Goya, and the artists above, stand fast in their self-imposed role as witnesses to society, documenting what they see, what they encounter, and insisting that we, the audience, join them in taking on the identity of a witness, accept what is being shown to us, and hopefully become the entities of change and awareness.
Artists Aurora Molina, German Molina, Natalia Schonowski, Violeta Caldrés, Jac Lahav and Luis Alfonzo Salvador, in the next CAMP gallery exhibition - Caprices, a Contemporary Homage to Goya, all draw from the foundation of the original Caprichios of Fransisco Lucientes Y Goya and like the original concept draw attention to the inherent folly in society, whether that folly be a direct interpretation of a piece, or our reaction to what we encounter as other. The original pieces by Goya were etchings simply because the artist found that a line would be the ideal means of expression, but because no one in Spain, at the time was creating etchings, Goya had to look to some artists that he admired, in this case Rembrandt and Tiepoletto; combining their techniques and with his deep respect and understanding of nature he was able to develop and make his blatant statement about the society in which he existed - often finding that same society to be ignorant, superstitious and limited. The timeliness of these new interpretations, and treatments of the idea to call a society into check is also timely today as we also inhabit a modern world still weighted with ignorance, superstition and are often - limited.
“Goya would preach in a universal idiom and make the Spaniards wake up and face the real issues reasonably. Then the superstitions that were burdening their minds and hindering social and cultural progress would swiftly dissolve into thin air”(Hagen 227). The universals mentioned above are still rampant today and Aurora Molina and Luis Alfonzo Salvador take this theme and directly interpret the originals using fiber and thread. The use of thread instead of wood and etching does break the line of the original, but this only enhances the many layers to social behavior and reactions to what we consider Other and unacceptable. Simply put, it takes many players and a certain repetition to take an innocent, for example, and turn them slowly and surely into one who judges, one who lays blame, and one who disdains. There is also a certain violence, not only to the act of altering innocence into a biased sense of experience, which is enhanced in the very nature of fiber arts: the piece must be turned quickly for a line to be made, the needle stabbing into the textile to create the visual image. Looking at the works by German Molina, one instantly sees that he takes an apparent playful and Picasso-esque approach to his vignettes on both society and the individual creating a sort of picaresque narrative of ‘everyman.’
Jac Lahav in their rendition of the originals, Los Capugchos, instead of using the same characters morphs Goya’s ignorant subjects into pugs questioning a modern society that elevates the unexpected and one would suggest, often unworthy to the realm of celebrity. Initially directing these works at the social media world, they also question what has happened to social consciousness and moral integrity of the masses finding that there is an inherent flaw in society and that not surprisingly, it has not moved all that forward since 1799 when Goya began this exploration and criticism of his surrounding society.
Violeta Caldrés, unlike the other artists does not directly use Goya’s works in her textile pieces, but goes a bit beyond and brings his theory of an artist as a witness and subsequently a teacher in her works. As an outsider immersed in the world and atmosphere of Morocco, Caldrés elegantly deciphers and depicts vignettes of the women she meets and their distinct and unique bond because of their gender. Incorporating techniques of henna, and beading to her textile works, she embraces the idea of the exotic Other, but also empowers these women with strong and confident gazes that look out at the viewer and in so doing - these women and Caldrés, offer an intimate view likening her work very much to a story in serial format, ever adding, ever growing - always witnessing. When approaching Natalia Schonowski and her works in the exhibition, one recognizes that she brings the conversation and action of documenting society in the present, but adds a unique burden - that being how the actions of society trickle down to our children. There is something especially moving seeing young children, already placed in a society, or situation not of their choosing as seen through the limitations of space because of the embroidery hoops used, but to see young faces behind masks because of things the adult world has done, or hasn’t done - to have to acknowledge that children since 2020 have had to adapt to a world, so unlike the childhood of many of the adults today - really brings home the need to recognize what we are doing and have done to this world. Schonowski, instead of presenting a satirical depiction of both the ignorance and folly of society confronts the viewer with the reality we have created and what we are offering future generations.
Goya, and the artists above stand fast in their set imposed role as witnesses to society, documenting what they see, what they encounter insisting that we, the audience, the collectors also take on the identity of a witness, accept what is being shown to us, and hopefully become the entities of change and awareness.
Statement and curation by Melanie Prapopoulos