Carlos Huffmann, por María Gainza
ArtForum, febrero de 2010
After seeing Carlos Huffmann's recent show, you might think that the artist's own private bible has become The Atrocity Exhibition, the 1970 collection of experimental writings by J.G.Ballard, the science fiction prophet of the postindustrial world. Like the English author, Huffmann tells of the ways in which the mass media invades and splinters the private mind of the individual, creating enigmatic scenes in which bodies and landscapes are confused. "A hundred-foot-long panel that appeared to represent a section of a sand dune. Looking at it more closely, Dr Nathan realized that in fact it was an immensely magnified portion of the skin over the iliac crest": Ballard's words might well describe the strange fusion of human and inhuman in Huffmann's drawings, paintings, and sculpture.
"Common sense has a hidden face", says Huffmann in an interview in the catalogue. His art portrays memory as a cauldron in which everything, especially what is most familiar, soon acquires a sour taste. Advertising is the well from which he draws inspiration, in works that become contaminated with philosophical slogans, theoretical proclamations, and surreal imagery. What begins as a casual, everyday image soon becomes polymorphic and nearly unrecognizable.
Two large oil paintings, Untitled (odioodio), 2009, and Untitled (meaningof), 2009, both on canvases printed with a photograph of a race truck from the 2008 Paris-Dakar race, were the stars of this show. Each painting depicts a huge truck hurtling towards the viewer. Surrounding the vehicles, a turmoil of objects with no apparent relation among them (arrows, ropes, wooden crucifixes, broken down machinery parts, and blinding lights flood the scene) turn the situation nightmarish. Horns protruding from mammothlike skulls, a map, and dismembered bodies all coexist as if time and space had collapsed. Everything seems headed towards disaster. Yet in their unstoppable momentum, the trucks are charged with seductive -even phallic- urgency. Of course, the car crash as a metaphor for eroticism was patented by Ballard. Huffmann previously painted very small and delicate anthropomorphic creatures on top of glossy car advertisements taken from magazines, charging the commercial imagery with a menacing sensation. But in this new large format the images have gained poignancy. There is an eerie quality to these paintings. They look somewhat blurred, as if veiled by dust; this pollution is the same kind that keeps futuristic Los Angeles in a state of permanent drizzling twilight in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. These paintings seem to remind us that the future is not ahead of us but inside.
Born in Argentina in 1980, Huffmann is a CalArts graduate, a fact that goes a long way toward explaining a certain gap between his practice and other local modes of production with less formal training behind them. His images are imbued with solid conceptual underpinnings but also with a sense of foreignness, of inhabiting a no-man's-land at some distance from the Argentine scene. Increasingly, Huffmann has made this detachment a strength, creating works that escape specific spatial and geographic readings to communicate more widely.