Attending to the Difficult: The Works of Luiz D’Orey

Gustavo Prado

New York, 15th February 2016

Let's be frank, to write critically about an artist at the beginning of his career is a challenge. To self-propose the task of conceptually intervening in what is still being tested––and what is yet to be constituted––is an exercise that could be confused with the interest of merely promoting, including commercially, an artist who supposedly has still important stages to achieve. 

Yet, one can question: what if the writer is not himself a critic? What if he does not set out to follow the suppositions that have put critics of the past––such as Clement Greenberg––in the role of evaluating a universal visuality? What if he, who writes, abdicates of the already defunct role of a champion of a Hegelian model? Here, the critic is not only a supporter, but also the prophet of a synthesis that, with his help, is about to be revealed and fulfilled.

Perhaps it is then possible to write and think about a young artist’s work, if the text is constituted as a speech that stands parallel to its own construction, with which one intends to collaborate and to take risks with; in an exercise that claims for itself a poetic autonomy, which is analogous to the works that it refers to. After all, this is an artist's writing. And there is no doubt that artistic ideas and processes should be evaluated and tested, regardless of the experience, of their longevity, or of those who perform them; for those that always triumph or fail are the processes, not their authors.


_Luiz D'Orey’s Painting

Luiz D'Orey is a Brazilian artist based in New York, where he has just finished his studies in Painting at the School of Visual Arts. Luiz has worked as assistant to Brazilian artists Carlos Vergara and Raul Mourão. Like some of the best artists of his generation, he has sufficient technical expertise for solutions in painting that encompass: from the challenges proper to figuration, to the procedural upgrades proposed by artists such as Wade Guyton and Mark Bradford; whether these solutions incorporate inkjet printing as part of the painting, or the peeling of the painting’s surface, revealing older layers of paint.

But to which support does the artist apply that training and technical knowledge? The Tapume (Construction Site Wall) series follows these constitutive steps:

1 - On the way home from his studio, the artist removes billposters that have been wheat-pasted over temporary walls of construction sites. He then applies these posters––which display brands and products––or their remaining pieces, to the canvas. 

2 - The artist photographs the stages of new buildings’ constructions in New York. These buildings are normally located on the way home from his studio at the School of Visual Arts, so that artist is forced to observe their constant changes.

3 - Onto the posters pasted on his canvases, D'Orey uses a collage process that involves the juxtaposition of layers, rips, cuts, and paint, to reveal the resulting geometries from the negative spaces created by the buildings’ structures that are still under construction and that he registered in his photos.

4 - The resulting painting is then photographed again and printed in 1-1 scale, on bond/stock paper for poster, as close as possible to the original colors of the painting.

5 - This print is applied either to the same temporary walls of the building’s construction site from where the images for the painting had been generated, or to the specific walls from where the artist had removed the ads of products and their brands; the print can also be pasted on walls of other construction sites, over which other collages had been made, to provoke new relations or compositions.

6 –The artist photographs the actions these prints suffer, on a daily basis. Then he presents the steps in which the prints are ripped up and, little by little, start to integrate the set of posters already torn up on that construction site’s wall, creating a type of collage.

7 - The final result is named Intervention, in an allusion both to what the print of the painting caused over that surface, as well as to the result of other people’s actions, who will soon start ripping up that print. An interesting detail about this stage is what happens when the print of the painting is covered by fashion ads and happens to be revealed when those are also ripped up. That is, when the painting becomes a background for other collages. 

_ The City and the Painting

Many are the relations between Painting and the City; it may be possible to say that both are born together. However, we can recognize in the ideas of the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre a more precise description of this relationship that we wish to emphasize. According to Lefebvre, every society builds a space, its own space. That is, that all cultures are spatial, that all cultures are expressed spatially in the same way that space is transformed, or constituted by culture. For, it is clear that the Roman culture produced a dramatically different space from the one produced by the Incas; and that it is possible to recognize in the churches of Portugal different features from the towers of London's financial centers.

Therefore it is not possible to imagine that the City could remain unchanged upon the advances of the Painting that it shelters, or that Painting could occur without reflecting the transformations of the life of the City. It is not by chance that the "Painter of Modern Life," described by Baudelaire, is a man of the masses: there is no Modern Painting without the multitude that meets him on the streets and that sees itself reflected in the paintings he makes, hanging on the salons’ galleries; whether these are the salons of those who have been rejected or not.

It is this meeting place, between Audience and Painting, between Society and Culture, and between City and Art, that serves as background for Luiz D'Orey’s processes. His paintings are the result of the accelerated occupation of the public space by private interest––so characteristic of the growth of urban centers and of the multiplication of the megalopolis phenomenon, in which the effort to follow or to seek representation of the vertical ascent of the City seems an impossible task, due to the rhythm and the time that Painting demands. More than attempting to match that speed, the artist seems to record the collision between these two times and the fragments and the leftovers of this collision. What is depicted in his paintings are actually skeletons, as uniform as they are banal, given the widespread use of prefabricated materials and the high efficiency in constructions in American cities. This rhythm is comparable only to the production and replacement of ads that fill in a large part of the visual field of these urban centers. His paintings seem to be thrown into these gears, as if they were testing the maintenance of a language and its apparent deficiency in dealing with a new model of the City.

_ The Work of Art in the Era of its Reproducibility

Another factor that seems to be decisive in D’Orey’s initial achievements is the use of the appropriation of industrially produced images, even if outside the Art context, as in the case of billposters, or in the reapplication of his Paintings’ reproductions. Out of the Art context, and when applied on the plywood walls of constructions sites, these reproductions dispute space with the same posters and announcements that they depict. Soon after, this application is reintegrated into the art field through the photographic record of both the collage and the changes pedestrians made. This result will then be displayed, almost like a performance’s record, in a vertiginous circular chain reaction between what is inside and what is outside the Art field.


This performative character stands out thanks to the fact that the recording of the steps through which that impression went through seems more important than the visual result of these steps––given that the artist chooses not to paint the result, but to exhibit it as a photographic series. There is undoubtedly a greater emphasis on the process, and its conceptual developments, than on trying to control the production of a ready and finished image.


_ Participation
Even in Brazil, most works of the 1960s and 1970s were devoted to the idea of transforming the role of the spectator into an active observer. This idea, which has remained to this day, engendered what the critic Hal Foster has so well described as the "economy of experience" and its exploitation in so many museums throughout the world.

In the work of authors such as Nicolas Bourriaud, Jacques Rancière, and the late Roland Barthes, the participatory roles of readers and spectators are described in order to overcome this dichotomy. For these authors, spectators are part of the work's constitution for they bring a wide field of experiences and memories that become capable of significantly transforming, not only the interpretation of the work, but also the stages of its foundation. The work would only be complete in the contact with the viewer. According to Bourriaud, if the realization of new works contains principles analogous to the stages of post-production in music and cinema––with the introduction of sound and visual effects over already recorded and filmed contents––also in Art it becomes necessary to share certain repertoires with the audience, so that both work and audience become efficiently recombined and reintroduced. Without a common memory, the process of certain works is not complete. This phenomenon leads some more recent authors to introduce the idea of meta-modernity, as a substitute for the notion of postmodernity.

Nonetheless, Luiz D'Orey’s processes that rely on others’ participations have an ambiguous character. And the resistance here in using the term spectators is caused precisely by the fact that during the stage of the collage onto plywood walls the pedestrians who rip up the artist’s prints do not always play such a role; but perhaps these passersby play the part of anti-spectators, of someone who refuses to enjoy the work, or who is capable of opposing its recognition as such. And this is one of the most interesting aspects of the experiment proposed by the artist.

For, the mere image reproduced from the painting––and outside the context of the exhibition space or without identification, thus not complemented by the author's name––invites those who understand that this image disputes a space with commercial content, to tear it up. In this sense, the artist has a prior understanding, or prejudgment, in relation to those who have contact with this image. He relies on the fact that pedestrians will prioritize their interest to occupy the attention of potential clients over the effort of appreciating an artwork. In other words, D'Orey offers the image to be sacrificed, to be corrupted by those who have direct contact with it.

The pedestrians who rip up the work fall into the trap of being included in the artist's process. Even if they do not identify and acknowledge that they will become part of the work, they are involuntarily included in it, and their actions, no matter how anti-aesthetic they may seem, are in fact a process that alters their own status and function. It is as if the artist, aware of the difficulty of disputing the pedestrians' attention in the midst of city’s rhythm, would prefer, instead of transforming them into active observers, only to incorporate them into the work’s processes by appropriating their gestures, even if these are petty gestures, or a refusal. There is, within the anticipation of this intervention’s rejection, something quite interesting and original. 

_ Conclusion

What remains of this initial step of the experiment proposed by Luiz D'Orey is first of all, a set of questions about the art field, which the artist will answer after his graduation. That is, questions about the status of painting and about the possibility of its insertion outside the field predetermined by the Museum and the Gallery. Questions also remain about the possibility of the representation of reality, even if this reality is represented through the strategy of recording and monitoring the pace of its own transformation, rather than the exercise of representing an image that is capable of being recognized as current. The effort is to observe the impermanent character of this very actuality and to address a set of questions about what separates the art world from its outside; or questions about what shapes the status of those who are able to recognize art, in contrast to those who are not.

Secondly, it seems that more than working in painting or in photography; we are facing an experimentation with strong relations within the fields of performance and conceptual art. And, that this experimentation makes use of these means to obtain the results or the reactions felt by the artist. In that sense, this series of works could be presented as an installation, in which painting, printed reproduction, and the photographs of the steps of pasting on and removing the prints off the temporary walls could be presented together. And where each painting would have to go through the same stages and be accompanied by the same unfoldings, instead of presenting Tapumes and Intervention separately.


_The Difficult
And finally, here it is, more than a vote of trust, a confirmation that Luiz D'Orey seems to follow Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice, so well described in the timely Letters to a Young Poet. He says: "Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult." So be it. 


Translation: Tatiane Schilaro