What they say about …

The Columbian Mauricio Escobar, who has been living in Paris for over twenty years now, and regularly stays in Amsterdam, cannot spurn his native country. He studied at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and is thus familiar with the European tradition.

[His art has been made] tangible and poetically expressive through the use of natural raw materials: pigments of warm earth colours such as the ‘terra bruciata’ from Sienna, or yellow ground from Auvergne; weathered textile and vegetal components; thin layers of rice-paper; oxidation processes on metals; resin; carbonised pigments.

His art, which is as refined as that of Zao Wou-Ki and as touchable as that of Tapiès, shows its kinship with the Arte Povera. An energetic radiation and a wild arrangement of the paintings reveal a spiritual landscape of volcanos and rain-forest. Escobar is fascinated by fire – the fire which makes the earth erupt and crack; the fire which withers and chars, but also fertilizes; the fire which both blinds and delights our eyes.

This native power of life is guided by the hand of the artist, without even a hint of any coercion of the form. Rather, one perceives a genuine feeling of a primitive source, of its infiniteness, from which the human eye has made a pictorial choice without the imposition of its own rules. The drawn elements are winding and capricious but not arbitrary; the coatings of pigment stream or extend in wide spreads of light; the applied matter and vegetal elements follow organic lines, and the thin layers of rice-paper remind us of delicate wet veils.

In the summer of 2002 Escobar worked at an ‘Omaggio Etrusco’ at the request of the Instituto Francese in Florence which resulted in slender paintings and installations in which the artist attempted to record the essence of Tuscany. In them viewers were encouraged to recognise the characteristic silhouettes of cypress trees.

“Pollenisation Jaune” (Yellow Pollination) was conceived in Amsterdam and echoes Baudelaire’s ‘Soleils Mouillés’ from ‘Invitation au Voyage’ which had been inspired by Dutch landscapes. Broad sun-splashes inflame the canals of Amsterdam on autumnal afternoons.

Amsterdam, 2003
Zaterdag 29-03-03


Mauricio Escobar specializes in abstract painting. But he also is a master in painting figurative painting. The key question is: how does he do it? As best as I can tell, it’s by tracing the action but then by using all media appropriate to set the mood, the spirit, the context of the action. Mauricio uses drawing, oils and chalk for starters. One is darker reddish brown, the oils. The other is lighter, chalky white. But if you think that’s all he’s mustered to drive your attention, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Oh he’ll explain it, as he did with me, the varnishing – let’s just say his command of technique is impeccable. These are paintings, as abstract as his public work to date, but not figurative in some measure as well. The abstract/figurative fight going on in the paintings adds to their energy and action. Discussions with friends riveted by these works always starts with an argument about which way that battle should have gone. The friends who simply stare like deer in headlights at what’s going on are getting it right: it’s all about the interplay between description and extraction/abstraction. For that’s what abstraction is, isn’t it? At least in some measure? Extracting from the subject matter (whether it’s physical or in the artist’s mind’s eye) what’s going on and expressing that through the media of art? Photos give you so much detail something thrown at your wall may stick. Art commands, controls, and masters. And yes: Mauricio commands your attention, and controls it masterfully. Yes, he’s a master. Of line, for example. Line is used only where needed, to achieve that Just Noticeable Difference. No more, no less. Of shading, dragging the eye kicking and screaming away from the figurative elements into the context of the media. Of massing – massing through color areas, massing through blocking. One great tool he’s used is the mixing of media. You never know what trickery he used to drag your eye to that corner, to that area – but your gut tells you that it was no accident. Unlike photos, torsos are not the focus. Torsos are the playground of photography. Just go look at the Alard Pierson, the Museum of Antiquities, with its juxtaposition of ancient art and modern photographs of the male form. Freed from photography’s phoney democracy – where all detail is equal – this Master exercises total control in his work. One way is to twist and simply deny logic. Art is when an artist by his choice of medium, line, design, choices, and arrangement puts you into a kind of limerance: a falling in love. Mauricio uses a cognitive + perceptual dissonance with his profound mastery of artist’s tools to keep you riveted. Not by the subject matter, but by the presentation. It’s like what happens in a very fine restaurant. But a master chef knows presentation is far more satisfying than reality ever could be: what’s shown, and what’s hidden, arrangement, line, emphasis, color, focus – all to bring your eyes, nose, mouth, and stomach together, focused on one thing: desire. Mauricio’s paintings do the same. These are acts of intimacy. The clue is in the looks on the faces. The comfortability of the posture. The areas of light & dark. The focus is selective. The image is powered by choices made by the artist. Only a few areas, perspectives, body parts get attention, get elaborated. And that barely scratches the surface. The two large images should be viewed from at least 6m away, with it being displayed with the top 40 degrees from the wall. But these are mere technicalities. There’s no need for framing. They’d burn from what’s portrayed. The two large images are by far the most realized. The others are studies. These large works are mature works. All decisions have been made in these works as to what’s been communicated and emphasized – and how it’s being done. The fact that the artist is working in real time with a subject and subjects that are anything but static presents the first artistic challenge. This is what requires simplification of line, careful choice of medium, assembling all together to communicate, and foster, Desire… that’s Art.
Per Larson (New York 2014)