Gonzalo Lebrija: Smoke in the Night Sky
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Gonzalo Lebrija is one of Mexico's most renowned contemporary artists. Across a connective thematic thread examining the porous borders between life and death, dreams and phenomena, mind and body, eye and spirit, Lebrija practices in a fluid continuum of materials including but not limited to painting, sculpture and video — examples of all of which will be on view at his exhibition opening this weekend at Kohn Gallery in Hollywood.
New large-scale oil on linen paintings explore his origami-like visual language of diaphanous formal abstraction. The Veladura Nocturna (or “Veil of Night”) suite from 2018, each of which measures about 94 x 72 inches, articulates serial variations on a central idea of structure — built of translucent color fields, each an exercise in crisp geometry, layered and stacked in such a way as to evoke not only folded paper but delicate projects of light and the suggestion of space.
Arguably at least in part an outgrowth of his presence in Guadalajara and the exposure to that city’s artistic taste for mystical architectonics, the surfaces of the paintings amplify the cathedral-like effect of the compositions, because of how color is absorbed and diffused. A kind of liminal luminosity prompts a state of mind that, timeless for one moment, achieves the work’s more esoteric goals.
Turning a side gallery room into a cheeky and reductive shrine to arena spectacle and religious ceremony, a sculpture of a monumental Bic lighter references the eternal-flame motif. Nearby, a video installation, Via Láctea (The Milky Way), which is concurrently on view at Mexico City's Museo Rufino Tamayo, enacts a poetic exploration of the abstract sensuality and problematic cultural politics of tobacco smoking in literary and cinematic contexts.