Mario Garcia Torres

Some Stories That Went Missing, Others That I Belong To, And A Few Studio Works


In two parallel solo shows, Tris Vonna-Michell (born 1982, lives and works in London and Berlin) and Mario Garcia Torres (born 1975, lives and works in Los Angeles) present art works that all circle in their specific idiosyncratic manner around issues like story-telling, narratives and history including also the interface between fiction and reality.

Both artists' works thus consider avenues how histories are transmitted, what facts and artefacts serve the validity of specific narratives and above all what role the individual – with emotions and intellect – takes up in the reproduction and absorption of history.

Tris Vonna-Michell's speech performances and his heterogeneous visual materials are accelerations of an ongoing process of historiography; probably it is precisely their obsessive absurdities that point to how hidden secrets can be elicited from history. By contrast Mario Garcia Torres, by means of deliberate repetition, tests the essence of the production of reality and historical facts in art. His work originates in so-called subjective artistic positing; by means of poetic figures, it debates the relation between objectivity and subjectivity as well as social productivity and factual non-productivity in the creation of a collective history.

Mario Garcia Torres' works are imbued by history and the histories of art, which he takes as factual raw material for new narrations, giving famous art works other potential twists. In so doing, he deploys art's 'classic' distinctive stylistic markers: conceptual strategies that connect word and image, painting, photography, film, video, performance and installation.

The piece Transparencies of the Non-Act (2007) revolves around the conceptual artist Oscar Neuestern, whose work strives towards inaction, the absence of the artefact and the absolute, which, however, fails in its poetic and radical forms, as historiography cannot refrain from retrieving facts and the evidence of its artistic existence and significance. Like Neuestern, Mario Garcia Torres provides "facts" of artistic activity and verifiable production: In an ongoing sequence of letters written to a collector in hotel rooms, he promised to attend to his work "well" (I promise, from 2004 onwards). Like Bruce Nauman inscribing his name on the moon in neon, he has his signature engraved in outer space by a flying saucer in a video work; reminiscent of the umpteen concept lists of artists' trivial activities, he ranges notes by Mexican ceramicists on tiles amongst the historiography of conceptual art (Ceramico Suro, from 2008 onwards). He notices the absence and the retrieval of some of Ed Ruscha's works (This Painting is Missing / This Painting Has Been Found, from 2006 onwards) and carries a picture slide in his pocket in order to arbitrarily produce images (A Pocket Scratching Piece, 2008), or alternately relates film and art history in the superimposition of titles and performative acts (Shot of Grace [With Alighiero Boetti Hair Style], 2004).

Mario Gracia Torres' works hence reassess history and channel our attention towards the mostly "covert" elements of historiography. Mostly surrounded by myths of artists over the past decades, remembrance is revised on the one hand, on the other entombed lore is transferred into a poetics of the marginal and the vanished.

In this sense, Mario Garcia Torres pinpoints the fragility of social production of both knowledge and reality. He inserts the modules and models of the productive in order to investigate the vanished or the no-longer-to-be-found, the absence and presence of the subject in the interplay of fact and fiction. In performative scenarios he asks questions of how factual history is made real and what fictions are indistinguishable from it. What is true? What is missing? What is present? What is promised? What is chronicled?

Kunsthalle Zürich thanks: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, Luma Stiftung