificada.' "

Max J. Friedlander

Landscape, Portrait, Still-Life (3)


"La sed de espacio es lo principal; el descubrimiento de las leyes de la perspectiva es meramente secundario."

Max J. Friedlander

Landscape, Portrait, Still-Life (4)


"...El temor al quiebre es el temor al quiebre que ya se ha experimentado ... no existe un final a no ser que se haya topado el fondo del barril, a no ser que se haya experimentado lo que se teme."

D. W. Winnicott

Fear of Breakdown (5)


"...Es una exploración destinada mas bien a mostrar un callejón sin salida...porque produce o producirá el miedo a lo desconocido hasta un punto en el que los mecanismos de protección de la noósfera lo impulsarán a destruir las ideas invasoras por temor a que estas provoquen una catástrofe en la cual la noósfera se desintegre en lo no-amorfo."

W. R. Bion

Cogitations (6)


Jorge Tacla es básicamente un pintor paisajista: su verdadero tema es el espacio indeterminado de un paisaje misterioso. Al seguir el desarrollo de su arte desde sus inicios-a mediados de los ochenta-hasta la actualidad, uno puede notar que su paisaje está cada vez más enfocado y volumétrico, como si hubiera sido ampliado por un ojo interior hasta alcanzar una claridad alucinante. De ser un espacio no articulado, generalizado, pasó a convertirse en un terreno muy particular, delineado en forma muy precisa, incluso refinado. Se explica a si mismo, declarando su presencia desolada sin ostentación, pero a la vez sin límite. No obstante, Tacla tiende a mostrarnos este desierto en fragmentos y vistazos, como si tratara de imponerle límites para hacerlo menos aterrador; formalizarlo para hacerlo menos alarmante. Contiene y concentra el terreno en formas geométricas simples, esencialmente en ventanas reveladoras, como si hubiera corrido las cortinas de una tela en blanco para ver lo que se encontraba oculto detrás y más allá de su vacío.


Lentamente, pero con seguridad, Tacla revierte las prioridades normales del espacio pictórico: el paisaje ya no es simplemente un escenario sin importancia para una figura o figura-símbolo dominante, y pasa a ser la dimensión más importante del cuadro. Por lo tanto, ya no cumple una función menor, anónima y marginal, sino que virtualmente es todo el cuadro. El paisaje llega a dominarlo, absorbiendo y transcendiendo todo lo demás que hay en él. Es como si Tacla hubiese perdido de vista la figura y la realidad social que ésta representa (que continúa existiendo solamente como un residuo esquemático y simbólico) para lograr un mayor discernimiento del paisaje-el paisaje desértico de su país nativo, Chile-y lo que éste de manera subliminal representa: el espacio escatológico de la psique


No importando lo singular de un paisaje, éste siempre simboliza a la naturaleza en general. Usualmente se considera a la naturaleza—utópica e ingenuamente—como el soporte mas o menos confiable para la civilización. La civilización esclaviza a la naturaleza, explotándola a su antojo, sin sentimiento de culpa: presumiblemente, ella se regenerará, y no mostrará las huellas del abuso a que fue sometida en el pasado. En otras palabras. la naturaleza es considerada como una fuente inextinguible y aún virgen: eternamente joven y fresca, mientras da a luz una y otra vez cualquier cosa que nosotros necesitemos para existir. Pero el desierto de Tacla sugiere que la naturaleza puede morir. Nuestro triunfo sobre ella puede convertirse en una victoria Pírrica, autodestructiva; llegará un tiempo en el que ella estará demasiado desgastada como para renovar la vida. Este tiempo apocalíptico se acerca rápidamente, por nuestra culpa, por nuestra actitud perversa hacia la naturaleza. Ella podrá ser divina, pero también puede sufrir, no importa que tan imprevistamente suceda. La naturaleza es tan vulnerable y mortal como lo somos nosotros.


La naturaleza es un sismógrafo ultra sensible que registra nuestra ambivalencia hacia ella: nuestro religioso respeto hacia ella por un lado. y nuestro grosero maltrato por otro. Destrozados por la naturaleza, nosotros eventualmente la destrozamos a ella. Como dice Adrian Stokes, nuestra actitud hacia la naturaleza refleja nuestra actitud hacia nosotros mismos, en particular hacia el estado de nuestro propio mundo interior. Por lo tanto, nuestra ambivalencia para con la naturaleza refleja nuestra ambivalencia con respecto a nosotros mismos. Más precisamente. es el reconocimiento de nuestra dependencia de la naturaleza, y a la vez nuestro desesperado deseo de independizarnos de ella y expugnarla, reemplazándola completamente por la civilización, que se convierte de hecho en una segunda naturaleza. La maltratamos de la misma manera que nos maltratamos a nosotros mismos, y finalmente la destruimos porque hemos destruido nuestro interior. Convertimos a la naturaleza en un desierto, en una especie de muerte viviente, para externalizar el desierto de nuestro interior.


Los profetas bíblicos fueron al desierto para escapar de la sociedad-de sus seres sociales y se colocaron en el estado mental requerido para conocer y estar cara a cara con Dios; para tener una visión de Dios. Sin embargo, la visión fundamental de Tacla es del desierto mismo, sin Dios. Es un espacio entre Dios y la sociedad, ninguno de los cuales tiene sentido para Tacla. Su desierto es un paisaje sin rostro que personifica la paralizante depresión y aturdimiento emocional ocultos tras la fachada de la vida contemporánea; la carencia de sensaciones implícita en la desesperanza e impotencia que acompañan a la depresión. El desierto estático de Tacla revela que la incesante hiperactividad de la vida contemporánea es una mentira usada como mecanismo de defensa.


Tacla reactualiza las tierras yermas de la obra de T. S. Eliot. Ellas violan el mundo de la vida, ensuciándolo; las tierras yermas de Tacla lo invaden y finalmente lo arrasan, conquistan la vida y el mundo. Las tierras yermas de Eliot son un emblema de la decadencia. la desorientación. debilitamiento e incipiente desintegración del ser en el mundo moderno. Por contraste. el desierto de Tacla simboliza el aturdimiento postmoderno que constituye la etapa final e irreversible de la desintegración del ser, puesta en marcha por la modernidad. En Tacla .. ni Dios ni la sociedad pueden rescatar –reintegrar—al ser. De hecho. carecen por completo de la empatía necesaria para ello, haciendo eco en ellos de su incredulidad. Eliot pudo recurrir a ambos para obtener sustento emocional y apoyo moral, y sus tierras yermas le respondieron. Pero en el caso de Tacla, ni Dios ni la Sociedad tienen autoridad o poder alguno, desintegrándose casi completamente en sus obras. Negados, se convierten en apariciones fantasmagóricas, en caparazones vacías que son sin embargo perturbadoras y memorables. Es el caso de Santiago confesándose (Lámina 31) 1994, una imponente casa de Dios; y de Notas topográficas (Lámina 34) 1994, que reduce la ciudad de Santiago, emblemática de la sociedad como un todo, a un mero espejismo en el desierto. Poco falta para que se evapore en el aire enrarecido del desierto, sugiriendo que el ser ya no está. Ahí, que no está en nada. Debido a la reducción sinecdóquica de ellas a meras ilusiones irónicas, ambas estructuras reflejan elocuentemente la desintegración del ser. Ha perdido su poder y autoridad, y ya no le es posible reclamar su inmortalidad: ella misma se ha convertido en una alucinación.


La imagen del desierto de rada no pasa a ser simplemente un primer-plano escenográfico, luego de haber sido un fondo peculiarmente obsceno. Ominosamente, los planos que convencionalmente constituyen y diferencian el espacio pictórico colapsan hacia el interior del cuadro, creando un efecto de carencia de sucio. Se convierte en un vacío indiferenciado que permanece sin alteraciones. Tacla pinta el desierto de una manera muy concreta e intensa; conoce cada detalle. Sin embargo, éste permanece curiosamente abstracto, perversamente inefable, a pesar de su íntima descripción de él. Nos obliga a acercarnos, a vivir su visión del desierto. a experimentar su vacío traumático, su eterna y estéril soledad. Se torna espantosa e inesperadamente personal: una proyección pictórica del paisaje desértico de nuestro mundo interior. una indicación de nuestra relación curiosamente abstracta-o virtualmente ausente-con la propia existencia.


La imagen de Tacla de un paisaje infinito, indiferenciado, no es de ningún modo nueva. Sin embargo, este tipo de paisaje inicialmente mostraba la naturaleza como un cuerno de la abundancia y no como un vacío. La imagen más conocida de esto es la pintura Bosque con San Jorge y el dragón(fig. 1), pintada en 1511 por Albrecht Altdorfer, el exponente más importante de la Escuela del Danubio. Como escribiera Qtto Benesch, la "asombrosa pequeña pintura" de Altdorfer, de gran influencia para la pintura paisajista moderna, muestra una "extraordinaria nueva percepción de la naturaleza." (7) La disolución que hace Tacla de las divisiones del espacio hacia el interior de su paisaje desértico es completamente diferente en espíritu y tiene corno antecedente la difusión de las mismas que hace Altdorfer en su paisaje boscoso. En el cuadro de Altdorfer, el espacio no puede ser dividido mecánicamente porque tiene vida como un todo orgánico. Es uno solo con la" exuberancia y crecimiento" de la naturaleza, que abarca todo el cuadro, con excepción de un pequeño espacio abierto. A través de esta abertura vemos hacia atrás más bosque, también denso y exuberante. Altdorfer utiliza el recurso de la abertura -que no alcanza a convertirse en un espacio sustancial y sostenido-para demostrar que hay más bosque tras el bosque en el que nos coloca la pintura. De hecho, lo usa para sugerir un bosque virtualmente infinito, emblemático de la infinita riqueza de la naturaleza. El bosque de Altdorfer dista mucho de ser uniforme, por muy parecidos que sean los árboles entre si. Se hace incansablemente variado por la energía elemental que espontáneamente lo anima.


En severo contraste, el desierto de Tacla es un espacio entrópico, desolado, yermo, monótonamente uniforme, que muestra una naturaleza agotada. El espacio es un todo, porque es inorgánico. El bosque de Altdorfer y el desierto de Tacla son pintados de manera igualmente detallada e intensa, dándoles un aspecto de inmediatez, con la sugerencia de ser el resultado de una observación directa. Pero el primero es un espacio de vida y el último un espacio de muerte. Tacla pinta una naturaleza que no solamente ha perdido su juventud. vigor y creatividad. sino que se ha convertido en un cadáver rígido. De hecho, él mismo le ha practicado una autopsia. Este desierto muerto, extraño, aparece una y otra vez en su arte, como en Un problema hemisférico No. I (lámina 3), Un problema hemisférico No,. 2. (fig. 2), de 1990, y El adentro y el afuera (lámina 10), Observaciones atmosféricas (lámina 6), Referencias fundamentales (lámina 8) e Información privada "limites" (lámina 9), todas obras realizadas durante 1991. Se puede decir que las pinturas de Tacla son una meditación sobre el desierto, una introspección del desierto interior.


El bosque de Altdorfer se convierte en el desierto de Tacla. ¿Puede el primero conciliarse con el segundo? La naturaleza de Tacla ha agotado su promesa, en tanto que el "milagro de la naturaleza" de Altdorfer nos ha dado todo lo que esperábamos y más. De hecho, no ha dado todo lo que tenía, mientras que la naturaleza de Tacla ya no tiene nada que dar. Es difícil creer que el desierto estéril de Tacla y el bosque fértil de Altdorfer, evidentemente contrarios entre sí, se relacionen de alguna manera. Pero el primero va implícito en el segundo. Habiéndose revelado en su máximo esplendor, la naturaleza sólo podía decaer hasta convertirse en el valle de las sombras de la muerte. Debía necesariamente convertirse en un espectáculo deprimente, plano.


La disolución de la naturaleza hasta convertirse en un espacio desértico, abandonado y sin suelo, en cuchareo de su ser hasta que no quede nada, se inició ya en las impresiones de la naturaleza de Monet (fig. 3) y especialmente de Turner (fig. 4). Son el principio del fin de la naturaleza como espacio de abundancia; el inicio inconsciente de su transformación, desde un ambiente floreciente, "extrovertido", a un medio ambiente empobrecido, agotado, involuto, hasta convertirse en un espacio escatológico, introspectivo (que es lo que el desierto siempre ha sido). La obra de Tacla Bibliografía general para un paisaje (lámina7), realizada en 1991, muestra esta transformación de inicio a fin. Árboles sin hojas, aparentemente muertos, aparecen en el panel central, rodeados de imágenes de un bosque floreciente. Su pequeño tamaño sugiere una naturaleza en decadencia, con una carga emotiva en disminución. Todas estas ventanas con sus revelaciones de la naturaleza que asemejan espejismos están insertas en un paisaje desértico amorfo. No importa cuan subliminal sea su presencia. éste domina el cuadro.


El paisaje de Altdorfer no ha sido tocado por manos humanas: se fusionó alegremente con la naturaleza. que no manipuló. San Jorge es un intruso en el bosque, fácilmente derrotado por el dragón. que es su espíritu. Pero no hay dragones en el desierto de Tacla: su naturaleza ha sido conquistada por el hombre. arruinándola. Sin embargo. ésta toma venganza.


Las pinturas de Tacla muestran una naturaleza no creativa., destruida. Esta es una de las razones de su importancia: marcan un momento épico. Pero, como ya he sugerido, tienen un significado más importante: su estética comunica lo que el fin del paisaje significa. desde el punto de vista de las emociones; habla de lo que el agotamiento de la naturaleza como centro de gravedad emocional para la vida y el arte nos dice respecto de la psique moderna y finalmente postmoderna.


De hecho, las pinturas de Tacla nos muestran la palie oculta de la psique postmoderna, que nadie osa admitir y mucho menos enfrentar: el lado negado por la multiplicidad de sensaciones superficiales que entrega la cultura postmoderna .. (8) Lo postmoderno es. desde el punto de vista de las emociones, el callejón sin salida insolvente de lo moderno: las sensaciones postmodernas son más uniformes-menos diferenciadas-de lo que uno cree inicialmente. Ciertamente no

 se diferencian tan sutilmente como las hojas y ramas luminosas de los árboles de Altdorfer. Las sensaciones postmodernas son cualitativamente inferiores en comparación con las que la naturaleza alguna vez proporcionó, y son además insípidas-planas, socialmente añejas y emocionalmente no rentables-que las emociones desesperadas de una psique moderna en desintegración. Lo postmoderno es un desierto disfrazado bajo un bosque artificial de sensaciones. un bosque de falsas sensaciones. Lo postmoderno es entrópico un desierto no muy diferente al de Tacla -pero oculta su uniformidad subyacente y su pobreza espiritual bajo un espectáculo de sensaciones. Los signos" disolutos" que cubren la superficie de muchas de las pinturas de Tacla cumplen brillantemente una doble función: sintetizan las sensaciones modernas heterogéneas de ansiedad y pseudo-contenido con las homogéneas sensaciones postmodernas del vacío o la nada.


Como quiera que haya sido dañado, el ser moderno no fue completamente destruido: sufrió una ansiedad aniquilante, pero no fue aniquilado, solamente está en decadencia. No es el desierto del ser postmoderno, al que las pinturas de Tacla se refieren incondicionalmente y en última instancia. Ellas constituyen una simbología ingeniosa que representa la catástrofe psico-social en que se ha convertid nuestra civilización. Una catástrofe que destruye el paisaje del ser de manera tan absoluta que sólo se lo puede simbolizar a través de la imagen de un desierto; un espacio de tan completo abandono y carencia de propósito vital que no es susceptible de medirse por ninguna escala. Es lo sublime dado vuelta de adentro hacia afuera; un terreno tan carente de propósito divino y posibilidad humana que pierde su realidad, de modo que aparece como abstracto y concreto simultáneamente, como una alucinación en si mismo, reduciendo cualquier cosa que aparezca en él  a su propio estado de ser alucinatorio.


Así como el arte abstracto—con todo su ostensible anti-naturalismo—depende de la idea o por lo menos de la imagen de la naturaleza v su vitalidad, el ser moderno (al cual el arte abstracto está profundamente vinculado) asume la abundancia de la naturaleza y su poder de auto-renovación, no importa lo seguido que sea violado por la razón instrumental. Pero el ser postmoderno es indiferente a la naturaleza, consciente o inconscientemente, indicando que su mundo interior y su vida afectiva se han convertido en un desastre. Ha cometido un suicidio interior. La razón instrumental,  posiblemente el mayor logro del ser moderno, no puede sustentar este mundo interior. Traiciona al ser que la concibió, ya que la dependencia de la razón instrumental en última instancia se vuelve autodestructiva. Pasa a dominar al ser de manera tan completa -el ser se obsesiona con ella al punto que se convierte en su único valor serio-que éste se vuelve completamente irracional. Puede restaurarse a si mismo solamente volviéndose completamente instintivo, espontáneamente impulsivo. Y esto es]o que Tacla trata de hacer en sus pinturas. La pintura ha sido un argumento para defender lo irrazonable de ser instintivo, como un antídoto contra el sutil veneno que ha vertido la razón instrumental desde el inicio de la modernidad. Fue entonces cuando la razón instrumental se apropió del ser que la concibió. tal como el monstruo inventado por el Dr. Frankenstein se adueñó de su vida.


La razón instrumental está simbolizada de diversas maneras en las pinturas de Tacla. Posiblemente esto sea más evidente en la consumada arquitectura de Palladio y la complicada geometría en la que ésta se basa. Santiago confesándose es un caso ejemplar. Sin embargo, Tacla usa también otras estructuras para representar la razón instrumental, como por ejemplo la casa comunal-algo más primitiva-de los indios Achuar del Ecuador, que aparecen en la pintura Plano de una casa comunal (lámina 29), 1994. No obstante lo mucho que esta casa "natural" pueda simbolizar una nostalgia atávica por una comunidad instintiva, ésta representa también la razón instrumental en su aspecto más constructivo y útil desde un punto de vista social. Puede además simbolizar lo pre-colonial-presumiblemente tiempos más simples y anteriores él la decadencia- en comparación con las estructuras intelectualmente sofisticadas, de elaborada construcción, imponentes e intimidatorias de la arquitectura de Palladio. Su magnificencia sin duda representa irónicamente el colonialismo opresor así como la civilización ilustrada. Pero la casa indígena, aunque rudimentaria, además hace alusión a una organización social racional. Tacla la representa como un plano arquitectónico fantasmagórico, un espacio en el que los individuos pueden reconocer una cierta unidad subyacente y una conformidad entre unos y otros. Para él constituye un fragmento esquemático: aunque indica que se trata de un mundo perdido, asegura además que es una solución razonable para el problema básico de la humanidad, que es la creación de un espacio social en el cual una comunidad pueda experimentar y confirmar su unidad. El espacio indígena, íntimo, informal y personal es muy diferente al espacio colectivo formal, universal y matemáticamente preciso de Palladio. El individuo parece irrelevante en este espacio, aunque éste le otorgue un sentido tan elevado e importante como el del mismo espacio. La casa comunal indígena es también una estructura civilizada y civilizadora-racional y racionalizadota –o al menos el inicio de una. Es el crudo origen de lo que florece y alcanza un refinado clímax en los edificios de Palladio.


Los edificios de Tacla no siempre son los de Palladio. Sin embargo, lo son en espíritu, aunque en ocasiones sean más ornamentales, en virtud de su carácter clásico-barroco. Tacla representa la fachada de un edificio cívico en Santiago (Hace esquina, Lámina 24, 1993), la ciudad de Santiago misma, como un todo panorámico (Notas topográficas y Evolución gradual, Fig. 5) más el equipo utilizado en la construcción (Caleta, lámina 13, 1991 y Geografía física, lámina 35, 1994). El punto sigue siendo el mismo: para Tacla, Santiago es un símbolo. no un objetivo de representación.


Por lo tanto, y pese a ser físicamente diferentes y opuestas en espíritu, las arquitecturas ornamentales clásicas y la simple arquitectura indígena de la obra de Tacla son igualmente emblemáticas de la razón constructiva y el espacio comunal. Pero lo que importa es que el desierto implacable se opone a ambos. El conflicto entre el espacio arquitectónico y el espacio desértico implica un profundo sufrimiento psicológico. Tacla representa este sufrimiento a través de las espinas: ellas muchas veces proliferan hasta donde llega la vista, sugiriendo que el sufrimiento no tendrá fin. Cuadrando el círculo (fig. 6) y Operaciones inversas y Extensión de puntos (fig. 7), obras de 1993, son ejemplos particularmente claros de esto. Si un arte pasa a ser de importancia para nosotros porque es capaz de construir una nueva contradicción, dándonos una nueva percepción de nuestra propia naturaleza contradictoria –asumiendo que el arte existe para contribuir a un mejor entendimiento de nosotros mismos—entonces el arte de Tacla es de la mayor significación estética y humana. Su contribución es su poder de yuxtaposición; su dialéctica entre arquitectura y desierto, que encarna la contradicción debilitante que existe entre los mundos interior y exterior, y que pena nuestras vidas. La arquitectura es la más pública y "hospitalaria" de las artes y como tal tiene un interés humano, mientras que el desierto, por el contrario, es un espacio no hospitalario, inhumano, carente de vida. Tacla crea una doble perspectiva que nos permite ver a cada uno desde la perspectiva del otro.


El arte de Tacla es una profunda alegoría psicológica. El conflicto entre arquitectura (construcción social) y desierto (naturaleza muerta) que lo informa, simboliza la paradoja en que se ha convertido la naturaleza en nuestra civilización. Exteriormente vivimos con otros en sociedad, pero en privado vivimos en un desierto. Creemos ser racionales y tratamos de vivir vidas plenas y satisfactorias, pero inconscientemente -y no tan inconscientemente- nos sentimos abandonados, vacíos, carentes de propósito. En la actualidad, al ser le pena más que nunca la discrepancia, la ruptura entre la vida social, pública y la percepción inconsciente de un aislamiento catastrófico. Lo último parece llegar hasta nuestras raíces, mientras que lo primero se siente más bien como una fachada. Estamos siempre rodeados por la arquitectura de la sociedad, pero en nuestro interior vivimos como ermitaños en un desierto emocional, ni siquiera buscando ya a Dios, a cualquier dios—ciertamente no el Dios cuyo cielo descendió a la tierra en la Catedral de Santiago y que simplemente espera que nosotros entremos en ella. Parece darnos la bienvenida, pero cuando estamos en su interior no sentimos ni una bienvenida ni la falta de ella, solamente indiferencia, muertos en nuestro interior. Nuestra sensación de futilidad -un aura que unge toda nuestra existencia es abrumadora, aún mientras nos ocupamos de nuestros propios asuntos cotidianos en sociedad.


Esta contradicción imposible, debilitante, básica para los seres humanos modernos, se ha tornado inhabilitante –un completo desastre espiritual— porque se ha vuelto insoluble. El admitir este hecho de la vida psico-social—nuestra propia vida psico-social—es el reconocimiento de nuestra propia postmodernidad. Ya no existe un camino para salir de la contradicción que es la problemática irracional de nuestras vidas y e! inicio de! fin de nuestra civilización. el patrón de su decadencia. Se ha vuelto imposible alcanzar un equilibrio entre los mundos interior y exterior, entre el desierto de la vida emocional y la arquitectura de la sociedad, equilibrándolos en una unidad dinámica. Incluso, se ha vuelto imposible escapar por completo de un mundo al otro y así evitar la contradicción, evadirse de la muerte en vida que representa. Uno se encuentra atrapado en ella hasta el punto en que, lento pero seguro, ambos mundos se confunden en una falsa fusión. de tai manera que no se puede distinguir entre la experiencia de uno u otro mundo. Vemos este proceso irónico en las pinturas de Tacla: el mundo interior del desierto informa y finalmente disuelve el mundo exterior de la arquitectura y éste llega a parecer  “abandonado”. El aislamiento toma prestada la arquitectura racional de la sociedad de la misma manera que un cangrejo en busca de hogar usa una concha abandonada como refugio temporal. y la arquitectura aparece como una palabra aislada proferida en el vacío. Los mundos interior y exterior no están ni equilibrados ni enemistados. sino que se colapsan uno dentro del otro en una falsa reconciliación. Es la máxima entropía.


En síntesis, la yuxtaposición que hace Tacla de la arquitectura y el desierto tiene diversos significados que se superponen. Superficialmente. es la alegoría del conflicto entre la razón y el instinto, en su sentido más amplio: civilización y naturaleza. Pero la naturaleza se ha convertido en un desierto, sugiriendo que el instinto ha sido destruido por la razón. La arquitectura en el desierto de Tacla parece abandonada. indicando que el ser como un todo ha sido destruido. Hay signos aislados de construcción-instrumentos de la razón pero son gestos inútiles en el vacío en que se ha convertido el ser. (Tacla progresivamente elimina la figura de sus cuadros a medida que el desierto crece en significado y resonancia, de modo que el desierto mismo pasa a ser emblema del ser vacío, se convierte en el ser vacío). No existe ya fricción entre la arquitectura y el desierto, ni siquiera la suficiente para causar sufrimiento. El desierto de Tacla es un espacio muerto en el cual las ruinas de una civilización parecen espejismos. En sus pinturas se produce un intercambio ontológico: en un principio el desierto parece ser una alucinación, pero a medida que invade y finalmente absorbe la arquitectura. el desierto se apropia de su substancia, reduciendo la arquitectura a un estado de alucinación.

La arquitectura, signo positivo de civilización, se convierte en cierta medida en la sombra de si misma, negándose. El desierto se transforma en algo "absolutamente" negativo, en la substancia misma de la negatividad. Pero nunca careció de negatividad: simplemente "evolucionó" un paso más adelante. La base física de las pinturas de Tacla es el negativo fotográfico, al cual se le ha dado una resonancia afectiva adicional –por ser un negativo, ya evoca sentimientos por lo general negados—al reproducírsele de una manera táctil aunque tentativa mediante la pintura. La pictoricidad expresiva de Tacla parece destruir la barrera de la represión, o al menos la hace notoriamente precaria, ciertamente mucho menos firme de lo que normalmente es. Transforma a la fotografía en una memoria emocionalmente cargada, de la misma manera en que Arshile Gorky transformó una foto de él mismo junto a su madre en una pintura abstracta de carácter afectivo (fig. 8). (La madre de Gorky estaba muerta en la época que éste hizo la pintura, y él mismo ya no era el niño que aparecía en la fotografía). El negativo épico se convierte así en una suerte de improvisación lírica: el sentimiento es "improvisado" a partir de una visión "negativa" del mundo, una especie de espacio desértico (un negativo tiene un aire de desierto, no importa la imagen). El negativo es, por cierto, un reflejo oscuro de la realidad. Al "aprovechar" su oscuridad y su carácter aparentemente “defectuoso" para ilustrar un punto filosófico subjetivo (que se refiere al estilo contemporáneo de subjetividad, así como a su propia subjetividad que es inseparable del primero). Tacla destruye de una vez y para siempre su potencial para convertirse en una imagen "positiva" de la realidad. Más específicamente, el proceso de "desarrollo" del negativo hasta convertirse en una imagen en base a sombras que proyecta un mundo interior catastrófico confirma la insolvencia o la "oscuridad" del mundo exterior de la sociedad: no es de ninguna ayuda para el individuo desolado. No puede "aclarar" la oscuridad que siente en su interior; porque el negativo es aún más obscuro. En síntesis, Tacla descompone el negativo fotográfico. De hecho, lo desintegra completamente, convirtiéndolo en una catástrofe que parece irreversible –el negativo no puede ya ser revertido o desarrollado para obtener una visión positiva del mundo—para informar del completo colapso de los mundos interior y exterior. Parece imposible reconstruirlos nuevamente, darles una nueva arquitectura. Pero Tacla comunica la catástrofe para que podamos experimentarla, y convertir al negativo estático en un proceso irónicamente dinámico es una actividad curiosamente curativa, porque el caos resultante de la desintegración aparece más como dinámico que entrópico en un principio. Implica tocar fondo. como dice D. W. Winnicott, y entonces darse cuenta de la posibilidad de reconstruir. El equipo de reconstrucción de Tacla puede, después de todo, señalar un nuevo inicio. (Sin duda el sentimiento de Tacla respecto de la catástrofe psico-social y política que Chile alguna vez vivió se encuentra implícita en sus "pinturas del quiebre." Asimismo, el "quiebre" de su relación con Chile, o al menos su relación ambivalente con ese país probablemente cumple un rol en sus pinturas: ya no es un niño que vive allí, aunque claramente lo ha internalizado y hasta cierto punto se identifica con él).


Aparte de la total negación del negativo fotográfico mediante un proceso pictórico que irónicamente le da una importancia afectiva "positiva," la reducción al plano –el colapso de la perspectiva– juega un rol principal en la técnica de Tacla. Una y otra vez pinta cuadros con perspectiva –símbolo por excelencia de lo racional, de la construcción social del control del espacio– en un proceso de colapsación o evaporación en el aire, es decir, de reducción a lo bidimensional. Pero también puede ser que el mundo ya haya sido aplanado: la perspectiva pasa por él como un comentario aislado y sin sentido. Para Tacla, la bidimensionalidad es emblemática del completo desastre, lo que implica no solo una nivelación a ras de piso de las construcciones y perspectivas existentes, sino además la negación de cualquier futura posibilidad de construcción.


Así, en Elementos de perspectiva No. 1 (Lámina 16), de 1992, la perspectiva se debate en una situación de extrema precariedad –ha sido reducida a una ilusión fantasmagórica, posiblemente el ejemplo supremo de los deseos no cumplidos– frente a la amenaza del desierto que la invade desde las esquinas superior izquierda y derecha del cuadro. El posicionamiento del desierto en el "registro” más alto del trabajo (sus "tentáculos” lo hacen parecer como el cerebro del cuadro) y la densidad de su textura en comparación con la textura transparente de la construcción en perspectiva, sugiere su inevitable triunfo. La mente no puede triunfar sobre la materia, que al final la sobrepasa. La catedral, emblemática de la civilización así como de la iglesia, que encarna nobles perspectivas, está condenada. De hecho, Tacla ha pintado una apoteosis y ascensión de la perspectiva. irónica, como si fuera una creación trascendental de la razón, un instrumento de trascendencia lo cual efectivamente es. La tensa yuxtaposición –dramática confrontación– entre un símbolo de la razón "clásica” (y de la civilización del renacimiento, que es la que mejor la representa) y el catastrófico desierto está a punto de tornarse violenta en Estudio para un ángulo (lámina 14), Un templo desconocido (lámina 15), ambas de 1992, Proyecto para un tema clásico (fig. 9) y Proyecto para un problema clásico (fig. 10), ambas 1990. Alcanza su punto más alto de claridad y fuerza en Crisis clásica (lámina 27), Fractura simple (lámina28), Bodega (lámina 33) y Calcular mal (lámina 32), todas de 1994. En estas obras, su significado básico parece romper las ligaduras de su construcción metafórica: la contradicción visionaria de Tacla entre lo clásico y el desierto se torna emblemática de lo que Michael Balint llama la falta básica, es decir, el proceso endémico de fracturación que separa y aísla lo ideal de lo destructivo. El conmovedor cuadro titulado Un día con mi esposa (lámina 17) de 1992, la obra más personal de Tacla, es casi el único en que se logra un equilibrio de fuerzas: ella simboliza la razón y la luz, rodeada de piedras del desierto cuyo contagioso color gris sutilmente la infecta, de manera que ella está tan contaminada con la desintegración como la obra de Tacla Un templo desconocido. (Tacla es un maestro para transmitir la simultaneidad de la integración sacra y la desintegración profana –desintegración que profana la gloriosa integridad). La tensión crece hasta tal punto que lo clásico-civilizado-racional se desintegra, quebrándose al azar, en signos-reliquia de la razón: el sufrimiento y "deserción", que aparentemente han sido concebidos arbitrariamente, como en Cono de visión (lámina 18), El método de la caja (fig. 11) y Usado en duplicación de superficie (lámina 23), todas de 1993, y Ardiendo (lámina 26), de 1994. Finalmente, el desierto se torna manifiestamente dominante, una especie de Dios severo, o al menos un paraíso irónico como en la obra Paraíso (lámina 25), de 1994·


El color gris pasa a invadir las construcciones clásicas, racionales, aparentemente milagrosas de Tacla, infectando su integridad hasta parecer a punto de desintegrarse completamente. Ciertamente las convierte en el proverbial pilar de sal. Después de todo, el gris es el color de las cenizas. Pero el gris también representa la incomprensión, lo inconcebible. Es decir, lo que Winnicott llama un estado de situación inconcebible. Las pinturas de Tacla conciben lo inconcebible, lo que es en si mismo catastrófico, una catástrofe interior —la más cruel agonía. (9)


Al final, el callejón sin salida que es el desierto de Tacla –la catástrofe primordial, de hecho, el fin del mundo– se convierte en un espacio de separación primordial. Un espacio psicosomático donde el abandono es tan absoluto. que es inconcebible que seres humanos pudieran alguna vez haberlo habitado. Aún así, resulta ser un espacio netamente humano: el espacio Íntimo totalmente desnudo que es el mundo interior, de extrema desilusión, en el que nada puede crecer o construirse con pretensiones de permanencia, ni la iglesia eterna ni ningún templo del pensamiento racional e idealismo psico-social. Y, sin embargo, es el espacio lógico para personificar la incomprensión del hombre de su condición de ser un ser humano.


Por último, lo incomprensible es la muerte, sin su máscara divina que la hace desconcertante ) por lo tanto emocional e intelectualmente cautivadora. En última instancia, es la muerte lo que no puede comprenderse, aún si ésta ya ha ocurrido interiormente, si está más allá de nuestro control, y es señal de que en realidad, uno nunca tuvo un ser propio para controlar. La muerte es la máxima "interrupción" de nuestra "sensación permanente de ser." (10) Pero la muerte se experimenta como el verdadero símbolo para el desierto en el cual uno de pronto se encuentra al momento de nacer, la sensación de estar “completamente abandonado y perdido" de tal manera que uno nunca podrá ser reconocido como uno mismo. De este modo, la muerte es liberadora y a la vez curativa, lo que es parte de la ironía del desierto de Tacla.








(1) Stokes. Adrian: "Painting and the lnner World.”

The Critical Writings of Adrian Stokes,

ed. Lawrence Gowing

(Londres: Thames and Hudson, 1978). III. pág. 209.


(2) Bis Cit. pág. 210.


(3) Friedländer. Max J.: Landscape, Protrait, Still-Life.

(New York: Schocken.1963). pág. 151.


(4) Bis Cit. pág. 21.


(5) Winnicott. D. W.: "Fear of Breakdown,” In One's Bones:

The Clinical Genius Winnicott,

ed. Dodi Goldman (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1993), pág. 42.


(6) Bion. W. R: Cogitations (Londres: Karnac, 1992). pág. 320.


(7) Benesch, Otto: "The New Attitude Towards Nature,”

The Art of the Renaissance in Northern Europe

(Londres: Phaidon. 1965), pág. 45.


(8) El argumento que generalmente se usa es que en la post modernidad "el medio se impone en su circulación pura,” generando un "obsceno delirio de comunicación," "una nueva forma de esquizofrenia,” en la cual hay una "fascinación aleatoria y psicotrópica,” en "la esfera de los sentidos.” (Baudrillard, Jean: "The Ecstasy of Communication: The Anti-Aesthetic, Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed Hal Foster [Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983], páginas 131 y 132.) Pero esta fascinación sensorial "nueva, estática y obscena" es un mecanismo defensivo contra la ausencia de sentimientos y la depresión, provocadas por la "extroversión forzada de toda interioridad" y la "inyección forzada de toda exterioridad" (pág. 132) que caracteriza a la comunicación postmoderna.


El argumento de Baudrillard asume que el sujeto no puede evitar convertirse en víctima pasiva de la comunicación, la que en efecto lo "construye.” El sujeto por definición es incapaz de resistir lo que la sociedad vacía en y a través de él, por cuanto existe solo en y a través del medio, que es la sociedad. Por lo tanto, el sujeto tenderá a reflejar a la sociedad de manera ingenua, es decir, la aceptará sin criticarla. Este argumento subestima la capacidad del yo –su autonomía y poder para generar un juicio crítico– y de hecho niega no sólo su existencia, sino incluso la sola posibilidad de su existencia.


Sin duda la sociedad se apropia del yo y reduce su resistencia hacia todo gesto estético e incluso criminal –cosa que muchas veces se da en forma simultánea– anulando así su propósito y significación emocional. Sin embargo, el sujeto recupera su sentido del yo y con ello la posibilidad de una autonomía (por fútil que sea este ideal), resistiendo a través de una postura crítica -a fuerza de necesidad, es decir, como una respuesta de autoconservación. Porque tarde o temprano percibe el éxtasis de la comunicación como una amenaza a su existencia, a la que responde instintivamente, insistiendo en su derecho a existir. Es la loma la forma de u n sentido de ser autónomo, independiente, capaz de resistir a la sociedad, de no aceptar)' evitar los términos "extáticos" en los cuales esto le permite a uno existir. Finalmente, vivir en forma diferente, aunque sea para aceptarlo así.


Tarde o temprano la comunicación se vuelve agria: el éxtasis se desintegra y se convierte en ansiedad: la comunicación llega a experimentarse como contraproducente en lugar de fascinante, y la ansiedad se convierte en crítica, en el reconocimiento de que el éxtasis de la comunicación es una forma insidiosa de manipulación social. Es el inicio espontáneo de un proceso de auto-reparación; una actitud crítica ansiosa es la base de la autonomía Durante la resistencia a la seductora comunicación socializada que existe para absorber y engañar los sentidos (que niega el acceso a la realidad del hecho que la comunicación extática existe para oscurecer), puede producirse una forma de recordar y de reautenticación de nuestras propias posibilidades, si uno acepta la soledad que acompaña a una actitud crítica.


Uno puede ver en Tacla la lucha por una autonomía crítica en la disolución espontánea, “instintiva” de los instrumentos arquitectónicos de la razón hasta convertirse en espejismos de la mente, exactamente como uno ve su perturbada aceptación de la soledad en el uso crítico que hace del desierto como símbolo del tema. En el desierto no existe el éxtasis de la comunicación, no hay experiencia sensorial alguna oficial y socialmente compartida, y es la razón de que el desierto sea un lugar radicalmente subjetivo. Solamente en el desierto puede uno sentirse plenamente vivo desde un punto de vista subjetivo, porque sólo en el desierto podemos escapar al éxtasis comunicacional que nos roba nuestra subjetividad. El éxtasis de la comunicación aturde nuestras mentes en lugar de expandirlas, a diferencia del desierto, donde el sujeto visualiza su autonomía, donde se pone de pie frente al mundo y donde el mundo nunca lo sigue.


Es interesante notar que el argumento de Baudrillard asume que en la postmodernidad el sujeto se ha tornado obsoleto. De hecho, él cree que torna debatibles las consideraciones psicológicas; es post-psicológico. Esta suposición eleva su propio enfoque sociológico a un rango superior, más aún por el hecho de falsificar, en el proceso de inclusión, ciertos conceptos psicológicos como la esquizofrenia.


(9) Me refiero a lo que Winnicott (pág. 42) llama agonías primitivas. Estas incluyen “un retorno a un estado no integrado,” “caer eternamente,” "falla de la fuerza interior,” “pérdida del sentido de realidad,” y “pérdida de la capacidad de relacionarse con los objetos.” Todas están en el desierto de Tacla, un retrato de la muerte en vida de la agonía primitiva.


(10) Davoine, Francoise: "Potential Space and the Space in Between Two Deaths,” The Facilitating Environment: Clinical Applications of Winnicott’s Theory, M. Gerald Fromm y Bruce L Smith, eds. (Madison, CT: Inlernational Universities Press, 1989), pág. 585.

Biología Interna
Dan Cameron

Si bien muchos estilos de pintura que se basan en la historia han sufrido a manos de la necesidad insaciable del siglo XX de crear nuevos estilos para luego echarlos a un lado, quizás ninguno se ha desgastado con la misma rapidez que el paisaje. Es posible que se pueda culpar a los pintores del siglo XIX quienes ponían al paisaje en el centro del discurso artístico, lo que a su vez hizo que la vanguardia del siglo XX buscara, aún más incansablemente, nuevos modelos para alcanzar sus imágenes e idea. En efecto, para un paradigma modernista que tendía a favorecer las tipologías lingüísticas y visuales existe algo tan intensamente pictórico en los paisajes y la naturalidad con que se coloca en cualquier modo de composición, que se puede comprender que se haya hecho a un lado a favor de la lucha interna por los valores formales que tienden a dominar el arte de los últimos noventa años. Por supuesto, existen muchas excepciones a esta tendencia, pero éstas forman la amenaza que va a lo largo de una historia muy diferente, una que sólo se ha dejado ver ahora que el hechizo hipnótico de la era moderna ha empezado a menguar.

Con raíces en un discurso sociocultural que se caracteriza por su intento de describir un mundo con el que el acto de romper y reformar constantemente las ataduras con los estilos que están históricamente determinados ya no es un privilegio que pertenece solamente a los artistas, las pinturas de Jorge Tacla son, literalmente, descripciones del sistema de representación pictórica que se desplomó por sus propios conflictos históricos. En otras palabras, aún cuando trabaja a un nivel de imágenes que se pueden reconocer, la técnica de Tacla de combinar elementos de diferentes vocabularios estilísticos no tiene nada que ver con reunir ilustraciones de una manera que se puedan reconocer o que sea coherente. Sin embargo, tiene mucho que ver con la noción de construir un paisaje –aunque sea por completo metafórico– a partir de fragmentos múltiples y sin asimilar la cosmovisión contemporánea. A diferencia de sus predecesores más naturalistas, los paisajes sintetizados de Tacla no pretenden ofrecer un concepto de naturaleza que de alguna manera es más preciso o fiel; más bien ofrecen un concepto que empieza y termina con la firme creencia de que la naturaleza misma no es más que una convención social cuya realidad objetiva es demasiado difusa para ser inmovilizada por algo tan recóndito como lo es el arte pictórico o, en todo caso, la imaginación humana misma. Al parecer, su idea de que si somos capaces de suspender momentáneamente nuestra necesidad de ser convencidos de que la imagen del paisaje es algo que podemos contrastar con el medio ambiente social convulso e hipermediado en el que vivimos, entonces el proceso de interrelacionar imágenes a partir de fuentes por completo diferentes requiere prácticamente que la discontinuidad entre estos elementos se convierta en el núcleo de la experiencia alrededor del cual la edificación toma lugar. Es la experiencia la que, para bien o para mal, se ha convertido en nuestra realidad “real”, es decir, enteramente condicional.

La búsqueda por los orígenes del proyecto de Tacla nos lleva a una cantidad de conexiones intrigantes. Es posible que el lugar más lógico para comenzar sea el elemento más consistente en su obra: el vocabulario caligráfico altamente cambiante, pero inconfundible, que recuerda aspectos de las pinturas de Matta, Lam, Ernst y aún Michaux, dependiendo del contexto en que haya sido utilizado. En algunas de las pinturas menores más recientes, tales como Arsenal, Coagulación y Enfermedad, las formas y líneas punteadas son bastante sinuosas, pero también son más elusivas en el sentido de que parecen penetrar enteramente en el tejido áspero del yute sobre el cual están pintadas. En otras, como Acústica o Taller, Tacla usa una técnica más arquitectónica, en tanto que en Sangrando acoda un campo obscuro de gotas al estilo Pollock a lo largo de una línea horizontal única de figuras pictográficas en un rojo más obscuro. Los lienzos más pequeños y más figurativos, tales como Taller o Centro de Gravedad, incorporan el reciente esfuerzo de hacer desaparecer los trazos lineales anatómicos en la profundidad para que la caligrafía casi se mezcle en algunos puntos con los cuerpos angulares que la rodean.

Debido a que este campo caligráfico puede ser leído como referencia directa a la tradición surrealista de la escritura automática, éste funciona como un signo de la naturaleza y como un modo de indicar la conciencia del artista de que este mismo signo es un vehículo culturalmente determinado que no tiene el mismo significado explorador que tenía sesenta años atrás. Al mismo tiempo, se puede identificar como una marca que se plasma con completa espontaneidad por parte del artista, y que no requiere ser medida o comparada con un prototipo ya existente, de la misma manera que se hace con una imagen. En sentido amplio, pues, Tacla se pone a la par con su espíritu artístico que recuerda la transición de un discurso dominado por el surrealismo de finales del decenio de los años cuarenta a la estética de la pintura de acción de principios del decenio de los cincuenta. Para cuando Jackson Pollock pronunció su famosa frase “yo soy la naturaleza” era ya evidente que algunas de las innovaciones surrealistas, que se suponía abrirían camino a una nueva espontaneidad en el arte, se habían convertido de lleno en convenciones que necesitaban ser derrocadas. Pero antes de mirar en su interior o hacia la historia para encontrar sus ideas, Pollock acuñó los principios del paisaje para fraguar un estilo a escala de mural que literalmente absorbió la visión del espectador con un despliegue de fuerzas que giró visiblemente hacia un esfuerzo medible de la energía del artista. Al romper con la historia sacrosanta de la ilusión de la pintura, hizo una separación entre la necesidad de ver la pintura como la proyección de una idea sobre sí misma y, a la inversa, como una actividad primordialmente perceptible, con lo que nos introduce a una era ávida de significados indefinidos que pronto llevará a una adquisición formalista de debate crítico como el único obstáculo que evitaba que tales ambigüedades se hicieran desenfrenadas.

La siguiente manifestación clara del pensamiento radical sobre paisajes en el arte estadounidense se dio a finales del decenio de los años sesenta, cuando una generación de artistas jóvenes empezó a reaccionar contra los formatos rígidos y excesos estilizados del Arte Pop y Mínimo, y se volvió hacia parajes al aire libre como una manera de explorar algunas de las posibilidades que el cubo blanco de la galería ya no parecía poder ofrecer. El “Resumen de Asfalto” (Asphalt Rundown) de Robert Smithson, un ejemplo clásico del movimiento de las Obras de Tierra, incluye un sentido al estilo Pollock de energía esencial que estremeció a las tendencias racionalistas de la vanguardia estadounidense, al mismo tiempo que ayudó a generar la total separación del materialismo, lo que a su vez, desembocó en las primeras manifestaciones tentativas de la era postmoderna. Lo diferente en el caso de Smithson, como opuesto a lo de los demás artistas de su generación, era la insistencia del artista en una estructura dialéctica que continuaba relacionando a la galería con el paisaje como un par opuesto pero activamente comprometido. El otro artista de Obras de Tierra, cuyas posiciones históricas han tenido las mayores repercusiones en años desde que murió prematuramente y cuyas obras parecen inusualmente pertinentes a las de Tacla es Gordon Matta-Clark. El primer gesto en el arte de Matta-Clark consistía en el acto de cortar o remover secciones de edificios ruinosos que estaban a punto de ser demolidos, lo cual era una intervención urbana que recalcaba con cierta urgencia el carácter precario de la vida humana que había terminado con esto. A pesar de que en esta época frecuentemente se interpretaba como un acto de protesta, hoy la obra de Matta-Clark es más sugestiva de los temas de reconciliación y reciclaje, temas que han surgido como un aspecto clave en el arte del decenio de los años noventa.

Esta tendencia encontró una forma completamente diferente en Chile, lugar de nacimiento de Matta (aunque no de su hijo Matta-Clark) y país donde Tacla nació, creció y terminó sus estudios en 1981. Debido a la dictadura militar que empezó en 1973, esos artistas que continuaron trabajando de una manera experimental en Santiago y en otros lugares de Chile necesitaban, aunque sólo fuese para sobrevivir, articular una estructura estilística que fuera portátil, temporal y discreta. A pesar de que la mayoría de los trabajos se llevaron a cabo en la ciudad, Eugenio Dittborn creó un derrame de aceite en el desierto de Atacama en 1976 que parece prefigurar algunas de las preocupaciones más alarmantes de Tacla, en el sentido de que funciona literalmente como una transfiguración del gesto del artista a través de un lienzo amplio y anónimo que no resiste este gesto, pero que lo absorbe literalmente en su propio cuerpo. Sin embargo, esto no se debe confundir con un acto de desesperación: por el contrario, el acto de Dittborn sirve para proporcionarle al dilema humano una nueva dimensión caracterizada por una inmensa diferencia en la escala, que a su vez afirma el lugar del individuo en el orden natural, en el preciso momento en el que fuerzas sociales muy poderosas eran traídas para luchar en su contra.

Al llegar a Nueva York, justo cuando los primeros efectos de la Revolución de Reagan estaban tomando lugar, Tacla rápidamente se identificó –como les sucedería a muchos artistas en el decenio de los años ochenta– con aquellos subgrupos sociales que gradual pero inexorablemente estaban siendo marginados por las reducciones drásticas en el presupuesto para la educación, salud, bienestar e infraestructura cultural estadounidense: padres solteros, africanos-americanos, hispanos, inmigrantes recientes, activista homosexuales y lesbianas y aquellos compañeros artistas cuyo arte tenía tendencia social y política. Al asentarse en el distrito políglota de la clase trabajadora, que pronto sería conocida como East Village, la sensibilidad de Tacla nace gracias a su rápido contacto con la comunidad artística floreciente que estaba comenzando a cambiar el aspecto de la vecindad. Al haber sido entrenado inicialmente como músico con una marcada inclinación hacia la música popular estadounidense con raíces africanas, Tacla se arrojó a la órbita social de grupos y espacios que se especializaban en actividades culturales de africanos-americanos, brasileños e indios occidentales. Sin embargo, su primer contacto con una cultura que había  admirado por mucho tiempo también incluía un curso rápido sobre la atmósfera racial incierta que tan frecuentemente opaca la experiencia multiétnica en los Estados Unidos, especialmente en una ciudad tan heterogénea como Nueva York.

Es durante esta fase que Tacla comienza por primera vez a pintar seriamente, aunque fuese desde un punto de vista de quien se encuentra en la posición ambivalente de estudiar una cultura huésped desde el exterior. El racismo era meramente una de las enfermedades sociales en la mente de Tacla cuando comenzó a pintar seriamente, pero es una a la que hoy recuerda haberse aproximado con mayor vehemencia: “Por tener el racismo en sus orígenes en la idea de la pigmentación, y la pigmentación es literalmente una cuestión de color, creo firmemente que el pintor tenía tanto la ventaja de comprenderlo como la obligación de intentar corregirlo.” A pesar de que sus primeros lienzos parecen responder a un vocabulario neoexpresionista irreconstituido, la multiplicidad rápidamente se hace un aspecto dominante después de que crea una de sus primeras obras mas ambiciosas, Puesta de Sol con Ácido (1984), en la cual cerca de veinte caras en forma de máscaras que aparecen como variaciones raciales en la misma cara se agrupan alrededor del motivo central de la cabeza de un hombre blanco que es ofrecida, por dos figuras míticas de bestias, en sacrificio. Tanto las imágenes como el título evocan un rito de pasaje quizás celebrado en el riguroso desierto de Atacama al cual empezó a regresar Tacla en este período, en el que el celebrante ha mudado su identidad específica y pasado un concepto de “uno mismo” que incluye todas las posibles permutaciones en los modelos paralelos del que se puede derivar un sentido del “yo”. Para el siguiente año empezó a crear variaciones aún más explícitas sobre el mismo tema, como en la obra Descansando Antes de Saltar, que representa a un hombre negro desnudo encadenado, mirando sombríamente hacia el mar de caras ancestrales mientras está sentado ante un precipicio que parece tan imposible como irresistible. A pesar de que el tema narrativo es bastante directo, lo que empieza a surgir con esta pintura en particular es la tendencia característica de Tacla de encadenar sus figuras a un tipo de campo traslúcido y multidividido, como un medio para expresar la doble visión en que la realidad que toma lugar es retada por lecturas alternativas que entran y salen del campo visual. En los siguientes años intenta hacer diversas variaciones con base en este principio –en una obra sin título de 1985, dos figuras guerreras de ancestros africanos flanquean el panel central en formación de altares medievales, en tanto que en Tríptico I (1986) la división igual de los paneles individuales sugiere un acercamiento más modular- pero para 1989 el paisaje fragmentado y reacomodado metafísicamente surge como el formato que ha dominado las obras de Tacla hasta hoy en día.

La transición de las composiciones derivadas del expresionismo hasta su trabajo actual invita a que se haga una examinación más profunda. Si se habla de influencias contemporáneas, es casi imposible no citar las composiciones densas y divididas en las pinturas de David Salle, que ciertamente constituyen uno de los cuerpos de trabajo expuestos con mayor frecuencia a mediados del decenio de los años ochenta. Sin embargo, si bien Salle parece estar dedicado al principio de reforzar pictóricamente la discontinuidad de sus sujetos, Tacla por su parte acomoda sus formas y campos con el cuidado de quien cree que van juntos por afinidad, y que sólo han sido separados por los límites impuestos según la percepción humana por el acondicionamiento social. De interés más directo con respecto a la pintura de Tacla, es el principio de la deconstrucción de la mirada masculina, como se propuso en la obra de Barbara Kruger, entre otros. Por medio del surgimiento del texto y la imagen en un tipo de asalto antipropagandístico de formatos publicitarios, la obra de Kruger regresa incesantemente al principio de que lo que se nos muestra como la “verdad” con respecto al mundo que nos rodea no es más que una manera de lavado de cerebro participatorio. Por lo tanto, las divisiones en la obra de Kruger son totalmente diferentes de aquellas en las pinturas de Salle, pues el engranaje de imagen y texto actúa para afirmar que aún los significados múltiples y abiertos son preferibles a tener la forma de comunicación dictada, o de otra manera hay que quitarla del compromiso activo del espectador.

Es quizás la obra de Kruger que se palpa más la idea de un paisaje pictolinguístico en el arte de principios del decenio de los años ochenta, lo que le da a los artistas más jóvenes cierta libertad de acuñar las innovaciones formales de las pinturas de David Salle y convertirlas en planos pictóricos interceptados en forma múltiple que están literalmente saturados o atestados de significado de manera que una fisura en un área invariablemente lleva a un pasaje de extrema claridad en otra. A pesar de que Tacla no hace uso directo de fotos en sus obras, y sólo ocasionalmente usa el lenguaje en un sentido literal, su perspectiva única es alcanzada por el manejo simultáneo de varias categorías de imágenes, muchas de las cuales utilizan convenciones comunes de la fotografía para articular vistas e imágenes que, si no son estrictamente personales, por lo menos tienen un cierto tipo de enlace directo con su vida. Primero que nada, entre estas se encuentran innumerables tratamientos del desierto de Atacama en el norte de Chile, que es uno de los parajes más secos en el mundo. Para Tacla, el desierto significa unificación, trascendencia, y la búsqueda del significado. Generalmente representado en sus pinturas en forma de rocas (Tóxico o cualquiera de las Composiciones Históricas, 1994), horizontes expansivos (Residuos, 1994), o los vastos pasajes ocasionales del cielo del desierto en la noche (Correspondencia Proyectiva, 1993) es casi imposible mostrar el Atacama tan extremo como lo es en realidad. En lugar de ello, Tacla lo pinta benévolo e incitador, en parte para enfatizar que la importancia de la imagen radica en lo que significa para él, no en cómo podría ser encontrado fuera del ámbito del arte.

Para el artista, esta diferencia es crucial para explicar las series de múltiples yuxtaposiciones que corren a través de su pintura. En los últimos años, la arquitectura ha sido uno de los vehículos para describir una perspectiva idealizada que Tacla usa en contra de la apelación no predecible que se encuentra en sus paisajes. En ocasiones aparece en una forma tan deficiente como la caligrafía surrealista. En años recientes, sin embargo, Tacla ha sustituido la fachada chilena neoclásica que tiene tan extrañas proporciones por el modelo paládico altamente idealizado que fue legado por el transcurso del tiempo. De hecho, todas sus series de Composiciones Históricas están basadas en la proyección de muchas vistas de la misma estructura de Paladio en composiciones enteras, por medio de las cuales una cantidad de dibujos pictóricos diferentes entran en juego. Entre las más nuevas de éstas, está la técnica que Tacla ha desarrollado y que consiste en marchar y tiznar el suelo raso, ya sea con parches o color no mediado, o –como en Composición Histórica Num. 3- con el área de pintura elevada de manera ocasional y aparentemente accidental. Debido a que la arquitectura en estas pinturas se vierte como un entramado abstracto y el desierto ubicuo como un torrente tranquilizadoramente sólido, se deja que los campos aturdidores de caligrafía que cubren estas pinturas unan el trabajo en un todo suelto pero unificado.

Lo que más parece preocupar a Tacla en sus más recientes obras es la noción clásica de la forma humana como una especie general, una medida usada para determinar la mezcla correcta de elementos para poder crear un espacio híbrido en el cual el comportamiento social y solitario parezcan igualmente apropiados. Al regresar por primera vez en algunos años a pintar la forma humana –al igual que su propio semblante- Tacla parece estar buscando expresamente la manera de integrar la realidad orgánica de los cuerpos y gestos dentro de una red interconectada en donde se pueda experimentar con otros fenómenos visibles, al mismo tiempo que también se reconoce como el punto central en donde las otras clases de experiencia perceptiva se unen. Aún sin la forma humana como un motivo explícito, es claro que estas pinturas están dirigidas a la articulación de un paisaje sintético que se define culturalmente y que está lingüísticamente mediado, pero que sin embargo sigue siento verdadero para la necesidad del espectador de percibir valores pictóricos en términos de equivalentes culturales. A medida que la visión de Tacla continúa creciendo, es lógico esperar que el espacio estratificado que le tomó tanto perfeccionar en sus pinturas pronto evolucionará al espacio fluido e integrado que el presente trabajo describe en tantas variaciones. No es que Tacla esté buscando una manera de juntar todas las piezas, más bien desea mantener las propiedades únicas de cada etapa de percepción, para así poder recordarle al espectador que aún las proporciones más abrumadoras del espacio exterior se opacan si se colocan al lado de la capacidad infinita de asombrarse, la cual se localiza en lo más recóndito de la imaginación humana.

Dan Cameron


Ruth Esther Angel Torres y Jennifer Brinckmann

Jorge Tacla: Lost in Translation
Dan Cameron

The impact of Jorge Tacla’s paintings as a whole stems from their engagement with an aesthetic conflict embedded deep within their structure; whose essence entails grappling with some of the more puzzling ambiguities inherent in the act of seeing. Due to their deliberate entanglement in phenomena that occur at the interstices of thought and perception, these works are quite successful in eluding the viewer’s initial attempts to reduce the encounter with them down to a single, defining principle. In fact, because the artist has been pursuing this line of investigation over the course of several years, one is not even aware at first of having wandered into the phenomenological thicket that his paintings represent. Seduced by the suave assurance with which he constructs them, it does not at first occur to us that Tacla’s thoughtful weaving together of landscape, gesture, and pictograph is leading us to a point where all forms of representation are essentially equal because each one is capable of being rendered meaningless.


Departing in stylistic terms from the direction indicated by his work over the last few years, Tacla’s most recent paintings have taken a turn toward greater looseness of composition, and less crowding of the visual field. While the fields of the pictorial incident are in themselves not quite as dense, in general spatial terms the works also flow more easily from open to articulated areas, with fewer extremes at either end. Although these observations might encourage one to conclude that the paintings are automatically more lyrical than their immediate predecessors, this does not actually seem to be the case. O the contrary, these works seem to be even more effected by the conflict hinted at above, between the struggle to make one’s message clear, and the corresponding need to conceal the sources of one’s impulses—a psychological tension which has always been present in Tacla’s work, albeit to a lesser degree. To take one example, the sparse, blunt-edged picture known as General Notion, while highly restrained in terms of color and gestural detail, also conveys a strange tension that seems rooted in the possibility of its own impending emptiness. The kinetic effect produced by the skittish, calligraphic style of drawing reveals hidden overtones of discomfort in the jostling together of multiple systems of representation.


I have written elsewhere in regard to Tacla’s work that “such visual ambiguity actually works in the artist’s favor by allowing the imagery to be mixed or layered in with other representation, forming a complex and only partially unified field.” However, with the seemingly minor innovation of introducing legible written phrases into the pictorial field, Tacla has changed the balance of representation drastically. In a painting like Cone of Vision, for example, descriptive words and phrases related to the neurological components of sight slip in and out of the “whitewashed” field that has spread over most of the painting’s surface, along with fragments of diagrams that may or may not belong to the same frame of reference. A ruddy patch of Chilean desert, more thickly rendered, but no less ambivalent in its description, floats with its own thin shadow over the painting’s upper section, blocking the same words and doodles like a dark scab. The mate to this painting is Ground Line, in which an ochre fragment of the same desert peers just right of center through an even busier field of half-erased equation, diagrams, and descriptions. Although convincing at first glance for their sheer pictorial bravado, the peculiar way in which these pictorial devices relate to the other issued in his art does not really add up to a replace aesthetic criteria with their linguistic counterparts.


In the most recent episodes of the story of the struggle for painting’s soul, the artist’s touch has often been placed at total odds with the seductiveness inherent to certain late industrial techniques of applying color to a surface. But in Tacla’s work it is generally quite difficult to derive a clear meaning from the interaction played out between one system of representation (mechanical) and another (gestural); each begins with an equal likelihood of success or failure, with no obvious preferences revealed by the artist himself. If anything, Tacla’s style incorporates the recognition of (if not a full agreement with) the most apparent outcome of this discourse over recent years—namely, the diminishment of the gesture, no matter how abstract, romanticized or self-parodying, as a meaningful signifier in the encounter between artist and viewer. This possibility seems to play a significant role in a painting like Projective Transformation, in which the “sky” is represented in terms of highly animated pictographs, while the “earth” is covered by scribbles that are vague in every aspect, except for their quintessentially 20th Century appearance. The fact that the work is cleanly divided into two parts suggests that its author is similarly divided as to where to place his loyalties. Even the blur of the horizon plays witness to the belief that utopian visions can be wrung from between the minor seams to both pre-classical and post-modern modes of expression, provided the artist is willing to lay claim to any such history as his or her own.


I am not hoping to suggest via this line of argument that Tacla’s recent work is somehow indecisive or mute; rather, that it consistently describes a state of linguistic transparency that has been crafted by the artist to engage a plurality of issues, themes and even historical references without having to commit himself to any one of them. In a sense, Tacla is most comfortable working within a critical gray zone, where the interpretation of gestural devices acts as more than a formalistic code, or the occasion of quasi-mystical ramblings. In his concerted attempt to describe a suspended intermediary state between variant stylistic languages, the artist affirms that one of the most characteristic things about good painting is that it will invariably resist even the most persistent attempts at direct translation. In achieving this approximate stage in the re-contextualization of his sources, Tacla holds out several optional ways to interpret his work, but insists that the viewer is absolutely free to recognize them or not. Like the “top secret” floor plan tucked away into the painting Plan of Pentagon, it is not always possible to explain away the significance of Tacla’s choices, even when we are left feeling quite certain that he knows.


Viewed as statements about the imposed boundaries between linguistic systems, these works address a much broader terrain than that encompassed by painting’s localized crisis within the limited format of so-called high art. In Tacla’s paintings, to borrow again from an earlier text, “the effective folding together of inside and outside, of skeleton and skin, is apprehended first as a simple problem of form, and only later revealed as the deus ex machina that lends the work its compelling aura.” However, the frail, translucent scrim stretched across the inchoate rubble of the physical world, which once seemed a self-contained entity, now seems to play an active role in the process of jogging the collective memory that one tends to take away from an encounter with his work: a feeling that something is familiar not because it can be remembered per se, but because it has come so close to being forgotten. Although ultimately these paintings may serve as important keys to deciphering the artist’ distinctively personal iconology, for the time being their primary role seems to be to document the mystery of the creative impulse at its point of inception—as workable a metaphor as one could hope for to describe Tacla’s quirky but remarkable ability to touch upon quasi-formal equivalents for linguistic connections which we are no longer consciously aware of possessing.

Dan Cameron

New York

September 1993

Jorge Tacla’s Irreality
Donald Kuspit

In Jorge Tacla’s first paintings, the head appears severed from the body as though by a guillotine. It is an allegorical head, a symbol of the self. It is in a precarious position, a Robinson Crusoe (1984) alone in a boat (resembling the basket that catches the guillotined head), or alone in a room with a crumbling floor, as in Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa (1983). The tumultuous, crowded Aladdin’s Lamp and Aladdin’s Towel (both 1982) both painted with expressionist vehemence, make the violence of the situation explicit. A naked white male figure has lost his head, in what seems to be a primitive ceremony: Next to it a grinning black head, no doubt that of the native who performed the sacrifice—the act of castration—floats incongruously, a morbid vision. In Puesta de Sol con Ácido (1984), La Traición de Nefertiti and Descansando Antes de Saltar (both 1985), menacing, sardonic heads accumulate, threatening to engulf us in an avalanche, as in Ensor’s Entry of Christ into Brussels (1888), a picture that is fundamental to understanding the sadomasochistic, social critical aspect of expressionism. As in Ensor, virtually all of Tacla’s faces have a fixed, masklike expression, suggesting that they are hallucinations. Tacla’s pictures are dreams of a certain kind of stultification.

For me, Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa is the touchstone of Tacla’s production, so I will dwell upon it at length, as a precise confession of the mentality involved in his art. The first spontaneous representation of a mentality is often the clearest, stating the core of the issue explicitly; it later becomes refined and elaborated and deepened, and thus more obscure and subtle. Tacla’s art is a profoundly personal testimony as well as witness to social injustice and misery, but as Tacla reaches deeper levels of the self—as he explores the terra incognito of his inner landscape, becoming the conquistador of his own mystery—the social dimension of his art seems less to its point, and seems to fall away, like a shell that has been discarded to reveal the kernel that is sheltered. Tacla’s early allegorical figures stand to his later visionary landscapes as an imitation stands to a revelation. But the imitation grows out of a response to the world, a recognition of the wretched place it is, so that without the intimation, we would not understand why Tacla had the need for a revelation—why he had to enter the desert of self, in flight from society, a transcendence which dialectically its absolute power over the self as perversely asserts the self’s independence.

In Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa, the head is framed by gesticulating hands with an intense life of their own, even more intense than that of the eyes which stare at the hands. The head sits on a floor that is no more than a perch, a narrow place in the nothingness of the space. Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa is an eschatological, existential picture: the self is almost at the bottom of the abyss, has almost fallen all the way into the emptiness that reflects its inner state. Existence has been reduced to bare, bitter essentials, to the minimum of survival. Everything is acidic necessity, with no frills: the figure is no more than a bust—a “disembodied” vestige of itself—suggesting its helplessness and hopelessness. Indeed, it lacks legs as well as a body, so that it cannot move, let alone escape from the room. The room is an anonymous, empty space in the middle of nowhere. It might as well be a cell in Hell.

Is it an illusion to think that the bust looks like a sculpture in a desolate niche of a church devoted to a dead religion? Perhaps it is the head of a saint with the hands he sacrificed to his faith—his attributes. It is no doubt the stylized version of a black head, but it also resembles the head of Donatello’s Zuccone (1423-25), to the detail of the staring eyes. Psychologically speaking, this is not accidental, for the mood of the heads is the same. A similar head, blackened, appears in Portrait of A Friend, and, more garish and weirdly colorful, in an untitled painting (both 1984). The head recurs again and again, as both social symbol and existential substance. It is an archaic image of despair, the kind of despair the Christian religion renders expertly, but without its transformation into transcendence; that is, the utopian conviction that mental suffering leads to higher things.

Tacla’s scene is fraught with anxiety, conveyed through the tension between the head and the animated hands, and more subliminally between the body parts and the space they are stranded in. The hands point to the head as though mocking its isolation in the act of acknowledging it, indeed, mirroring it with their own isolation. According to Erich Fromm, “the fears that can destroy (man), that can drive him to insanity, to psychosis, are gears of ostracism, severe rejection, of abandonment, of aloneness, of solitary confinement, of extreme loneliness. It was the great fear of isolation and it alone, that forces the child, girl or boy, to adapt to his family and his society in order to survive”. (1)

Tacla’s dismembered figure barely survives suggesting that it has not adapted very well to the family and society. It is not unlike Kafka’s hungry artist alone in his cage, a sideshow for an indifferent society. It feels an emptiness that finds its objective correlative—projection—in the empty space it inhabits. This feeling, by which the self discovers that it has lost its chance for fullness of being forever, and through which it strips itself to the bare bones of an anonymous existence, accompanies the sense of being isolated, abandoned, lonely. Tacla’s figure is destroyed by its fears, as its truncated appearance suggests. Like the wooden floor of its room, it is in a state of despair, and perhaps irreparable.

According to Joyce MacDougall, psychotics feel that they have no right to exist, indeed, do not exist. Tacla’s image bespeaks this psychotic state of mind, that is, the psychotic sense of not being real. It is an irreal state of mind, not a surreal one. It conveys the “derealization” or the self, rather than its renewal or re-positing, with the help of the unconscious. That is, there is a radical difference between art which attempts to articulate the irreal state of mind, with its split suicidal consciousness—Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa rendered by the division between the static, thoughtful head and the lively hands, full of feeling—indicating the self’s despiritualization and demoralization, and art which attempts to articulate the surreal state of mind, with its faith in the integration of consciousness and the unconscious as the only means, in modernity, of respiritualizing and remoralizing the self (however transient, even superficial and inauthentic that new spiritualization and moralization may be, for the unconscious is unspiritual and amoral). I emphasize this difference, because Latin American art is usually understood as surrealist, but I think the best of it—Tacla’s painting for example—is irreal in intention. It is truer to the modern experience to be irreal than surreal. Surrealism offers a facile salvation for the self, but irrealism knows there is none.

The sense of irreality is fueled by the feeling of being inwardly destroyed, which is the climax of the feeling of being inwardly isolated, as though in solitary confinement in oneself. This is turned inside out in a fantasy of rejection and ostracization by society. One feels that one does not belong to it and that it does not want one in it. At best one is an exile in it, radically estranged from it but enduring it. The psychotic projects the feeling of not owning his own self onto society. There, it changes into the feeling that society does not allow one to have a self. Finally, it changes into the feeling that the self has no general right to exist, nor does it exist in any particular society, that is, through a collective identity. It finally comes to lose empirical as well as emotional validity, that is, seems empirically, as well as emotionally, illegitimate.

But at its deepest, the sense of irreality reflects the conflict between the split off parts of consciousness. They are not simply at odds, as in the ordinary dissociation of sensibility T.S. Elliot described, but in open opposition and violent contradiction. Just as the head and hands in Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa are in expressive conflict, are consciousness and the unconsciousness—the one productive of ideas, the other of feelings—in unresolvable conflict in the sense of irreality. Consciousness, still intact for all the unconscious annihilative anxiety the feeling of isolation creates, tell the self that it “externally” exists, that it is real and alive in society, however badly society treats it, while annihilative anxiety whispers to it that it is in fact inwardly dead, and society is to blame. The self feels that it is unreal but has enough integrity and reality – testing left to know that it is real to society (of not really recognized, in all its existential particularity, by it). This is the psychotic state of irreality, verging on histrionic paranoia, but more typically the self’s blind capitulation to the contradiction of its existence. The self becomes the blind spot in which the parallel lines of personal, annihilative anxiety and objective social identity converge, but never meet.

Tacla used the archaic figure to represent the blind spot, but his irreal landscape is a deeper, more authentic, and unique way of representing it. The irreal landscape represents Tacla’s profound insight that representation breaks down in the blind spot, that is, becomes regressive. The sense of irreality destabilizes representation. It seems impossible for the self to make a representation that others willingly suspend their disbelief in front of, accepting the truth of the illusion as far as it seems to go; for the representation is full of the self’s disbelief in itself, its sense of itself as an illusion. Representation oscillates indecisively—even wildly—between the clarity of the positive photograph, and the obscurity of the negative that is its origin. This oscillation, which is driven by both ambivalence and ambiguity, is a kind of blindness to its own breakdown, which indicates its completeness. It is as though Tacla was seeing the landscape through a dark glass in which it was clear enough to be recognized, but not clear enough to be read. It is impossible to map, but one can “feel” its terrain. One is blind to it, but has a certain mysterious vision of it. The end result is a sense of futility—the futility of knowing what it really looks like, because one does not know what it is to really see. Because one does not know that one is inwardly real—one cannot know what is true.

To face the unresolvable difference between what one knows to be true and one feels to be true is to find oneself reduced to absurdity. The dissociation of sensibility, a timely abstract description of the modern state of mind for Eliot, becomes an agonizing experience that seems inseparable from being human. The bifurcation of the self into thought and feeling, with no hope of their reconciliation, even the loss of the urge to reconcile them, becomes the basic substance of existence. Tacla not only conveys the sense of irreality that the feeling of irreconcilability induces, but suggests that it is the one mental suffering that cannot be cured, and worse yet, that it is fated—inescapable—which makes it all the more bleak.

Nonetheless, he suggests that its burden can be lightened, if it is taken with a grain of wit, that is, ironically. Immobilized head and excited hands are juxtaposed in a witty, ironical way in Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa. The comic streak in Tacla’s morbidity—it is characteristic of the Latin American approach to suffering—makes his crippled figure peculiarly heroic. That is, the self becomes perversely heroic when it learns to tolerate, through humor—however black (black humor is homeopathic antidote to poisonous fate)—its own irreality, the self-contradiction at its core. The feeling of technically rather than really existing, awareness of the discrepancy between the world’s “theory” of one’s reality and the feeling of being unreal, becomes less tragic and traumatic when one regards it as comic and amusing. In acknowledging the irony of its existence, the self gains a certain detachment from the trauma of its own split consciousness. The split becomes a trick of fate: Tacla’s irreal self consoles itself by imagining that it has a trick consciousness (a kind of mental trick knee). To regard one’s agony as a private joke played on one by fate—a joke that is one’s private fate—seems to be as much transcendence of self as it is possible to have in modernity, perhaps ever.

Tacla works in series. Vestigal figures and empty space appear again and again. The physical vestige of the figure—its partial givenness—slowly but surely changes into an unmistakable sign of its mental suffering, an indicator of its inner annihilation. Space becomes increasingly autonomous, empty, inhospitable—finally, literally a desert, a bleak site of absence—and seemingly beside the point of the figure. But it is just when space seems completely nondescript, a mere illusionistic convention, that it most clearly brings out the figure’s feeling of abandonment, its lack of presence to itself and ambiguous presence to us. In Mi Pieza No es Mi Casa the head conveys a self-consciousness as minimum and schematic as the space itself, despite the exaggerated expressivity of the hands, which seem like a joke played on the self by the unconscious. Tacla’s reduction of figure and space to their cryptic essentials makes them emblematic of the self’s fate. They externalize it, no doubt rhetorically, but in the best sense of that term. (2)

Tacla’s figure, then, reduced to an ironical trope, represents the self’s invariable destruction by fate. The space of abandonment, ostensibly the emblem of the worldly wasteland, is unconsciously experienced as fate by the self. That is, space represents its subliminal feeling that it has little and ultimately no support for its being, that it lives at the edge of an abyss of meaningless it barely keeps from falling into. Indeed, we experience a sense of fate—one might say, suffer a pang of consciousness of fate—when we feel that we are what we inexplicable are, that is, when we experience ourselves as a dumb, unchanging mystery—blindly given—neither we nor anyone else can do anything about. This feeling that we have been abandoned to our fate—thrown to it like a lamb to a lion—is in fact the feeling of being inwardly destroyed in intellectual disguise.

Tacla’s irreal desert ladscape seems fated, which is why it seems the site of the mystery of existence. It is the ironical ground of the self: the desert represents its loneliness, its feeling of victimization, its feeling that it cannot escape from itself, all of which show that it is not really a self. The irreal desert is Tacla’s ultimate representation of annihilative anxiety—of the space of inner exile and the sense of falling that accompanies the feeling of being groundless, or rather of being grounded by fate.

In Tacla’s irreal landscapes, the abstraction of the figure and space into a complicated dialectic between the positive and the negative photograph intensifies the difference between conscious self and its unconsciousness of its fate. Because we cannot reconcile what we perceive and what we remember, what we know and what we feel—the articulate representation and the inarticulate indicative of the unrepresentable—we cannot understand our fate, only live it. The friction between the opposites is the technical source of the overall irreality of the landscape. They expand our sense of what we mean when we say we have lost touch with our self-lost our sense of own reality.

Tacla’s landscapes are extraordinary abstractions in their own right, but their real originality is that they show that abstraction is the best means of representing the unrepresentable, enigmatic trauma—terrain is equivalent to trauma in them—of the annihilative anxiety or self-negation through which we discover our fate. (No doubt it is always there, in the everyday details of our lives.) Tacla’s abstract landscapes are a remarkable fusion of descriptive, symbolic, and pure forms, in which the sensations of all three are used to convey, with a climatic, consummate intensity, the feeling of isolation, alienation, and self-loss. In this sense, they are modern apocalyptic landscapes, that is, visions of destruction with no possibility of reconstruction, and thus all the more grim. Strange as it may seem to say so, they complete the process of the modernization of the landscape begun by the Impressionists, and especially Cézanne: from being a place of plenitude, signaling the eternal happiness of Paradise—the traditional promise of salvation—it has become the setting for the unhappiness that accompanies the collapse into irrelevance of the distinction between damnation and salvation, leaving the self feeling deserted.

It seems as though I am saying that Tacla is depicting a profoundly sick self-a-self victimized, indeed, crucified by itself, not the world. Is there no objective, social basis for the sense of irreality—the insanity—he conveys. Other images of the eighties show there is. While clearly subjective in import, as their titles indicate—Claustrophobia (1986), Maraton de Paranoias, You and Me in A Painting Problem, Where I was born (all 1987), Far Away from Being Close (1988), and Portrait of Memories (1989), among them—their devastated landscape space bespeaks what Jürgen Habermas calls the pathological desolation of society, a society that victimizes us all, but especially those it decides are “the others”, such as isolated black figures that appear in all these works. These emblems or suffering are realistic, not simply fantasy. White society has in fact rejected and ostracized blacks. This is no doubt for racist reasons—belief in the superiority of white to black civilization—but also for psychological reasons: blackness is a threat, arousing annihilation anxiety, for it signifies the absence—annihilation—of whiteness.

In all Tacla’s triptychs a social wasteland, a black victim, and a symbol of self-destruction or self-loss—often bony rocks, a kind of ironically irreducible residue of self—are arranged on an allegorical stage. However transitional to the ironical grandeur of the irreal landscapes of the nineties, the irreality of the scenes and the isolation of the figures in these eighties works are not entirely a matter of delusion. They accuse the world of being mad, and of making one mad. The self’s madness is a realistic recognition of the world’s madness, especially of its inevitability, and as such, is “psychotic realism”. Tacla is not using the world to rationalize his feeling of going mad, a feeling that, as has been said, is inseparable from being modern, (3) that is, rejecting, denying, and destroying the authority of any transcendental ground of being. (Its byproduct is the perverse dialectic of feeling rejected, denied and destroyed by the world while rejecting, denying, and destroying it. Self and world appear equally ambiguous because of the unmanageable ambivalence released by the loss of the belief that they are transcendentally grounded.) The world is in fact maddening—more helplessly psychotic and hopelessly desolate than any individual.

Tacla had objective reasons for being alienated from the reality of his homeland Chile, which like many Latin American countries has suffered both the tyranny of the left and of the right: which is lesser evil? He had objective reasons for moving from provincial Chile to cosmopolitan New York: how else could he find his artistic identity? He had objective reasons for leaving a country that, as he says, is not multiracial: how else could he embrace a larger humanity, enlarging his own humanity?

Tacla became involved in the African movement, and fascinated with African music. The Diaspora of the African people became emblematic of his own Diaspora. Just as black Africans were exiled from their homeland, so in his mind he was exiled from his homeland. The world denies the right of blacks to exist and have their own identity, just as he felt it denied his right to exist and have his independent identity. The socially created otherness of the black objectified Tacla’s subjective feeling of otherness. There is no doubt guilt in his identification with the black, but through it found a way to express the terra incognita of his innermost self, as well as his feeling of being an outsider, as an artist and person, especially Latin American artist and person.

He acknowledges as much in El Camaleon que se Duerme (1984); he is the chameleon, able to change color—identity. He is the black man in the Crossing the Nile series (1985). He takes the dangerous voyage into infernal Africa represented by the gigantic black head—its mouth is as full of sinners as the mouth of Hell in medieval images—in A Dangerous Voyage (1985). He is the black St. Sebastian tempted by a demonic woman in an untitled picture of 1985—a picture with a medieval landscape, suggesting the profound emotional regression, in renewal of his will to live and instincts, Tacla’s emotional voyage to Africa was for him. Africa liberated his libido and aggression as much as it confirmed his sense of irreality and feeling of isolation. They are remarkably self-evident in Untitled (Blue) (1986) and In Between (1987). Already in Robinson Crusoe his identification with the black man is apparent, for it is the story of a white man’s twinship transference with a black man, Friday. The white man needed the black man to be self-reliant in isolation—to survive on the island he was to himself. In fact, Robinson Crusoe tells the story of opposite sides of the same man. In any case, Africa became the objective correlative for Tacla’s feeling of being unreal while at the same time making him feel real—instinctively alive. (He seemed to have fallen into the trap of believing the stereotype that the black man had more instinct of passion that the white man—black music seems to suggest as much—but what counts is that Tacla used the stereotype itself.) Without Africa, Tacla could not have acknowledged his annihilative anxiety through artistic abreaction, nor overcome it through the re-insticntivization of his self, which had been devastated by society. It was Africa that was his magical reality.

The re-instinctivization—a seeming rebirth—does not last. I think its climax is signaled by the realistic self-portraits that appear in Portrait of Memories and La Realidad de un Sueño (1988). Tacla remains a dream—irreal—to himself because he is possessed by memories. The transition to the irreal landscapes—the complete abandonment of any pretense to obvious reality, to descriptive truth—occurs in Far Away From Still Life, A Problem That Corresponds to Topology, and Space for a Speech (1989), and in a different way Winter 1990 (1987). Tacla enters Private Territory (1989): he becomes “metaphysical”. I think this occurred not only for private reasons, but because he experienced a crisis in painting—a crisis of representation, as I suggested earlier. He discovered that feelings are in principle unrepresentable—however much they may be represented by fantasy—because what they represent is ultimately fated and as such unfathomable. This is why they seem to be in perpetual, protean process—never self-identical. It is as though the self can only know itself if it experiences all the feelings it can, but then only experiences its own elusiveness. In a sense, each feeling is unwittingly a station on the self’s way to its unexpected crucifixion by a mysterious fate.

Tacla also realized that the figure, an age-old, standard convention for conveying feelings, has degenerated, in the mass media, into a journalistic formula of emotional manipulation, indeed, exploitation, that is, it had become a means of evoking knee-jerk empathy. Figuration had fallen expressively exhausted. Abstraction remained the only hope for a genuinely deep expressivity, that is, an expressivity that could convey the uncanniness of inner life and mental suffering. Moreover, abstraction was the only hope for representing suffering in a way that could not, however unwittingly, betray it by making it seem aesthetically pleasurable, as T.W. Adorno argued invariably happens. (3) Abstraction became the last chance to speak from the inside in an authentic way. Indeed, the inadequacy—obsoleteness?—of the figure as expression indicated that new means of expressing suffering—especially the excruciating mental suffering implicit in the sense of irreality—had to be found.

Not only did the mass media betray inner life and mental suffering, but expressionism and surrealism no longer seemed to represent them in a way that made their significance unquestionable and overwhelming. Expressionistic and surrealistic imagery had come to seem trite—indicative of superficial, conventional understanding of inner life and mental suffering, which imagined that they could be easily managed. In other words, expressionism and surrealism were insufficiently irreal—insufficiently expressive of annihilative anxiety. Only abstraction could plumb the depths of the self, or the self had become abstract to itself—had retreated from the world into annihilative anxiety.

In a sense, Tacla reversed the typical career trajectory of the Latin American artist, for example, that of Diego Rivera. After an early exploration of modernist abstraction, he rejected it for a representational art that could communicate to the people. (Thomas Hart Benton followed a similar path in the United States, if with different results.) But Tacla wanted a personal art, not a people’s art, even though, at its earliest stages, his art is simultaneously both (although, in my opinion, always more the former than the latter).

Not only Tacla’s irreal landscapes abstract, but they “redeem” abstraction. His is a so called “conceptual”—post—purist—landscape painting the same way Anselm Kiefer’s is. That is, it is as concerned with what Clement Greenberg called art’s preconscious and unconscious—expressive—order of effects as its literal order of effects. The pursuit of purity elevates the latter over the former, but purity invariably runs into an expressive deadend, as the post-painterly abstraction Greenberg endorsed makes clear- Indeed, Greenberg’s bifurcation of art is another example of the dissociation of sensibility, and shows the sterility it invariably leads to. Art that is completely pure is not expressively convincing, indeed, loses almost all evocative power. In making his desert abstractions—they began with a 1989 sojourn in the Chilean desert (in effect acknowledging the desert Chile had unconsciously become for him)—Tacla acknowledges the flat, “negative” space of the canvas, but he finds it to be full of strange expressive growths.

The history of painting is inseparable from landscape painting, and in a sense Tacla’s irreal landscapes recapitulate that history, as A Classic Problem with Two Unknowns and Project for a Classical Theme (both 1990) make clear. Landscape has always been a symbol of subjectivity—an external reality in whose many nuances internal reality spontaneously finds traces of itself, in whose complication the subject sees its own complication cabalistically configured. It seems to bring to positive consciousness what exists negatively—unconsciously—in ourselves. The desert has always been the symbol of isolation—a place of elemental contact with the self, the place where prophets went to have their visions and communicate with the God within themselves, who informed their visions and was half raw, empty, unforgiving desert Himself. Thus Tacla’s remarkable Elemental References, Fundamental Notes, Elemental Notes (all 1991), in which vision seems to exist in painterly stains—they can signify, indeed, epitomize a whole history, as Tacla says—and the picture is structured so that the desert is its center. (The stain regresses to what André Breton called Leonardo’s paranoid wall, the source of so many surrealist hallucinations, but irreal in itself. (4) There is a center within the center, a true vision within the mirage: a Suprematist square, in which the negative desert has become a positive image—in which the erased, phenomenologically suspended desert, has become a translucent absolute. But of course the positive image is a seductive illusion compared to the negative desert space from which it arose. Thus the interplay of ironies in Tacla’s irreality.

Tacla’s landscape space is both intimate and cosmic, personal and impersonal. He has described it as the place where “the history of art, the history of social struggles, and mental structure” converge. It is a place where representation, society, and self are in question—equally problematic, illusory, and abstract, and equally fated, real, and concrete. It is the place where Tacla discovers the necessity of his identity as an artist: the transcendence of being an artist, the transcendence the artist constructs to survive the tide of social and personal history that threatens to engulf him. It is a place of living death where the artist gains perspective—symbol of detachment and distance—on life. Many of Tacla’s irreal landscapes are preoccupied with perspective, which seems to arise from the desert like a mirage.

In many of Tacla’s landscapes there are residues of figuration, but our familiarity with them is frustrated by their negative, abstract—“transcendentalized”—appearance. In Space For a Speech (1989), Projective Transformation and Range of Points (both 1993) they seem to be thorns, no doubt derived from familiar religious iconography, but stylized to into mysterious hieroglyphs. There is a great deal of anguished, enigmatic drawing—a field of agitated gestural signs that seem to be pronounced by some hectic, irrepressible automatist process. The canvas is often like black or gray slate; Under Projection, Ground Line (both 1993) are salient examples. The desert that was relatively intact in the abstractions of 1991 has become dismembered in the abstractions of 1993—as fragmented as the early figures. The ferocious redundancy of the hieroglyphic emblems destroys the scene, yet the same redundancy affords a minimum structure. It is just short of disintegration yet entropic in itself. When personal images emerge, as in A Day With My Wife (1992), or architectural structures appear, as in The Elements of Perspective I and II (1992), their conversion from a positive, opaque, realistic state into a negative, transparent, “memorable” state, is in effect an act of transcendence that simultaneously signals the annihilative anxiety that necessitated it. The double meaning of the negative as transcendence and annihilation anxiety as far from strange. The desert has always been regarded as a place of living death as well as a place where it is possible to have a vision of higher life that will overcome it. Like Golgotha, the desert is a place of annihilation where religious conviction is born—where the material spontaneously seems to convert into the spiritual, that is, into the transcendence of a mirage.

The self experiences mirages of transcendence after it has been inwardly annihilated. After its famous forty days in the desert, the self imagines its own higher, abstract reality—its spontaneous transcendence of its annihilated state, or rather the hallucinatory transformation of its annihilation anxiety into transcendence. It fantasizes a profound insight into itself—a higher truth about itself, indeed, a higher self. It seems to rise above its situation, but in fact becomes more deeply embedded in it, for its mirages are a mystification of the feeling of irreality invested in the desert. Transcendence is a perverse “interpretation” of the desert experience. (Malevich’s notion of going into the desert or zero—he uses both terms—of pure form to experience transcendence is an early modern version of the idea that abstraction is self-contradictorily annihilation and transcendence at once. It is an idea that can be traced to Plato and Plotinus. That is, abstraction condenses annihilation anxiety and the fantasy that the annihilation is a spiritualization of the self in a single emblematic, cabalistic form, whether geometrical or gestural.)

Thus Tacla is a mystic despite himself. His negation or abstraction of architecture—or rather his “deconstruction” or “platonization” of the perspective involved in its construction—turning it into a kind of desert, that is, an abandoned, deserted, empty shell of itself, indeed, more negative space than positive substance—it echoes Tacla’s archetypally minimal and schematic desert and societal topography—is yet another instance of the convergence of the annihilative and the visionary, anxiety and transcendence, living death and the illusion of a grace that can save one from it. But Tacla’s architecture is explicitly sacred—virtually all his buildings are temples constructed from a sacred perspective, that is, sub speciae aeternitatis, as An Unknown Temple (1992) makes clear—and his love for his wife, who is also put through the “desertion-abstraction” process, is implicitly sacred. Again, transcendence, the epitome of the sacred, is inseparable from annihilation anxiety, the epitome of the profane existence, indeed, the suffering that profanes existence.

Transcendence involves the fear that the self will die while the body continues to live, which is why reverses their priority. Tacla’s buildings are figures lose bodiliness—a special way of being irrealized—so that they seem self-transcending, authentically spiritual. Tacla dematerializes the representation through which reality materializes making it into what Kant called a transcendental illusion. It is necessary illusion—a representation of the unrepresentable sacred, the source of the unity of being that gives the self the feeling of being alive and real rather tnat half dead and irreal. At the same time, dematerialization suggests that the representation of the sacred is a way of seeing through it, suggesting that it is the ghost of faith where there is no reason to have any. This is what really makes it unrepresentable, that is, irreal.





(1) The quotation is from Fromm's Mexícan discipie Jorge Silva-García, "Erich Fromm in Mexico", Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 25 (April 1989): 249.

(2) That is, the sense in which it is a progressive variation of feeling a leading to a disclosure of previously unknown feelings, rather than a "vicious rhetoric" automatically triggering foreknown feelings. T. 5. Eliot, "Rhetoric and Poetic Drama". The Sacred Wood (London: Metheun, 1920), p. 82.

(3) Theodor W. Adorno, "Commitment", The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, eds. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (New York: Continuum, 1985), p. 312 remarks that "by turning suffering into images" we "wound our shame before the victims." "The so-called artistic representation of the sheer physical pain of people beaten to the ground by rifle butts contains, however remotely, the power to elicit enjoyment out of it." That is, "the esthetic principle of stylization" transfigures an "unthinkable fate" so that it seems to have "some meaning". In fact, it does; I would argue that esthetic stylization, particularly abstract stylization, can be true to the depth of that meaning as it is subjectively experienced. This is in part because abstraction involves as much negation of the sense of reality as suffering does, especially mental suffering. Indeed, there is evidence that abstraction, before it became academic formalism-a shell of itself, that is, before it lost its expressive kernel-expressed the anguish of annihilation anxiety (which first appears as split consciousness) inseparable from modernity. Certainly that is the way such different artists as Gauguin and Malevich in tended it.

(4) André Breton, Surrealism and Painting (New York: Harper & Row, 1952; Icon Editions), p. 74 notes that Leonardo da Vinci taught "that one: should allow one's attention to become absorbed in the contemplation of streaks of dried spittle or the surface of an old wall until the eye is able to distinguish an alternative which painting is capable of revealing,” that is, the world of subjectivity. What Breton also called "Leonardo's paranoic ancient wall" (p. 129) is the irreal space of annihilation anxiety to which one must regress to know the precarious depths of one's subjective reality, that is, what has been called the psychotic core.

Memory and Paint: Jorge Tacla’s Meta-Images
Donald Kuspit

Thus the content of a repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness, on condition that it is negated. Negation is a way of taking cognizance of what is repressed; indeed it is already a lifting of the repression, though not, of course, an acceptance of what it is repressed.

Sigmund Freud, “Negation,” 1925.


It would seem, then, that it is through their “immensity” that these two kinds of space—the space of intimacy and world space—blend. When human solitude deepens, then the two immensities touch and become identical.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958.



“All processes have been inverted; they are in the negative,” writes Jorge Tacla, describing his astonishing new series of paintings, A Hemispheric Problem. They are a new reading of the sublime, a new ecstasy of the sublime. But the sublime is Nothing, Absence apotheosized as vast empty space, loss mystified as Infinity found. The sublime is eschatology idealized, the abyss turned into art, as though to soften its horrific presence, deceive us into believing that our minds will not dissolve into it, comfort us with the illusion that we can find a foothold in it, from which to take its measure, gain perspective on it, perhaps hold it captive in the spatial net of a grid, bringing it under complete control. But the sublime abolishes perspective, shrugs it off the way we might dismiss a fly. The sublime is the ultimate indifferent space, beyond the grasp of consciousness. The sublime makes clear just how futile and absurd its perpetual imposing of limits is. Confronted with the sublime, these limits self-destruct, in an act of spontaneous suicide that is a kind of homage a form of recognition. Confronted with the inevitability of the sublime, consciousness admits its impotence, its lack of control.


Yet all is not empty in emptiness; there is a residue. In the sublime there is the residue of history, a thoroughly unsublime substance. Feelings about personal and collective history are mixed in an unholy mess of memory, a density simultaneously clear dream and an obscure representation of actual events, pinpointable on a map, if an outdated one. Within Time and Space in Negative are Notes and References—to allude to two of Tacla’s uncanny images—or memory traces, as they are best called, traces which in fact are the fundament of mind. In Tacla’s case they tend to be landscape elements, symbols of private recollection of public space, tranquil intuitions of the involuntary space in which one emotionally lives one’s history—the paradoxical space of the self’s grandeur and vulnerability. Tacla pictures self-contained scenes of nature, positively charged—vivid and intimate—within the grand desert-ed void of the sublime, a landscape of negativity. Sometimes this microcosmic inscape, to use Gerard Manley Hopkins’s term, seems to coincide, literally as well as figuratively, with the scooped out macroscopic space of the sublime, as in A Classic Problem with Two Unknowns and The Eternal Return. When this occurs—when positive and negative spaces coincide without cancelling each other out, when the relative visibility of a landscape seems to precipitate out of the absolutely invisible, developed by the elusive alchemy of consciousness, when memory and reality become one miraculous space—then the whole picture resonates with ironic authenticity. Something repressed has clearly returned—but incompletely, for a vast, inarticulate, unbounded negative space remains, an unfathomable substratum ultimately beyond comprehension, the Nothing that is the source of Being.


Moreover, the landscape that returns to perception, that seems an epiphanic release of vision, continues to be repressed, for it is a symbol—the signifier of an indeterminate feeling. That feeling is doubly repressed, for it is not an observed landscape remembered, however obscurely, through the symbol, but landscape made memorable by art, indeed historicized by art. Tacla’s landscapes tend to be quoted from high art imagery. They belong to the past, they were pictures before Tacla thought of putting them in his pictures: they are found landscapes, making them all the more melancholy. Was any of his landscapes ever a lived experience? The negative space of the sublime seems to have been lived by him, for it is the space of the desert—“the place where vision is perpetually out of focus,” as has been said. The desert is always internal to us; it is a metaphor for the way reality exists in the unconscious. (Tacla’s landscapes sound an oblique ecological note; they can be understood as homage’s to disappearing nature. Indeed, the unexpected ecological prestige of Old Master landscapes—the new, wistful look they are entitled to—may be the only happy consequence of the modern destruction of nature.)


Tacla’s “mystical” fixation on desert-ed landscape suggests that it is a memory of his homeland—the contradictory terrain of the homeland. The homeland exists only as a negative for the exile, that is, in the alienated form of the not-quite-knowable, the not-quite-in-focus—certainly not focused and knowable the way it once was. In a sense, Tacla´s pictures tackle a personal epistemological problem: they suggest his wonder at how he knows that he knows the land that can no longer be called exactly and simply home. Is he comparing the old and new psychic textures of the knowing of home? Is he struggling to articulate the eternal archetype of home as the ordinary reality of home fades into the oblivion? Is he working through what is no longer matter-of-fact? Indeed, his pictures seem to be about the elusiveness, even absence, of fact: fact as inherently fiction, so ingeniously subjective is it, so much is it a matter of our relationship to it, unavoidably wishful even at its most intellectually clear. Tacla handles his nostalgia well—with esthetic aplomb, yet without losing its urgency, that is, the drive to self-discovery implicit in it.


In his solitude, he has blended two memories of his homeland: its existence as an emotionally charged intimate space and as an indifferent immense space, to create an exile’s image of the homeland. It is a land that looms larger in memory than it can ever be in reality, the way an adult’s memory of his childhood world makes it seem more significant than it can ever be to anyone else. Indeed, Tacla has given us the illusory space of the exiled self, a narcissistic space, whether one is intimately invested in it or views it as an abstract, distant immensity. It is simultaneously too close and too far, as though one can never find the proper distance from which to comprehend it—perhaps as though no proper relation to it is possible. It is the all-or-nothing space of the self which imagines itself at its center: Tacla’ space is simultaneously intimate, because the self remains profoundly attached to it, and an anonymous immensity, in recognition of the self’s detachment from it in exile, perhaps even growing indifference to it. At the same time, to present this space as uninhabited, while acknowledging its independent reality, suggests continuing attachment to it—enough to keep everyone else out of it, keep it “pure,” a desert-ed “paradise.” (It is worth noting that erotic attachment is a strong subliminal issue of Tacla’s images, as his use of female figure as the Pretext for a Landscape suggests. It is eros that is repressed in sublime negativity—the sublimity that makes a virtue out of the negative, that is, that turns deprivation and loss into the big lie of otherworldliness—and eros that brings the forgotten details of the landscape of memory back to pictorial mind, that is, pictures them positively, relishing them, finding them fulfilling. 



Tacla creates a meta-image, as it were—an image that is about how images come into being and fade out of being, how images appear and disappear and finally come to exist as disappearance, that is, memories at an infinite emotional remove from reality, without denying it. It is significant that paint is his preferred mode of presenting the meta-image, for paint is the ideal medium of memory: it is as fluid—“flighty”—as memory, that is, a libidinous manifestation of time. Tacla’s meta-images are comprehensible in terms of the negative dialectic—the unresolved tension—between timeliness and timelessness. The sense of transience—the inbetween state—subsumes them both. Transience, incorporating a sense of timeliness and of timelessness, is that state of the process that Cézanne made into a performance, indeed, turned into an end in itself, and rendered opaque—reified—even as he demonstrated how transparent reality became under its spell. Tacla’s meta-images articulate transience as the tension between sublime void and beautiful memory—between the emptiness of eternity and the fullness of the psyche, the latter always tending to dissolve into the former.


Wonderfully articulate about the uncanny mix of inarticulateness and hyperarticulateness in his meta-images, Tacla writes:


The canvas has been prepared where it is not painted. The objects and landscapes are transparent and are the negative of their physical conditions. Only a photographic process can both give and make these places recognizable.


…It is not a landscape. It is not the depiction of one place, it is a place of painting. It is in this place where my work is joined, citing the history of art, the history of social struggles, and mental structure.


The meta-image is inherently self-contradictory, “a dyslexic process of similitude,” as Tacla says. That is, a process whereby such dissimilarities as timeliness and timelessess, spontaneous remembering and complete forgetfulness of experience, are perversely reconciled.


At the same time, Tacla’s meta-image implies the inherent dysfunctionality of communication and secondarily meaning: a sense that the one is never efficient and the other is never stable. More crucially, meaning exists incommunicado in the meta-image, to be intuited at the perceiver’s risk. This is why Tacla’s paintings seem “disrupted” and “disturbing,” as he says. Photographic propriety will never occur in them, certainly never with any finality. In painting in general the image is never securely itself and unconditionally meaningful. There is a tendency towards the meta-image, that is, the unself-identical appearance. Tacla’s paintings accomplish the archaeological feat that the best painting has always aimed at: Tacla treats his ostensible subject matter as the site of a dead civilization, an age-old burial ground, and excavates it down to its sensual depths, reducing it to the fiction of a memory. The best art does not eternalize presence, as has been suggested, but converts it into memorable absence. Especially is modern art expert at this task of recovering the sense of the subject from arrogant objectivity.


In a sense, Tacla disembodies his scenes to re-embody them as myths. Thus, the vaguely figural element in A Hemispheric Problem is a sphinx. Through Tacla’s technique of negation, dissolving its solidity, it becomes freshly mythical, that is, archaic. The archaic can only exist as a kind of afterimage of reality, that is, as an illusion, half believable, half unbelievable. Indeed, Tacla challenges us to stretch of the credible, and in so doing challenges our creativity.


He has said that the sense of humid atmosphere in many of the images, for example, Spatial References, The Future and the Matter, and Autumn, derives from an idea of Leonardo da Vinci, who “invented” the atmosphere of his images from the effect of humidity on his canvases.


Moisture precipitating out of the humid atmosphere left the accident of its gesture—the material trace of its immaterial presence—on the canvas, catalyzing vision. Leonardo painted literally—if also ironically—“after nature,” more particularly, after a memory trace that was the residue of a “living” process of nature. This is an aspect of his advocacy of hallucination as a method of art-making. In André Breton’s words in “Artistic Genesis and Perspective of Surrealism” (1941), Leonardo advised the artist to allow his “attention to become absorbed in the contemplation of streaks of dried spittle or the surface of an old wall until the eye is able to distinguish an alternative world which painting is equally capable of revealing.” It is this alternative world—this world of the shadow available through the hallucination—that Tacla presents with a new subtlety. It is the world of genesis itself—the world of raw emergence. In a sense, it is an articulation of the idea of world rather than any specific world, although, there being no creation ex nihilo, memory traces of past worlds float in its transparency, its seeming nothingness, like dangerous, icebergs in an ocean—like sirensongs leading us to crash on the rocks of some past life, past reality. It is as though they are the dregs of a previous reincarnation—which is exactly the way the exile feels about his previous existence in his homeland.


Tacla’s paintings, then, are hallucinations, full of accidents and blind visual alleys, skeletal remains of a past consciousness and deadends of thought, trails that lead back in time to “nowhere,” to a false, ironic utopia. There is nothing stable in this pictures, not even the broken lines of linkage schematically tracing what was once there, eternally tentative yet peculiarly timely lines holding together what is now voided if hallucinatorily available. There is a strange dead light in these works, the silent glow of decay, the aura of the ruin and relic. But also is regeneration of essence, the only youth left to the world of the past, the final form of memories that will survive. Tacla has given us a true deconstruction of landscape, that is, he has shown that it is always an immaterial landscape of the mind, the alternative world that is always beyond the material one, and that in the end is less describable than it, especially because it is the obscure world of desire for what is out of reach, what has become intangible.