by Sergio Gomez
It was a cold Winter in 2012 when Ernesto Marenco presented his last solo exhibition in the United States at 33 Contemporary Gallery. That is until now, December 2018, where this side of the border got the opportunity once again to experience the objects of Mexican-born artist Ernesto Marenco. His exhibition The True History of the Objects opened at Gray Contemporary Art Gallery on December 1st. The exhibition runs from December 1, 2018 to January 12, 2019.
But his six-year absence of solo exhibitions in the Unites States was not a permanent departure. It was a parenthesis in his complex and dedicated art practice. While we waited, Marenco has been making new work in his Houston studio while exhibiting internationally. His solo show, which can be considered a retrospective exhibition presented at Gray Contemporary was the focus of a traveling show at two important Mexican Museums in 2018 and continues its itinerary to other international venues in 2019.
For Ernesto, time is a “gift” and one he cherishes with those he chooses to engage with. The True History of the Objects exhibition curated by Mel DeWees reminds us how the passing of time takes its toll on us and the objects we leave behind. They tell our “truth” and, in the eyes of Marenco, truth evoques its own meaning.
I find it appropriate to share in this platform the text I wrote for him six years ago. These words are still adequate for an artist whose long trajectory never stops giving us an honest opinion of the world in which we live. Often confronting us with humor, sarcasm, and wonder.
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There are ordinary objects and there are those whose ordinarily no longer lingers in the intriguing mind of Ernesto Marenco. The otherwise ordinary becomes extraordinary as it exists in direct conflict with the history of its origin and purpose. In a sense, the ordinary object is at war and the perpretator confronts its victim with all his force. In a battlefield of meaning and identity Marenco constructs a new reality. This new reality sometimes confronts and challenges the viewer with absurdity, tragedy, comedy or sarcasm.
This direct approach to artmaking finds historical reference in the works of Duchamp, Dada and Surrealism. Marenco triumphs in his pursue for visual poetry through the modern object by exploring our multifaceted humanity. The mystery of the object and its reinvented reality often causes us to question our own truth. It is as if the sociological complexities of our perceptual world suddenly take upon themselves to acquire a new identity and a new role.
Marenco plays not only with the object itself but many times with the meaning of the word that gives name to the common object. Often, the title of the work which is carefully crafted adds another layer of interpretation and metaphor. We find, therefore, a complex system of interpretation based on verbal and visual associations with the object at hand. These associations also exist and interplay within the socio-cultural context of the object and its purpose.
For example, the small chair titled “Timeout” relates to the common practice in American culture to place a child in a chair as a punishment for his or her inappropriate behavior. Under Marenco’s intervention, the timeout chair becomes a black chair with nails. At first glance, it appears to be a chair of the medieval inquisition period.
With works like this, Marenco intervenes with the physical object and also transcends beyond such object through his commentaries on the social and psychological structures of our modern culture and behaviors. His works therefore, question, challenge and interrogate one’s reason. As a result, is the object the one being intervened or is it our own social and political structure?
It is in the objects he chooses to intervene that Marenco captures our imagination. In Ernesto Marenco’s work, the ordinary object has found its poetic side.