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José Antonio Hernández-Díez

Galería Estrany de la Mota, Barcelona, Spain


I am a sucker for fungi. More exactly, it’s the Fly Agaric toadstool with its rich iconographic load – thanks to everything from Kamchatkan Shamanism to The Smurfs – that proves irresistible to my inner mycologist. Accordingly, Ella Sabe (She Knows, all works 2007), the fungi-swathed overture to José Antonio Hernández-Díez’s exhibition ‘Demuéstranos qué es la premura’ (Prove to us what is urgency), promises a potent artistic trip. A sculpture of an outlandishly-proportioned emerald snake heads for a clutch of these smart red-and-white specimens among clusters of other model mushrooms. (Deadly and edible examples are arranged like the didactic displays found in the windows of certain old-world pharmacies). A compound allegory of toxic temptation and precipitate seduction, maybe?

The remaining works in the show seem to exist in a time frame after the snake has bitten and the mushrooms ingested, as if they are figments of a racing, psychoactive imagination. Nine bright pink serpents comprise the frame and forks of a hallucinatory high-tech racing bike in Dinamic Team. Carbon-fibre speed-engineered cycle wheels are mounted on grey stands in 2 Levels and Mí Último 360º, with yellow and red snakes-for-tyres respectively. In the first, two serpents swallow each other in the figure of Ouroboros, the mystical symbol of eternity and self-reference. The form of these bicycle wheel sculptures also unavoidably invokes Duchamp’s notorious 1913 readymade. Yet from the evidence of the eight drawings of Le Genou Claire, as well as Tiken and High Speed Port Lligat — part technical renderings of ball-bearings and lubricant bottles, part architectural sketches from Port Lligat, the site of Salvador Dalí’s house up the coast from Barcelona – it is full-blown, freewheeling, and just plain weird Surrealism that propels the exhibition.

Bearings are of course devices that allow wheels and other powered systems to spin rapidly. Combined with snake-reverence, psychedelic fungi, performance-bicycle fixation, an apparent esteem for the haunt of the Surrealist idol Dalí as well as the water-into-wine miracle of the first Duchampian readymade, Hernández-Díez seems to have hastily assembled all the elements for a dizzy new religion. Revering an interface where the mechanical meets the mystical in the pursuit of ecstatic speed and mental gymnastics, the artist certainly has us chasing our tails in slippery circles.

Max Andrews


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About this review

Published on 01/10/07
by Max Andrews

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