by Andrea Pollan for Vicente Pascual Cantus
Burton Marinkovich Fine Art, Washington DC, 2005
old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”
ago, during the late 1980s, as the art world was in its heyday presenting
work inspired by Baudrillard’s simulationist theories, I wandered
the New York galleries with artist, friend and critic J.W.
Mahoney. An especially bleak afternoon filled with exhibitions
of unrelenting ironic posturing provoked him to turn to me, pull
at his hair, and cry out, “Can’t artists hear any more
what a sweet music there is playing?”
To hear this inner music and stand by its
plaintive melody, its internal rhythm and its crafted structure
is a resolute act of artistic defiance in a contemporary art world
that is increasingly molded by global markets and fashion world
dynamics. It may be an unhappy disease of our postmodern era that
we anesthetized ourselves to those once cherished poetic ideals.
Indeed it could be argued that universally accepted eternal truths
are now the dissected remains, or sinister sacrificial offerings,
on the operating tables of academic philosophy departments. Artist
Vicente Pascual is one of those lingering iconoclasts who disdains
the novelty of temporal culture and its insistence on constant contextualizing,
with its attendant navel-gazing and bag of aesthetic tricks. The
era that sprung from the post-Industrial age and then morphed into
the post-Information age over the past century may be noted for
its singular obsession with embracing whatever is new. And yet,
in the long run, art is not a race. Even if it were, just remember
the story of the tortoise and the hare.
Mixed media on canvas
Dyptich 56” by 48”
Pascual’s abstract geometric paintings
steadfastly examine universal truths through a lean though subtle
visual language formed of essentialized symbolic forms. Their monastic
presence references Platonic archetypes, although Pascal has brought
them outside of the cave into the arena of an art object. He imposes
an ascetic set of formal parameters on himself that nonetheless
contain a logic and grace as spare yet moving as Gregorian chant.
Part of the strength of these works is that they can signify, like
a maddening mirror, everything and nothing - each with its own unique
lyricism. Deeply versed in metaphysical inquiries, Pascual consciously
negotiates the slippery dance between form and content, the power
of giving visual form to an ineffable concept. From one bias, these
shimmering rectangles on their layered earthen grounds mediate a
Neo-platonic realm between an earthly and an atemporal existence,
owing their theosophist lineage to medieval icon paintings. Another
viewpoint could regard his carefully limned circles as decodable
semaphores for an intellectual concept of the godhead, a nod to
Russian constructivist principles. A formal approach may eschew
all humanist meaning, choosing rather to indulge in symmetry’s
commanding perceptual gestalt.
Pascual has spent many years of his life investigating
the aesthetic motifs of nomadic people, the roots of sacred and
mystical traditions, and the divergent philosophical arguments about
the relationship between man and the divine. For him, these vast
influences have fueled an artistic research resulting in a pictorial
expression that marries physical perception to nonphysical transcendence.
Pascual filters the baking earth of Spanish plains, the somber purity
of Romanesque structures, the mesmerizing tracery of Islamic patterns,
and the linear pictographs of tribal cultures through an alchemical
sensibility, reducing and essentializing this rich brew into art
objects of potent simplicity. One could call these artworks philosopher’s
stones. And just as philosophers’ stones contain hidden secrets
available to those with pure and open hearts, these paintings contain
hidden music available to all who open themselves to hear the dark
Washington DC, 2005
Pollan, independent curator and director of the "Curator's
Office," in Washington DC, has worked for over twenty
years in the visual fine arts. Trained as an art historian
at Yale University, she has curated over ninety exhibitions
for museums and private galleries.
She manages several corporate art collections and has broadened
that focus recently to include several private collections.