The exhibition entitled Ablandando Hasta el Agua (Softening Even Water) by artist Isabel Cisneros (Caracas, 1962) opened to the public from June 9 to July 7 of this year at the Galería D’Museo in Caracas. It was a remarkable exhibition because of the unusual quality achieved with the fabrics used to render the soft sculptures. Indeed, these pieces are the result of a process of investigation and experimentation with materials that has been pursued by Cisneros throughout her artist trajectory.
A ceramist by trade, her earlier projects consisted on assembling small monochrome clay pieces that, as the units that made the whole, conferred great plasticity to her work. By using these clay pieces or other ones developed later with mundane small objects—like buttons, beads, glass beads, etc.—she is able to obtain similar results: the creation of malleable objects that resemble living organisms of a hybrid nature. By mastering the assembly of a variety of materials that small in size permits Cisneros to create flexible, “modifiable,” pieces that alter the traditional concept of the sculptural “mass.” The forms by Isabel Cisneros are intended to be manipulated by the viewers. The result is a unique and diverse piece that responds to the aesthetic criteria conferred to them by the artist.
Both in her earlier works, and now in her most recent proposals, Cisneros bends and “spins” several elements to create forms. Ultimately, it is about generating volumes with a criterion that follows the processes usually associated with textiles. In earlier projects Cisneros “sewed” the small ceramic pieces with steel or nylon thread to create the organic-like forms that define her style. On this occasion, she works with entire fabrics—a single piece—to establish a relationship between the resulting matter-form with the softening of hard water (desalination or decompensation).
During the process of creating this works Cisneros discovered new formal possibilities offered by the material, as she was able to take advantage of textures, shines, patterns and colors. According to the artist “The more I manipulated these fabrics, the more surprised I became about their thickness, textures and colors. Each fabric could be folded to create density, or spread to underscore its lightness, or be twisted on itself. And those are the backstitches that sew my unstoppable desire to touch fabrics and the incomprehensible geometries that live in my head.” By taking advantage of the fabrics’ colors, patterns, textures, densities, transparencies, shines and opacities, the artist was able to create a variety of forms that stood out because of the particular characteristics that each piece of cloth offered. The creases and the soft forms result from Cisnero’s approach to compose the work as if it were a painting; that is, by maintaining a pictorial approach to the rendering of color and, of course, by sensing volume without the need to sculpt it. Her chosen approach is emotional and sensual, as they ultimately are strongly sensorial pieces that, on the one hand, sharpen the sense of sight—through the shine, textures and colors of the fabric—and, on the other, because they highly corporeal tactile works and, thus, malleable.
But aside from the forms, there is the ludic nature of the work that emerges from an understanding of the material’s attributes. Such understanding is manifested in forms that allude to other realities expressed though the typology of the fabrics and the manner in which the creases are done. This results in pieces like Corroncho (Catfish, 2013), a brownish-gray fish from the family of the ray-finned fish suggested in a brown moiré taffeta fabric; Cocodrilo(Crocodile, 2013) a piece that—created with the same type of fabric but blue instead of brown—appears to be dozing over a surface; Palmeros (2013), in which the “branches” emerge from a handful of zippers sewn with cotton; or Alcantárea (2013), in the assembly of pieces made with 3D mesh—a translucent material used in the fabrication of sport shoes—resulted in a sort bromelia of particular beauty because of its color, Nonetheless, the relationships between these forms and certain elements of nature are not premeditated. The original concept at the beginning of the execution of the pieces is abstract, given that Cisneros has no preconceived images to work with. If the results permit, the material offers a guide to establish associations,
Other referents that appear are those that are already part of the history of art: two assemblies in blue and green Lycra that hang like “dripping bodies” on the wall (Munch, 2013), are reminiscent of the languid and desperate figure from the series The Scream (1893), by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch; or, the integration of white and black tulles in Graffito (Grafito. 2013), creates a chiaroscuro-like effect precisely because of its translucency. These associations are generated by the resulting forms and by the inherent visual attributes of the materials.
Ablandando hasta el agua is, to a certain extent, an interactive experience, not solely because of the mutable nature of the pieces, but also because they trigger the imagination of viewers and new ideas.