Texts about Samuel Salcedo

1 - A 21th century artist

2 - That’s Why I’m Easy, Easy like a Sunday Morning Easy by Lionel Richie

3 - DREAM COMPILATION by Samuel Salcedo


 

A 21th century artist

Is there a 21st century figurative art form? Is there a figurative sculpture and painting that represent our time?
I think Samuel Salcedo's work is one of the best examples of figurative art that can be found at the beginning of the 21st century, and that the value of his contribution is that this sculptor and painter from Barcelona manages to express in his work a profound and yet fun, lighthearted reflection on the human condition, on the meaning of human existence in our interesting, strange and sometimes stupid civilization.

Salcedo avoids a solemn tone and represents as a dramatic comedy the matters that to other people would be tragic or even boring. And he does so with the joy of someone who is free of certain vanities that are the foundation of our pretentious society, with the clarity of someone who is free from self-deception and accepts the ridiculous part and the limitations of being human. But before focusing on his work I am going to allow myself a historic "flash back”.

In contemporary art there has been a strange resignation or repression, that is not usually perceived as such and that therefore is worth noting. For centuries, artists were at the service of political, religious and economic powers. The compulsory themes were scenes from the Bible and classical mythology and the praise of the established power and bourgeois wealth. They had no creative freedom, although some of them took liberties and today we can admire masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Bosch or Leonardo. The modern liberation of Goya, Van Gogh, Munch and others was not fully achieved until the 20th Century, with the historical avant-gardes, and later, in the 60's, with the advent of pop art and libertarian attitudes.

Once the long-desired artistic freedom was finally achieved, what has been done with it? Well, after the creative explosion of avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism, etc.) and after the destructive explosion of the Second World War, something amazing happened: most of the contemporary figurative painters and sculptors stopped to make full use of this newly conquered freedom of representation. Pop art images were often used as advertising and media stereotypes and rarely dealt with personal and subjective aspects in depth. And realistic figures were almost always self-limited to the obvious and the academic. The truth is that once this freedom was achieved, only a few figurative painters and sculptors (Balthus, Bacon) were able to make the most of it. Other art forms took over, such as photography, comics and film. However, in the past three decades, a new subjective and metarealist figuration has emerged and does make full use of that freedom. The Dutch painter Pat Andrea is one of its pioneers and among young people, Samuel Salcedo is one of the best international exponents.

One of the first things that draws attention in his work is that it conveys an extraordinary sense of freedom. I think this is partly because he dares to contemplate the human species with critical and self-critical distance, with an ironic vision on the most grotesque, ridiculous or naïve aspects of it, but always avoiding judgment from an alleged superiority. Salcedo not only makes use of this freedom of figurative representation. When portraying today’s human being, he also shows a complete liberation from any kind of hypocritical moralism, whether traditional, old, or those that are spread by a certain progressive way of thinking hindered by clichés.

For its technical virtuosity and sometimes transgressive contents, one could connect the work of Salcedo with Maurizio Cattelan or with hyperrealist artist Ron Mueck, but it would be a superficial view. Salcedo does not focus on anecdote and impact. The meaning of his work is more ambiguous and is closer to Nietzsche: the recognition of reality, as a whole, including the worst and the ridiculous, the recognition of the all too human and the insufficiently superhuman in this pretentious little animal called man (or woman). Salcedo manages to represent the human being as an animal (he undresses him) and at the same time as a creature who needs distractions and gifts, as a deficient being who needs to buy additional objects: profane masks, fiction objects and psychological prostheses suitable for a post-natural being, substitutes maybe for what has been called the paradise lost.

Juan Bufill

 

 

That’s Why I’m Easy, Easy like a Sunday Morning Easy, by Lionel Richie

Apparently when Superman, after saving the residents of Manhattan from the umpteenth attack by Lex Luthor, comes home and takes of his tunic, he likes to wander around in his underwear looking at repeats of Stories from the Crypt on television. He often nods off with beer in hand and wakes up in the middle of the night to drag himself off to bed grudgingly. The next day, he shaves, puts hair cream on and returns to his task since he has an image to maintain.

The woman who sells me my bread every day likes being spat into her face when she makes love. I have a friend who loves heavy-metal who loves the films of Jennifer Aniston, and I think he sometimes puts on make-up like her. I follow a person on Twitter who likes informing the entire world whenever he is in an airport or railway station. The other day I met him in the supermarket, having just tweeted that he was taking a flight to Berlin. I have some neighbours, a gay couple who have just retired, who I sometimes see chasing each other around the garden dressed up as bunnies. We are living in a time in which it is difficult to define what intimacy means.

Until now it was a redoubt in which everything that we did not want others to know about us could occur; a safe place in which everything could happen far from the severe gaze of the other. With the heyday of the social networks and the arrival of the web 2.0 we have been irremediably hurled into the public view. Thus we spend increasingly more time creating our personal brands with which we aim to seduce and convince others how interesting our lives are. We place increasingly more emphasis on constructing characters with which to attract the attention of others. The time we dedicate to producing this public image of ourselves, in tagging ourselves in photos, in telling everyone what film we liked or what concert we are going to, gradually creates a kind of projection of our ideal external life, a public intimacy that coexists alongside all those things that we are unable to tell, this B reality, which on few occasions we allow to blossom.

When it happens, when the photos of the famous going to the nursery school without make-up are filtered in the press, when our mother enters the room right in the middle of a full masturbatory session, when finally we manage to get the clothes off our partner for the first time or when we come across a famous actor in the early hours drunk in a bar, we realise that reality is rather coarse. Boring on most occasions, a little sordid with luck, irrelevant most times. Here is where the deception begins. The private video of Paris Hilton with Rick Solomon is so insipid, so normal, that it soon loses all interest. The day-to-day of our desires, of our perversions, of our B-side, is so prosaic that it will never pass our personal censure.

Not for being dark, but for being insubstantial.

Samuel Salcedo has become a specialist in observing through those peepholes through which nobody else wants to look. In opening windows into rooms to which nobody had thought of visiting. In this way Salcedo dominates normality. With his sculptures he takes away the drama of loneliness, removes the moral judgement from the subjects, turns his working material into the most intimate form, and highlights the coarseness of what reality is. He always catches his characters off-balance, in their worst moment, at that moment that they could never broadcast or communicate. Without show, he reveals that we are always somewhat alone. In this way he discovers that naked our neighbour is not such a special person. Intimacy is much more banal than we would like to imagine. Stripped of our brands and our social identity, we are slightly pathetic, however much we would like to camouflage it. Salcedo has the patience and the virtue to portray everything that others would never think about showing.

Of seeing the absurd moment before the fall.

Of continuing to watch the clown after the curtain has dropped. Of holding the gaze long after the joke has ended. Of stripping people of arrogance and vanity. Of catching us when we have already dropped our guard, when the personal brands are no longer of any use. In Salcedo’s world the human is very close to the animal from which he so much wants to escape. Moreover, by metonymy towards the objects that populate his universe they remain trapped in this ambiguous space. Life in a pure state, this naked life, leaves few turns where one can hide. Only a mask, to placate the toughness of the situation from which one cannot hide behind, this postmodern invention that is identity. The personal brand disappears.

Samuel Salcedo’s characters can no longer trick us. His works confront us with the discrete brutality of what is normal. They are mirrors of the moments in life that we have never had a special interest in seeing. He pokes us with bits of reality. The darkest desires, the most bizarre situations, in Salcedo’s work the most supreme ridicule acquires a shade of the everyday. The darkest perversion, free of moral judgement, becomes at the most, an absurd gesture. Intimacy, stripped of all fiction, stops sparkling. In this way we learn an important lesson: the king has always been in the altogether. The down side is that Salcedo reminds us that at the end of the day, we are too.

Thus these sculptures move us and hurt us. They get a smile out of us that we would like to conceal. They take us to places that we try to avoid. And thus, Superman will arrive home another night and strip off in front of the television. The baker will get more and more excited the closer she reaches home, fantasising about the evening’s entertainment she is going to enjoy. The heavy-metal fan will boast to his friends that he doesn’t believe in love. The twitter will imagine he is boarding a plane when he sees the underground train arrive and my neighbours, the gay couple, will have supper with their respective families tonight and tell them their love life is going well. That’s all there is, at the end of the day, life is quite normal.  

Jaron Rowan
Cultural Researcher

 

DREAM COMPILATION

A compendium of what we use to forget, to remember, to imagine or just dream. We store longings and facts. We classify and mess up thoughts, as it happens in a library, in a cabinet, in a closet, in a lumber room, a chest, a drawer or a hard disk; common places where we keep and discover words, images and perceptions, where we look for them and lose them. A sack.

We are a bag of skin; a leaky sack full of openings trough which we feel, gaze, listen, try, taste. Holes through which we get filled or we empty ourselves. We are the container as well as the content. We close our eyes, we cover our ears and mouths… we do isolate from the world, restraining ourselves, letting not a single thing coming in, nor coming out. We rummage in our belongings for showing or hiding them. What we are. What we want to be. What we believe we are. What we want the others to believe about us. How people actually see us.

We look at ourselves in the mirror. All of us are in fact mirrors. Every sculpture is a mirror.

Samuel Salcedo