PAINTING ON FIRE: ALBERTO ULLOA WORKS 2004 – 2008
Mariano de Blas Ortega

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The composition of a world based on the marketing of the brand as the supreme value of art, has produced a swing of constant changes, constant new offers of successive artists-brand, where their product, the work, is relegated to the 'event' that culminates in itself, in that its only reason for being is to promote, advertise and, finally, sell, once again, the artist's brand.


This mercantile tumult, this struggle with elbows to highlight, makes the art world resemble a succession of announcements in the television peak hour, where the narration of the content of the work and the narration of the successive works and events, aims to gloss the mark of an artist as a star product and not the other way around, where the work of that artist should be imposed by his expressive force and/or by the quality of his speech to, and only to, take care of giving a name to its author.


The museums, fairs and galleries are similar to those luxury advertisement men, the athletes, whose personal brand carries a string of brands attached to their body and head (hats), which are the ones that defray and sell their sports activities. The place of exhibition and display of the artist's work, the supposed forum where it should be discussed, judged, understood, assimilated and thus form part of the culture's thought, as one more thought about the constructed truths of the world, becomes a market, where every brand shouts its brands, where excellence is in the franchise of those brands and not in the quality of the works that are exposed.

One can arrive at the paradox that a work admired as the "Polish Rider" by Rembrandt or the "Colossus" by Goya, suddenly, because some art historian supposes, correctly or not, that they are not of those authors, automatically, the works lose their economic and visual value, in as much as they are removed from their exhibition. What are we talking about then, the quality of some works or brands? From the value of "use" in terms of what is capable of contributing and creating the work in view, or the value of "change", in so far as it is valued according to the market, that is governed by the brands and a speculation in the value of things under the manipulation of the powerful?

In this panoramic painting and sculpture play a very secondary role. For the strategies described above, the digital gaze, the industrial production of objects (luxury), the ephemeral scenarios of events dramatized and collected (again) through the digital archive, better meet the objectives of "The Society of the Spectacle" (Debord ), the "Drills" (Baudrillard) and the "Hyper Reality" (Eco).

A painting demands an attentive look, a pause , the world to enter the world that the painter is unfolding before our eyes. A painting is always like a book. It is similar to the colored box of the shape of the book, to the glass of Pandora that becomes when we open it and begin to read, again paralyzing our world to lose ourselves in the path of the new one that has come before us, sucking our attention and for that reason our self, the picture makes us cross the threshold of its entrance to introduce us in another spatial universe, where we run with that abstract thought that is the look, as we leave, perhaps for a moment, to narrate with words the constant flow of our life.

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This standing-the-world in front of the work of art could be the closest thing to a sacred act where, it is not that the substance with which the liturgical act is transmuted, but that we, as a thinking substance, transmute ourselves in the new thought of the universe contained in the picture. The wonderful thing about this universe is that it is not univocal, but that it is constructed again and again interactively with each new visitor. The gaze detained first, then abducted, and finally taken by the painting, requires the delivery of attention because there is really only one painting insofar as it is looked at and attended to by someone, as a book only exists as such once it is read.

The most important thing about a painting and a sculpture is that they are the event created with the delivery of those who contemplate it, an event, as has already been said, always different. Thus, its material nature of work (valuable) is actually secondary, and even more secondary to that of authorship, that of the "brand", to put it, to be understood, with the current jargon.

"The Imaginary Museum" by Malraux takes on all its meaning here, where, to a greater reproduction of the work, greater capacity for expression; unlike Benjamin and his theory of the "Aurea" of the work. That is why Bacon was even able to develop his series of potatoes without ever having seen the original. The ability to generate self-absorbed looks of the work can even overcome their own corporeality, although, of course, as Bacon himself recognized, it was even better for him to finally contemplate the Velasquez and his Innocent X at the Doria Gallery in Rome.

Alberto Ulloa shows that the sacralization of the banal can still be fought. His "carnal" conception of the painting is constituted by a cocktail of expressionist outline, where the abstract element of the painting weighs, of formal Picassian iconography where the modern imaginary is transparent and of colorful Caribbean where the "neo fauvism" is something more that a conceptual elucubration forged in the cold Parisian mansards, to be background, tradition and essence of a sensual, corporal, hedonistic and happy culture of his native Santo Domingo.


Ulloa's pictorial work has evolved from the drawings to pictographics, as if he had gone from Ingres to Delacroix. In that aspect there is also a similarity with Picasso. The heads of the eighties of Ulloa put more emphasis on the expressionist form. Gradually in the nineties was decomposed more and more that way, to reach their last works where bulls and heads are assaulted by swarms of colors that break down the thematic motif, so the heads can become "The Ghosts" (2005) or a "Mosquito" (2005). Color emerges as a process in which the artist appears as a possessed one.

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Ulloa contributes the painting on the pictorial support, producing an event of color that expands on the form. It seems as if the evolution of his work started from the shelter of the shape drawn on which to define the color, where it seemed as his rational head was controlling, to a gradual release of an internal fire that manifests itself in an explosion of color, where the shape barely hangs.

That form appears resolved by vigorous strokes that define the motive. For example, in "El Toro de Altamira" (2005) the color is reflected on the surface by means of rectangles of various sizes, including a collage of different materials that add richness to the texture, finally, with an energetic stroke, defining the shape of a vigorous bull. In that gesture the painter seems to dominate the task, as if in dealing, not only with the bull-form, but with the bull-event that is the realization of his painting. There is the immersion of the artist in his work, the loss of his identity, to be possessed by the phenomenon of the gestation of his work.

The work would then be a mere narration of the event, the artist an almost sacred medium of his gestation. This delivery of Ulloa to his work makes it an anti-brand to become a demiurge. A demiurge that recreates what is constantly appearing and disappearing while waiting for another artist to make it appear again. Picasso made appear things that are necessary for another artist to be reborn, even if it is from the warm Caribbean look. A look with which Picasso, without a doubt, would have felt at ease since he was born under the heat of southern Malaga.


The corporeality of the work of Ulloa documents an event of dense intensity, that he is able to recreate in the immersed gaze of the spectator who visits his work, to become an accomplice of his ardor, sucked by a kind of volcano that transports him to a cambalache of fires and shapes maligned by an intense chromaticism , which finally dominates his robust, definitive gesture. But this gesture is not the dominant one of the tamer's whip but the final gesture of the demiurge with which the universe is finally set in motion.

Mariano de Blas Ortega
Ex Assistant Dean of Fine Arts Complutense University of Madrid.
Visiting Professor of 19 European universities, Turkey and Brazil.

Alberto Ulloa paintings courtesy of Phillip Braudy Collection.