When a chair leg becomes a rotor

When a chair leg becomes a rotor

English Version

Raimund Stecker

Suitcases upon suitcases, along with plates, vases, mugs, and bowls, piled up on top of one another, like crowns on top. Rolled up carpets and chairs, packaging material and towels, obvious trash and junk bound together with adhesive tape and brought into balance. Cloths that are tightly stretched over walls covering the standard camping chair for lakeside sunbathers are thus present as a relief. Canvases pulled across frames, upholstered with objects that cannot be clearly identified, that strive against the geometrically secure form of painting. Hard foam trunks stick out straight from the wall or in a slightly bent fashion – evoking a grin.

That each chair and every vase, every suitcase, and every walking stick, every roll of carpeting, every candlestick and every bit of hard foam and every thing in general is a sculpture when it is presented to be looked at from an aesthetic aspect, this is something that no longer requires any emphasis. The fact that often a mere plinth, a cobbled together pedestal, or even just the place of presentation is able to expand this function, making a chair not just a seat, a vase more than a container for flowers, a suitcase more than just a travelling utensil, a walking stick more than just an aid in moving, a rolled up carpet not just a form of transportation, a candlestick not just a decorative item to hold a candle, a bit of hard foam not just rubbish, that a special presentation can make normal things into something else is something that by now more or less everyone has come to understand. That such situations can be very frequently found in sites dedicated to art and are still celebrated is no longer surprising, but a bit tiring.

This is different in the work of Martín Mele. He uses all these everyday functional things and arrives at collages and installations, environments and reliefs, situations and works, simply put, to images and sculptures that solely due to their non-functionality can only be one thing: images and sculptures left solely to aesthetic experience.

And what kind of experience do they provide? The red or gold of two wall works, which consist of stretched pieces of cloth and, due to camping chairs, form reliefs, is overwhelming. The chairs, for example, disappear behind the red surface that seems to float in front of the wall, or better, that seems to float through the chairs in front of the wall.
Things becoming autonomous as an almost purely visual attraction seems to be a constant element in the art of Martín Mele. Things in Martín Mele’s art lose their thing ness, although naming the things used in his works is still a communicative vehicle. The camping chair under the tightly stretched material, however, disappears almost entirely as a camping chair. The outlines that shimmer through prove less important in beholding the work than the scene depicted on an ancient vase. It is a convex golden rectangle, a bit of gold framed in blue, a shining surface reflecting light, a nobly radiant square that due to its being stretched is actually no longer a square and which mounted on the wall, demands an almost visually autonomous presence. The chair which is to the palpably present image only like a scene applied to the ideal form of an ancient vase, which is ultimately only a support of the representation.

Spinning extremities, like propellers, pretend to rotate around a center. A center holds them together. Columns of text from newspaper pages define this center. That the newspaper pages are glued onto things, and that the extremities are the legs and armrests of a chair – if one is not satisfied with the simple naming of things that can be recognized – proves to be secondary. That this is a sculpture that struggles to maintain its balance, that seems to reel and yet clearly stands, bringing the unforeseen dynamic in its statics to illustration that also becomes apparent, without realizing the thing-relations – but no, that only becomes apparent when the thing-references do not stand at the center of our interest.

Martín Mele plays this game. He clearly sees in familiar objects what is also different. He shows simple things, and yet means something complex. He recognizes un questionably abstract values in the concrete. He seems to see the shape of things not solely as thing forms, when he walks through the streets and collects junk, when he uncovers his art material in second-hand shops and flea markets. He recognizes without ambivalence the abstract of shapes and in things. For from the found pieces he uses as the foundation for his sculpture, excessively thingly values emerge, for example, that of the chair which moves behind the image as image, which, stripped of its function, it still helps determine. Like Midas, Martín Mele seems to see sculptures and images where only material is suspected.