Review: When a wall is more than a wall: Cayetano Ferrer and the fabrication of history
When Cecilia Gimenez “restored” a century-old fresco of Jesus in a church in Borja, Spain, in 2012, the ham-fisted, simian-looking result became the laughingstock of the internet. In the light of Cayetano Ferrer’s current exhibition at Commonwealth and Council, we might see it now as a simple act of extrapolation.
Ferrer’s sculptures take architectural fragments and make them whole by filling in the missing parts. In the process, he emphasizes the creative acts of projection and imagination that accompany any act of restoration.
“Infill Loop” is a large, decorative frame that lies on the floor of the main gallery. Circular on the inside and roughly square on its outer edges, the piece began with a single marble fragment of unknown origin. Ferrer then completed the loop with similar pieces in wax, resin, plaster and glyco-gelatin, a combination of glycerin and gelatin commonly used in medical suppositories. Each is a different color and texture; Ferrer makes no attempt to conceal his patchwork. Whether this configuration is what the creator of the marble piece had in mind is impossible to say. The work is both moored in history and an utter fabrication.
Ferrer has done something similar to the damaged ceiling in the gallery itself, filling in its unfinished sections with shards of frosted Plexiglas backed by LED lights. The glow from above serves as a ghostly reminder of what’s been lost.
The highlight of the show is in the next room. “Gates of Hell Movie Set (1:5 scale)” is a pale, freestanding wall with a small door cut in the center. Dramatically lighted in red, its surface is a relief of decorative motifs, jumbled together in a writhing, undulating mass. As it turns out, the designs come from the Warner Bros.’ production shop. The piece is a palimpsest of movie-set architecture: fragments from the ultimate imagined space. No one does dramatic reenactment (or revisionism) more convincingly and less faithfully than Hollywood.
The piece also clearly refers to 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s “Gates of Hell,” an enormous masterwork depicting scenes of torment perched on enormous double doors. Never fully realized until after the sculptor’s death, “Gates of Hell” was exhibited only in fragments during his lifetime.
History is rarely delivered to us whole and intact. Memory is selective and partial. Details, important or not, get lost along the way. Ferrer’s sculptures offer a melancholy bridge across these inevitable gaps, reminding us of what’s missing even as they fill in the empty space. The past is always a product of what’s imaginable in the present.
Commonwealth and Council, 3006 W. 7th St., Suite 220, L.A., Wednesdays-Saturdays, through April 27. (213) 703-9077, commonwealthandcouncil.com
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