What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

August 24, 2023

Jorge Méndez Blake
I remember it was raining...
1301 PE
June 1 - August 26, 2023

Jorge Méndez Blake

Jorge Méndez Blake is an artist based in Guadalajara, Mexico whose art takes apart and re-construct literary texts and re-present them as concrete poetry. Méndez Blake works on paper and canvas in addition to creating wall and ceiling based installations. In his exhibition I remember it was raining..., Méndez Blake uses the writings of the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1971) as a point of departure rather than universally recognized authors such as Kafka, Joyce, Borges or Dickinson. Bishop was known for her highly detailed, objective and distanced point of view with an avoidance of personal subject matter and Méndez Blake tries to turn that distance into something more personal and familiar. For example, the silkscreen print I remember it was raining (Bishop), (all works 2023) simply states, "I remember it was raining and I was reading Elizabeth Bishop."

The largest work on view, Proposal for a Ceiling Landscape fills the upstairs gallery ceiling across two rooms. Because Méndez Blake leaves the walls blank, the viewer's eyes are immediately directed upwards where the ceiling which has been painted a deep blue and is covered with irregular lines of type in a white serif font. As the language (taken from Elizabeth Bishop's work) extends from the stairs to the windows across the ceiling, it forms clusters that ebb and flow. Words repeat and overlap, making it difficult to read the text in its entirety. Méndez Blake is interested in the visual aspects of language and fragments the original text, transforming a narrative into visual poetry that in many ways shares a kinship with Fluxus and other concrete poets. When viewing Proposal for a Ceiling Landscape, it is necessary to look up at words that hover above like stars in the sky. While some might try to read across the composition to reconstruct Bishop's work, Méndez Blake wants viewers to ingest selected fragments and think about visual poetics and the power of language.

Like in many of Méndez Blake's other works and installations, while the source is specific and important, he consciously obfuscates any direct reading. In a smaller painting, I Remember It Was Raining (The Flood. Elizabeth Bishop), large and small sized white letters descend from top to bottom on the black canvas, reminiscent of falling rain. The cadence of the letters, rather than the meaning of the words, are what makes this image resonate. Méndez Blake similarly distorts "Calligrammes" by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) in two new additions to his ongoing Il Pleut Fort paintings, again allowing the words (in their original language) to become vertical lines of type that fill the space like rain.

The words Méndez Blake uses are often presented in the language in which they were written— be it English, Spanish or French. He is neither interested in providing translations to aid in the reading of the works nor citing specific sources: rather his concern is with the flow and visual structure of the words, as well as the different ways they can be abstracted.