Thursday, July 29, 2010


                                                DARIO ROBLETO, The Common Denominator of Existence is Loss, 2008 

Last Monday, the artist Dario Robleto joined us at the home of Nancy and Stanley Singer for a viewing of his new sculpture, installed this past weekend. I was thrilled to be curator this year for the Singer's fantastic collection of contemporary art -- one of the best anywhere. A highlight in the new installation was seeing this Robleto work, which had been on exhibit elsewhere for some time. A few friends joined us for a tour of the hang, and we were treated to comments by Dario, who discussed the concept behind this sculpture. 

Robleto, renowned for his fanatical interest in history and human development, weaves together visual and ideological narratives that expose the effects of war, love, mortality and mythology and how they impact humanity and culture. He is the quintessential  empath, evoking meaning in his art the way a talisman averts evil or produces magic. Like a latter day alchemist, Robleto reorders/reconstructs lives and fates through conceptual themes, and in doing so weaves a powerful and enigmatic tale through which his subjects are resurrected through the artist's eyes. 

Here is an excerpt from his discussion of The Common Denominator of Existence is Loss on Monday, July 26: 

Dario Robleto: "One of the questions I asked myself was: had anyone ever pinpointed the moment in time where the first human-induced extinction occurred -- the first time we crossed that line, which, you could argue, has changed everything. We are now reaching a peak in that process in terms of the level of the extinction rate in the world at the hands of our activities. This piece tried to explore those issues. 

In my research, I found that there's a species of cave bear that is widely considered to be this first extinction. So, what you're looking at here are actual cave bear paw fossils of that particular species. They are lying next to human hand bones. The object they're holding on to (he points to a long braid that looks like a rope of human hair; the skeletal "hands" are holding on to it) -- and this is a common theme in my work -- finding ways to materialize sound; in other words, to use sound as a substance. This braid they're holding is made from audio tape. I'm very interested in sound. I've often used vinyl records. And so, naturally, what the actually recording is, is crucial to my work.

The recording in this piece is another interest of mine -- the history of recording technology. As you know, Edison is given credit for inventing recording technology and is widely considered to have the earliest recordings that you can actually hear. But, there was another inventor working parallel to Edison, Frank Lambert, who is now credited with having the earliest playable recording, predating Edison by just a few months. It's a fascinating story -- I'm very curious about these lost inventors tinkering away in their studios.

We've all lost touch with the fact that in those days, recording technology was seen as a potential a solution to immortality. In Edison's notes, as well as other inventors, they talk about cheating death -- because if they were successful your voice could outlive yourself. In one of Edison's early sketchbooks, he imagined potential markets for recording technology. One of his concept was to place a recording device on the top of a coffin -- it could be marketed to mothers that have lost their children. They could play the recording of their child's voice. Of course in the end, the technology that was used for mass culture turned into something completely different.

But, imagine Frank Lambert -- he's got this machine on his table, and if it works, he feels it can solve the problem of immortality. You have to ask yourself, "What am I going to record?"

What he chose to record is a beautiful, poignant recording of him counting down time: 1:00, 2:00, 3:00. 4:00. That he potentially created a machine that could cheat time and then instinctively began counting it down -- I find that so poignant. The tape here is a transfer of that old recording. I do this process where I heat the tape and slowly pull it into strips. They're literally holding on to time, (the bears and humans) and the fates are side by side these two creatures." DR

Thank you Dario. And enormous thanks to the Singers.                                               JMG


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