Featured in
Issue 125

Liliana Porter

Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico

BY Jessica Berlanga Taylor in Reviews | 01 SEP 09

Liliana Porter, The Line (detail), 1973, photoengraving, dimensions variable

Liliana Porter’s work exists at a remove from the anxious imagination of much postmodern art, offering hope imbued through objects, photographs, paintings, drawings, installations, graphics and videos. Despite the irony and drama in her productions, the characters in her work appeal directly to a range of emotions and states of mind – love, sadness, fear, anger, elation, humour, contemplativeness, vulnerability and fragility (Reconstruction (Penguin), 2007, for instance, is an endearing installation of a penguin standing on a shelf and behind it a photograph of its shattered self). Using objects collected since the late 1960s – porcelain figurines, plastic soldiers, rubber ducks, watches, candles, dolls and such like – Porter creates sensitive landscapes that suggest appealing questions: what is real and what is virtual? What if everything is a representation of something else? What happens in the space between reality and representation?

Covering 40 years of work by Porter, the Tamayo Museum curators chose time as the guiding theme of the exhibition; its fragmentation and reconnection through invisible lines and energies. The theme puts one in mind of the end of master narratives – history taking off in different directions, opening up the possibility of multiple perspectives, of the present containing past and future. It’s perhaps no surprise that one of Porter’s references is the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, and his themes of time, repetition, labyrinths and the problem of representation. One of the most important pieces included in the show was the photoengraving The Line (1973), hung at the entrance to the show, in which the artist traced a line on her index finger, continuing it onto the surface where her hand rested. She then photographed and engraved the image; a new print was made and hung at the show’s exit. In works such as Geometric Shapes (1973–2008), which feature wooden objects alongside drawings of them, there is no denying the influence of Joseph Kosuth. Untitled (1973), an installation recreated for this show consisting of nails on the floor that connect string to photoengraved nails on the wall, is a good example of how Porter juxtaposes different planes of representation (or different techniques on two-dimensional surfaces) – the real and its double. The figures she places within, on top or on the edge of her large, subtly painted canvases look like tiny giants observing the world’s ongoing cycles. They emphasize distance, and an abyss between actions and intentions.

Jessica Berlanga Taylor is a curator and art critic based in Mexico City. She is currently Chief Curator at Alumnos47 Foundation.