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For his exhibition at Madragoa, Rodrigo Hernández presents one large floor installation that entirely occupies the space of the gallery. It consists of a number of thin metal sheets that had been modeled and embossed in order to let appear on their surface parts of a human figure caught in movement, froze in the simple action of walking up a step. A recurring subject of Hernández’s practice, the human figure is also in this case devoid of distinctive traits, salient features, and adjectives that can characterize it: the work depicts a neutral person, the prototype of a man, a simple profile close to how a child would draw it. This silhouette is reminiscent of the living mannequins that inhabit the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà, but also the sculptural theatrical costumes of Fortunato Depero, while the metallic material with which it is shaped evokes a lucent armour, perhaps belonging to an incorporeal knight, or a nonexistent one, to borrow from Italo Calvino. Each metal part is supported and kept in position on the floor by a modular structure made of coloured wood. The partition of the slab recalls the composition grid, a tool for visual space organization, commonly used to maintain the proportions and provide coherence to the whole composition when three-dimensional objects are transferred into bidimensional images or in the passage between two different scales. It also reminds a chessboard or a puzzle, since each piece is mobile: the entire installation has been conceived as a dynamic structure open to different configurations and combinations, a ductility also suggested by its horizontal format. Depending on the arrangement of the modular squares, the depicted subject will be consistent and legible, or it will be fragmented into an abstract mosaic of more or less recognizable elements. In Hernández’s practice, the traditional vocabulary of art media and styles is reworked in a personal syncretism that blends together archaic taste and futurism. The representation of the moving body in the futuristic avant-garde consists in its fragmentation and re-composition, creating a synthesis that includes the effect that the environment exerts on it, conveying also the density of the space in a mutual deformation of body and space. In Hernández’s installation the representation of the moving body gives way to the real action, to a spatial shift that actually disassembles the figure. Between figuration and abstraction, the silhouette on the metal surface is also halfway between a two-dimensional pictorial representation, with its shadows and light areas, and an all-round sculpture, close to a bas-relief, but lying supine. The title of the installation, Plasma, with its various meanings and etymological complexity, reflects the implications inherent in the work. From the Greek word plasma: “creature”, “something molded or created”, which comes from the verb plassein: “to mold or form”, with an Indo-European root meaning “to spread thin”. If in Modern Greek plasma is still used referring to a creature, but only imaginary, in the particular Cypriot dialect it is still commonly employed also to indicate a “person”, in a generic sense. In Greece, however, atom is the word taking this same role; a person, as an atom is essentially individual; that is, structurally indivisible.

Plasma by Rodrigo Hernández
Madragoa, Lisbon
Through September 9

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