We should start by pointing out that from the port of Buenos Aires, the Andes Mountain Range cannot be seen. This is not a provocation, far from it, on the contrary, it is just a statement of fact. The fact of that pregnant presence, which evidently has repercussions in the work procedures and in that which inspires as an unavoidable reference in the daily life of any creator. That mountain range permeates the current production since the construction of our republican reality, containing a key moment in the reception of certain abstraction linked to two traditions: the pre-Hispanic and the European, converging in what Victor Raul Haya de la Torre would call Latin American "historical space-time", particularly the 1930s and 1940s of the last century.
What I am trying to do is to distinguish singularities in the accounts of this process on the history of abstraction on one side of the mountain range and on the other. While in Buenos Aires, the concrete invention (abstraction's main line) was received, assimilated and expanded as a heroic creation, in the valley of Santiago other problems unfolded that configured, since the mid-twentieth century, the cliques with which the history of art in Chile has been read, a dilemma summarized as follows: whether to welcome with open arms international abstraction as a trend, or figuration in its contenidist and edifying proposal (according to a more or less democratic political project) but, above all, socially committed. With the Chilean artistic groups "Rectángulo" first, and "Forma y espacio" later, there was a confluence of the leftist political discourse and the procedures of abstract art, particularly in its textual and even iconographic references to that pre-Hispanic past; the truth is that there was an ideological tendency to annul it, giving precedence to a figuration that supposedly carried a certain critical aspect. This narrative made abstract art traditional and, therefore, conservative, while the works that preponderate the body, even filling it with signs, cryptograms and codes, ended up being hegemonic.
All of this is to say that the exhibition DONDE ESTÁN PUESTOS NUESTROS OJOS was conceived to be unveiled for the first time in Buenos Aires, intellectually linking, through the work of Benjamin Ossa, two histories of abstract art that developed in diametrically different ways; one unprejudiced and boisterous, typical of the port condition of this city and the other polemic -or rather, polemicized- besides being subjected to an overwhelming natural reference.
Now, both traditions of abstract art discursively appeal to geometry, light and color; in synthesis, to the perception of natural phenomena, something that has been successively linked to Ossa's production. I agree with this linkage, however, there are a series of personal considerations of a specific context that operate here. A universe of people who respond to the artist's intimacy, not only because of the recent conditions that have caused us to coexist with our closest circles, but also because of how these works have been configured.
A gift given to him by his friend and editor Jorge Losse, more than ten years ago, was the first slide with which Ossa worked. That minox slide was in latency, enduring the years until, during the change of scale that we are living, the reduction of our labor and social spaces, caused it to reappear now in a new context, capable of extending and traveling. Somehow the slides were the first transportable image files, which in their containment stored thick materialities of information and definition, reaching the category of noisy or primitive image. Jorge's father, knowing that he had begun to experiment with this object and its possibilities, gave him the German Minox 3001 projector. The filters or colors used also have their history: the French Cokin gelatins belonging to his father were the material with which he composed these "microforms of color", permeating the rest of the pieces, soaked in atomized colors and images of months that overlapped until they formed what we observe today.
This is an exhibition where other people and their relationship with the artist are present, something I want to make explicit in this writing exercise, but which is also related to Benjamin's previous production, such as Murmullos de amor, which he built with and from the surroundings of an underpass in the city of Santiago, and the name of the work was given by the neighbors of the neighborhood; or his most recent exhibition in the Chilean capital, Letras, frutas y flores, which was a tribute to his family. However, those same ideas now change scale: without a fixed address, they are landscapes of cities of the global south that make dialogue precisely the southernmost capitals of the world, which can keep the definition of the colors in their plates or can project and become imperceptible planes in the total opening of the lens and with the greatest possible distance.
The landscapes in ALLÍ (10 SLIDES) projected by Ossa have the singularity of being different views depending on the light, the environment and the bodies of those who appear before the work; it is never the same after the click of the image change. Thus we are, in plastic terms, before an endless and subtly different work in its color scale that vibrates in the light. On the other hand, in the work HERE (36 SLIDES), which contains a series of small slides, organized in a light surface that explodes and that, like a totemic object but folded and contained, plays with the scale and calls us to dive into the colors, reserving for itself the possibility of giving us the projection of a luminous image.
Color is fundamental in this exhibition, as in visual aesthetic experiences in general. The prominent French art historian Daniel Arasse wrote about one of his favorite painters, Matisse, and about that which shocks us when we are before a work of art (about the primal nature of that shudder), color: "It is, therefore, the first type of emotion that painting can procure, a surprise that, as far as I am concerned, is a colorist visual shock. It is the color that touches me and calls me" . Thus, before form, this has been the seductive technique used by the creators to attract the attention of those who look at these objects full of mystery, before any explanation or discourse; it is not superfluous to point out that Ossa's disciplinary formation is, precisely, painting.
Benjamín Ossa, therefore, gives us from the image in AQUÍ (36 SLIDES), as in the color projection of ALLÍ (10 SLIDES), landscapes that can refer to natural or urban environments, but almost always with the mountain range as a backdrop. A monumental geographical accident, and so forceful in its presence that it cuts the sun's rays and delays the dawn. Delving into the pieces, we are before visual and reflexive processes of long trajectory, both in this author and in the regional artistic literature that must rethink its links with natural environments. Thus the orange or yellow planes, in their geometric relationships with other colors, remind us of dawn and dusk, but from a dual scale with warm, warm, soft or velvety tones, like a sixties spy movie or a Saint Laurent scarf.
Returning to the mountain range, we know that its shape is indeed rugged, but representationally triangular (CLIMB). This is a premise for the work AHÍ, a sort of extended body of the exhibition, a welcome and farewell for viewers to interact and cross the gallery space from end to end and that, at the same time, unveils the perceptive meaning of color and form, which in Latin America has its most notable exponents in Venezuelan and Argentinean kinetic art (Soto, Diez and Le Parc, especially in its earliest period). A work that, as a good debtor of this Latin American tradition, challenges the viewer to move, circulate, contemplate, not from a passive situation, but on the contrary, reflective. Understanding that commitment has consequences.
Both the lateral mountain ranges that we see on the walls, as well as the landscapes of color and light that are projected or emerge from the base, are undoubtedly perceptual experiences typical of the formalist and abstract tradition of modern art. However, they appeal to an individual experience in a collectivity that, today more than ever, must be compensated. To appeal to that subjectivity of the spectator is necessarily to think of a present time that has radically united us with the others, something that is in Ossa's work, something that not only appears in what can be seen in the exhibition hall, but also when thinking of his links, which as allegories of another time appear as solidified bodies ready to continue the journey.
Both the works of Benjamín Ossa and this text that accompanies them are a call to reflect on the experiences that cross humanity in general -in our daily context and also in the international reality- and, therefore, to fill with humanism a usual vibrant, energetic, finally alive and expressing materiality.