Carlos Amorales’ Vertical Earthquake is about halfway through its run at the Annet Gelink Gallery this week. Amorales’ meticulous line drawings referencing Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake – which the artist personally experienced as a teenager – were perhaps my favorite works that I saw this opening month. If Amsterdam readers have not already stopped into Annet Gelink this season, I highly recommend the visit.
Amorales uses a personal methodology (literally) revolving around ten zigzagging rulers to create his latest installment of wall drawings, a medium typical for the artist. Each ruler hangs from a central nail from which hundreds of pencil lines tracing its angular contours radiate. The half and three-quarter circles that grow out from the multiple epicenters are extremely arresting; they are quiet, but straddle the hidden fault lines of anxiety and chaos. Dense circles form where lines overlap in the folds of the rulers, like dark corners where fears and secrets hide. They look like radial seismometer readings; the dilution of lines moving out from the center function like the lingering aftershocks of disaster on the artist’s psyche.
The rulers’ jagged shapes are not seismological, though you’d be forgiven for thinking they were. Instead they derive from archival photographs of the earthquake’s devastation, following the contours of crumbled buildings. Their irregular measurements also lend form to the lines drawn across the pages of newspapers resting on a table in the center of the gallery. Vertical Earthquake addresses not only the natural disaster, but also the social one that followed. In addition to the archival images from which the ruler lines derive, the newspapers, which were fabricated and edited by the artist, contain classic anarchist texts.
The subtle yet dramatic drawings are almost like a prequel to the rest of Amorales’ work. The anxiety and fear invoked in earlier work is still present, though it is almost as though it’s being contained, neatly, in the thin pencil lines and irregular circles. We’ve gone back in time, to the origins of the artist’s, and perhaps our own, terrors. The fragmentation in Amorales’ work spirals back into the centers of these drawings. An earthquake’s vectors are not linear: they are horizontal and vertical, radial and temporal. They alter landscapes and influence politics; they transform buildings and shape minds.
~ Andrea Alessi, a writer from the Netherlands
(Images: Carlos Amorales, Discarded Spider , 2008, One channel video projection ,16mm black and white film transfered to video no sound, Duration 5'28''; Vertical Earthquake ,2010,1 ruler, pencil wall drawing,app. 300 x 300 cm; Vertical Earthquake , 2010 ,10 rulers, pencil wall drawings, newspapers , variable dimensions; Germinal , 2010 , Silkscreen on paper, graphite, paint , 56 x 37,5 cm, 34 pages; Courtesy of the Artist and Annet Gelink Gallery/ Photographs: Ilya Rabinovich)