Arriving on the back of recent sculptural works like Hard Edge (2010), which comprises wood beams all marked through a gesture of subtraction, Asier Mendizabal has made Agoramaquia (el caso exacto de la estatua) [Agoramaquia (The Exact Case of the Statue)] for the 31st Bienal, which critically re-inscribes within a contemporary art context the sculptural praxis of the artist Jorge Oteiza (1908-2003), whose involvement with Latin America between the 1930s and 1960s was hugely influential yet is largely overlooked today.
Mendizabal’s project consists of a number of sculptures installed in the Bienal pavilion, all of them based on the monument to the Peruvian poet César Vallejo that Oteiza made in Lima in 1960. These sculptures are ‘finalised’ or ‘incomplete’ versions of a sculptural form and, like the original monument, they are all abstract compositions. By entering into relation with other works and other spaces within the exhibition, these abstract forms take on meanings and functions that might, at first sight, seem distanced from their composition. What Mendizabal does with them is to explore and update a core problem both for the work of Oteiza and for his own: the irresolvable contradiction between the formal language and implied transcendence of abstraction and the conceit of assigning to this language precise meanings, by relating it to specific historical predicaments.