Carlos Aguirre: A Balance of Forces

Debbie O’Rouke

An in-depth reading of Carlos Aguirre’s solo show, A Balance of Forces, at Deleon White Gallery in Toronto (1998):

“All of Aguirre’s artworks were untitled, but the brief list of materials that accompanied each one gave a clue to decipher the piece. When one understood, for instance, that the string bag in the previously described construction was made in Chiapas, Mexico, the reading became very specific. According to the artist, the leaning branch symbolized the land itself, while the bag represented the people who made it. “The struggle in Chiapas is not about Native rights,” Mr. Aguirre said in explanation of this piece. “It is about the land. It is about who controls one of the richest eco-systems on earth.” This kind of conflict is familiar to those which have followed the struggles of First Nations people in Canada. […]

Great corporate and state powers have successfully spent a great deal of time and money enforcing the myth that the interests of any particular group are in opposition to all other groups and to nature itself. Aguirre’s constructs express the complexity of the relationship between nature, human self-determination and power. […]

Each construction in its own way exemplified the dynamism of a living body in its state of taut, repressed energy. Even a resting body is not a static thing but a complex pattern of interacting processes: similarly, it was the balance of tensions that prevented Aguirre’s sculptural works from “decomposing” into their component elements.
The maintenance of civilization is also a balancing act, as the inventiveness and energy stimulated by self-interest struggles against the conservative but necessary concern for the whole. The loss of respect and reciprocity results in economic paralysis and starvation. […]

Mr. Aguirre is a Mexican artist who has won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his installation artwork. His current tour includes a show in Spain and is being promoted by Mexican consulates abroad. […] This exhibition was co-hosted by the Mexican Consulate in Toronto and the Deleon White Gallery, a two-year-old venue with the mandate to foster “arts, culture and ecology”. Ecological art us a burgeoning form that crosses over into activism and spiritualism, but it can also be a contemporary way to practice the time-honored art of romancing landscape. Aguirre’s inclusion of human and aboriginal rights in the ecological question is well placed. […]

Aguirre creates artwork that invites the intelligent viewer to decipher it but does not reduce the experience to the level of an obscure and exclusive parlour game. Reading Aguirre’s work does not require a background in theory and art history, but only an informed and curious mind. […] Aguirre creates wordless statements that employ the dictionary of the body, or Nature, or the media environment in which we struggle to survive and protect one another.”

Debbie O’Rouke, Carlos Aguirre: A Balance of Forces, Article, Espace : Art actuel, no. 26, 1998

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