for the show The fear of opening the eye of my father taking a nap, 2009
“An ecosystem of dwarfs and collisions,” says Mariana, venturing to put into words the almost seven-meter long painting on which she has been working for a few months. It doesn’t matter that it’s not finished and does not yet have a title: even now, in process, it’s powerful. The faces of the dwarfs that have already been painted are inescapable, gripping. From the beginning, the pieces of smashed cars around them make you feel that it will be hard to forget this image. There is something deformed here, maybe not in the appearance of the figures but in the structure of the painting. In its unusual composition, in the shifts in scale, in the sudden variations in style, in the so audaciously connected planes. The underlying theme is disturbing, as are formal questions like the motley that invades the canvas and, in that overpopulated context, the detail of the light, lily-white clouds that place the scene and its players outdoors.
Like Mari Bárbola, the hydrocephalic courtesan that looks directly into our eyes in Las Meninas, several of the characters cited /copied /grafted by Mariana López look straight at those standing before the mural. And that's by no mean insignificant: an entire tradition of the history of painting is reaffirmed in the pact between those who look and those who are looked at. The dwarfs laugh, pose, look at the camera and, like a model, attend to the needs of the painting. But they are not models; they are fragments of other paintings, Internet porn actors, the real and fictitious bodybuilders and buffoons of yesterday and today. Some are fair, others darker and others red headed. And this range of characters from different backgrounds brought together by the artist for this bizarre postcard taken in the heat of unhinged pieces of iron have all come this far.
The large-format painting that seizes our eyes affirms Mariana’s desperation, her impulse not to leave anything blank. Although it might be tempting, it’s not overly productive to think in terms of horror vacui. Though her baroque style does allude to Goya and Velázquez, Mariana’s procedure is not bound to a certain school but rather to a backpack full of personal myths constructed in relation to a material, in this case oil paint. “When I use oil paint, I can’t leave anything blank,” she says, categorically. “Oil paint always goes for more.” Or, “With oil paint, flatness doesn’t say a thing, that’s why I try to create depth.” And finally, “I don’t know, I guess I have to learn to paint.” Not trying to be funny, she says she paints this way –monstrously – because she has not mastered the technique.
Mariana does not work from sketches. She starts with one figure and then fills the canvas with that figure or other elements until there is no blank space. In this specific painting, a handful of dwarfs – filling in spaces and attempting to cover up different planes – suddenly appeared from behind and above, stretching out their left arms as if in a musical comedy. Their gesture is endearing, happy; indeed, despite its intrinsic violence, the whole painting is festive. Maybe that's why it contrasts so with that other painting, the one with the knots: the dwarfs and the collisions are oppressive, but they have a touch of humor (that Lilliputian chorus, or those sheep that have nothing to do with anything). Not the knots. All the knots have is themselves; a few colors, an endless number of interlinked twists and turns, lights and shadows. Terrifying.
Significantly, Maricel is going to be in the next room. Maricel has another speed, another mindset, another willingness to experiment. It’s a name discovered walking past a shop window in Once rendered subject for a painting on the basis of the thematic freedom and expressiveness that Mariana says she gets when working with acrylic, as opposed to oil. Maricel is the title of the painting where Maricel is written in little stars, a painting-lighthouse of a group of small-format and indolent works in which the artist allows herself to be more abstract and give into the pure joy of color, offering her the possibility, then, to be split into different poetics. In the context of an exhibition presided over by an giant coven of dwarfs and car crashes, Maricel is the leader of the young band that shows up with guitar and starts playing, anointed with the responsibility befitting the warm-up act before the big star comes on. Fresher, Maricel accompanies and complements. Regardless of the glory destined for the leading act, there will always be some people in the audience who go home captivated by her.