Rufo Criado: el eco de la forma Víctor del Río

También disponible en: español

When in 1908 Adolf Loos published his famous manifesto Ornament and Crime, a short and strident essay against the aesthetic aberrations of modernism, the foundations were laid for what we can programmatically consider to be one of the impulses of formal purity that characterized the historical vanguards. The satire was an attack on the orgy of figures and floral excesses with which ornamental accessories unfolded; this no longer applied to architecture, but to the bourgeois universe of objects of Vienna at the turn of the century. The excesses of ornament had started to become an aesthetic epidemic, or a crime committed by the purveyors of that sickly taste.

In this case, the architecture that was later developed under the name of the “modern movement”, of which Loos seemed to be a precursor, was timely because the structural imperative of architrave, construction, and the tectonic game of resistances and materials more virulently betrayed ornament’s status as an accessory, prioritizing the imperative of the structure as form. This basic principle, the structure as form, would become part of the para-scientific inquiry of many of artists in the subsequent decades, and crystallize into one of the most notable aesthetic drives of the 20th century. Nonetheless, sooner or later this programme that made ideology of the vanguard, advocating pure forms, would come up against the other, Dionysian side: an accessory or arbitrary element with which a faction of contemporary art had also been over-elaborated. It is as if the old Dionysian disputes between revolutionary Neoclassicism and the capricious excesses of the royalist rococo had not been completely reconciled.

The survival of this duality in positions found and alternated between artists and groups of artists is, of course, fascinating, as is the way in which it continues to explain certain contemporary behaviours. Nonetheless, in the case of Islamic culture, this dialectic between the ornamental and the essential elements of forms is dissolved under the precept of abolishing figurations as mimetic representations. The prohibition on ‘representing’ human figures and scenes is in any event a decisive phenomenon in the visual culture of a part of the world where, nonetheless, the ornament is not something arbitrary. There, geometry completes the cycle of repetitions that recreates a virtual space superimposed on to the perimeters of vaults, or the surface of the wall section in architecture.

As such, arabesque, whose name clearly reveals its cultural roots, does not so much have a decorative function as one that generates the very space at the heart of architecture. Not many Western artists have stopped off at the rich and profound formal heritage offered up by the Islamic tradition of arabesque; at least, not as many as its potential to reconcile modern dualities would have us believe. Of the few that have, we find Rufo Criado, whose latest series make more sense if we heed his genesis and his development, rooted in an already prominent career. In Rufo Criado’s work, we can trace this dual dimension between randomness and order that serve to fuse forms. Associated from an early stage with the neo-expressionism of the 80s, his work evolves by attempting to draw together, in an increasingly rationalizing manner, the minimal structure of the landscape, its tensions between vertical and horizontal, and the almost obsessive relationship with water reflections. By then, abstract painting had come to express the niche that was this landscape-deconstruction process, such that if there was an original reference point, a photograph or a natural setting, the painting would become a synthetic spatial recreation of what the lines of structural force had drawn out; and in which colour, the structuring part, also had an evident leading role. The journey through his tireless experimental methods broke those pictorial landscapes through into three-dimensional landscapes, collages based on fragments, and multiple and serial works, shaped by his work over past decades.

With this in mind, Rufo Criado’s rendezvous with the images emitted by the vaults of the Mughal temples of Morocco and the mosques of Istanbul almost seems like a natural occurrence. The film on display at the exhibition, in which images of some of these vaults are collected — specifically, from the Blue Mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque, and the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul — reveals the analogies underlying his work.

In this audio-visual support element, which reinforces the dimension of Rufo Criado’s work as a single process with variable outcomes, we find some symptomatic keys. The alternation of images provides the correlation of formal hallmarks, which include his work on digital impressions and build up a unifying framework of the chromatic stimuli that shape his work. Rufo Criado’s latest work probably synthesizes more clearly than ever the combination of movement, echo and reflection of form through his parallelisms in colour variations; that is, through the duplication of structure along a single path where the thread confuses figure and ground. On the Dibond sheets we will see photographic fragments embedded as shreds of reiterative ornamentation where duplication and parallelism are imposed upon one’s viewpoint. The fact that his work on canvas is retouched pictorially with acrylic on digital impressions would be shared in this procedure through which Rufo Criado analyses what we could call the ‘echo of form’.

His attempts appear as a play on the arrangement of the support and its oblique relationship with the other space; that which surrounds the viewer and the work. This accounts for the light boxes that irradiate space, or the edges of his canvases, their thickness, at once a coloured inter-56 stitial space that denotes an unequivocal predisposition towards integration by the object-portrait itself in the milieu of the exhibition. And in the arrangement of the variations and permutations on a series of basic elements, it is necessary to consider these works as part of an entire process whose items we receive word of through a host of exhibitions, which go on offering up episodes from a lengthy career. In this regard, Rufo Criado’s work has been adapting to the land: not just to that which his works chart out, through the strands of a kind of writing, but also to the growing importance of the exhibitive space.

This tenacity that has characterized the figure of Rufo Criado in all facets of his activities is reflected in his work like a liquid that now finds itself, in the contemplative view of the spaces designed by arabesque, with a new volume to flow into. Here, the linguistic signs themselves interweave the writing with the arabesque as a special inscription, in an effect that impresses its implicit messages on the environment. It is as if Rufo Criado’s work, taking up the challenge of combining ornament and structure, is advancing deep into the labyrinth sketched out by arabesque, and he is now reinterpreting his entire career through this prism. The combination of the structure-form project could not exclude the solutions of a concept of ornamentation in which this paradoxically becomes essential.

His set of solutions decants into a continuity that gradually combines the impact of vision and interpretation executed upon different pictorial supports. The view out on to the environment, fragmented and reframing surfaces — as his photographic work testifies — establishes an ongoing dialogue in which the act of producing new images is necessarily located in a world of retinal reflections. As the artist himself stated in conversation with Armando Montesinos: “the concern is, precisely, to control that whole kind of mirage produced by the world of images, that the entire load of colour, reflections, brilliance, and intensities that one sees and the exterior continually receives, that all of this, ultimately, is not only something in which one can easily get lost, something in which one can be gripped or fascinated by the urge to try to respond to the stimulus of the day. I still believe, and still need, all this accumulating of experiences to enable, through distillation, arrival at a kind of work that does not need to be grandiloquent; it may be something very basic, but which contains density or energy and density of thought.”

It concerns, then, sediments of the viewpoint that act as formal echoes. Rufo Criado’s work has situated itself in this middle ground of contemporary art, which must be reconsidered, beyond the old aesthetic categories, as an unresolved search for Western art that he aims at an unadulterated vector passing through his entire artistic career.

© Víctor del Río - Queda terminantemente prohibida la reproducción total o parcial de este texto sin la autorización del autor