SEP 3rd 2016 - FEB 5th 2017


Gustavo von Ha - Inventory; art autre

Inventário; arte outra [Inventory; art autre]
Gustavo von Ha

While the gesture may be exemplary without targeting spectacular effects, it is inseparable from an intention to appear or show, where already introduced, although discreetly, the idea of spectacle.
Jean Galard

The works of Gustavo von Ha allude to the myth of a heroic artistic gesture. A mark on the support left by the artist-creator that would found, thus, something new and original. This time, to discuss concepts such as copy, simulation and appropriation, von Ha choses the visuality of the gestural painting - non-geometrical, non-figurative, also known as abstract expressionist, lyrical or informalist. Inventário; arte outra [Inventory; other art] consists of a selection of images that the artist knows: provokes our sensibility, seduces by the color and gesture. The artist intends to destabilize how these images effects us.

Expressive abstraction of the post-war pursued spontaneity as an access bridge to the subjective and irrational, often appropriating surrealist automatic writing to guide the artist's gesture. In the North American environment, each artist - the so-called "Action Painters", in the words of critic Harold Rosenberg - should have an easily recognizable particular "style", and large-scale canvases were considered an "arena" for the affirmation of the gesture's power that characterized the presence of the artist in the artwork. "What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event", said Rosenberg.

In European, in turn, the "incommunicability of the form" was argued - called "art autre" because it was thought as a break with tradition - in a moment of crisis in the face of post-war reality. The informalist was identified with his work, as if it attested how he experienced existential conflicts of that moment - and in it laid the "originality" of the artwork (as it happened with Jean Fautrier and Alberto Burri, whose critical fortune stresses repeatedly the war experience as if it was formally "translated" in their works).

Von Ha comments those paintings inscribed in a troubled period of Art History, showing originality is impossible in a history made of references and allusions. He takes, for example, Jackson Pollock paintings that, in themselves, unite these references in a synthesis that brings together lessons from cubism (the analytical cubist palette), Mexican Muralism and historical painting (in size), performance (in dripping), Surrealism (borrowing André Masson's all over). In another sense, Von Ha will also absorb the European notion of the pictorial matter as a substance in which sensations are printed, and as the record of the hand, which is a vestige and seen as memory, as exemplified in the works of Fautrier.

The artist does not recreate artworks. He produces possible images. But the matrix of these simulations is not chosen randomly - he selects what is interesting to appropriate. It is not about appropriating only the visuality, but also the procedures to which the main names of Abstract Expressionism painting recurred to - as the video shows. Hence, there is a performance dimension that runs the productive process: the works reveal only a part of what they really are. The results show the study of the procedures, materials and performances, making an inventory of the "how to" manual. In particular, the matter paintings, made of a dense accumulation of paint, are the result of scrapping constructivist canvases, copies that von Ha makes of Volpi, Hércules Barsotti, among others. Therefore, his gesture is not one that creates, but one that undoes the clear form of hard lines, transforming it into a contemporary Informalism. If the constructivist and the informe, trends of the same historical period but related to different ideologies, currently have lost these characteristics becoming clichés or, at least, fiction.

Von Ha handles these visualities and procedures that inhabit our imaginary museum but are only dormant there. It is as if, through quotations and allusions, the artist accesses images we cannot locate. Thus, it turns out to reveal the pervasive power of these poetics as visuality, especially to our common artistic formation, largely based in reproductions. According to André Malraux, reproduced art is fictitious - in terms of colors, size, the three dimensions turned two dimensions.

The artist reminds us of the fate of these heroic gestures as parody - staged as themselves, as in a Georges Mathieu performance, or pointed out by artists from the same period who observed the lack of sense resulting from an over-exploitation of the artist's image in conflict with reality, sold by galleries and magazines, as Robert Rauschenberg and Yves Klein had noticed in their works.

In the current context, Von Ha alerts to contemporary mythmaking of the artist and art from the position of a forger, who operates with reproductions and historical gaps. He points at the persistent cliché associated to the gesture that today exists as imitation, simulation and entertainment, once the transgressor character of the gesture is lost. We stay in this place with no boundaries, between the seduction of the painting and our need of an author and an original, of a true expression that guarantees the permanence of the aura of an artwork.

Ana Avelar

© 2016 Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo