Columbian artist Luis Fernando Roldán’s title for his latest suite of drawings at Sicardi Gallery is Sueños [Sleep], which suggests a correspondence between the insistent materiality of paper and more ephemeral dream-state visions. Intimately scaled, his wall-mounted drawings mostly eschew imagistic associations in favor of haptic textures that make you want to caress his works with your hands as much as read them with your eyes. Roldán stitches thread or arranges torn bedding on small paper sheets in works that confirm, question and agitate the basic notion of drawing. Color only rarely intrudes, and when it does occur, it infects his otherwise rigorously planar drawings with spatial implications. In many works, clustered threads are splayed vertically or horizontally, like blades of grass or dry spaghetti noodles spilling out of the package. In others, they are loosely arranged to suggest tangled coordinates mapping an unknowable terrain. Lines structured from torn sheets are starker and more sculptural. Whether shaping an outline or compounding forms within forms, Roldán’s juxtapositions of finished and tattered cloth, and their attendant threads imbue his work with a dynamic variability that evokes the expressiveness of Henri Matisse’s ink drawings.
At its most extreme and interesting, Roldán’s drawing approach becomes sculptural. This is only partially accomplished in his arch of charcoal-gray selvage glued directly onto three of the gallery’s walls, which (unlike some of his other installations) remains resolutely linear and lyrical. It conforms to and so augments and adorns the gallery’s architecture even as it overwrites it, subdividing it into sprawling loops and denser overlaps. On the other hand, three paper, thread and fabric combinations, hung in a row on another wall, posit drawing at the point of decomposition. Each bear the title Testimonios [Testimonials], and like the “disappeared” they reference, they appear to have been spun apart — living things suddenly transformed into dead flesh. Like the “anti-form” artists of the late 1960s, Roldán extends planar thought into dimensionality in these visceral works with an abruptness that conveys both conceptual clarity and the forcefulness of a tantrum, making this a show that every sculptor should see. They suggest that Roldán is fetishizing fabric and thread to extend drawing’s range in much the same way that Alan Saret transformed wire into a new sculptural vocabulary, one capable of evoking “small particles in a vastness, matter and energy transposing.”
Images courtesy Sicardi Gallery
Christopher French is an artist and writer currently living in Houston.