The rant I wrote before Hurricane Karl sprouted from my experience at an exhibit at Las Galerías del Agora in Xalapa. The paintings were made at San Juan de Ulua. I wrote about San Juan de Ulua here, but only briefly. We've visited San Juan de Ulua more than once. I had a bunch of photos but they disappeare with a hard disk crash. However, there are plenty available online. Below I give you an aerial view. The rectangle at the center of the lower half with the elongated corners is San Juan de Ulua proper. It is situated in the harbor of Veracruz. Before the Spanish landed, it was an island used for religious purposes. While the Spanish ruled Mexico, it continued as a fort. After independence, some Spanish resisters remaining in the fort continued to fend off attacks and maintain that Spain had not been defeated. After Independence, it was used as a prison for political prisoners and as a presidential palace. Today, it sits largely empty except for a small museum and some offices. Elton John gave a concert there recently. It is being renovated. I hope it isn't too extremely renovated, because the haunted quality woven into its walls and floors and doorways embody five hundred years of history. Walking in these buildings, knowing a bit of what happened there, we learn to feel and understand the past a bit, to understand who we are.
It is this that the artist Alfredo Romero Campos seeks and captures in his exhibit and connects with the personal. He says:
"It is the investigation through the recovery of these architectural spaces of the places I visited during my stay in Mexico, in which there is the presence of the abandoned, solitude and emptiness. But at the same time, they are filled with atmospheres left by the passage of time, where the walls cry, breath and even hear the memories of the nostaligic and melancholy past.
"These places which you see are also our laberynthine interior passageways, trapped darknesses in narrow walls, destroyed by the light of hope and our 'I' immobilized by fear."
The curator of the exhibit, in his introduction which he calls "Infinite Perspective," put it this way:
"...[W]e discover an artist who..speaks to us about intimacy through desolate and silent rooms, who questions the existnce of emptiness, since they speak to us as containers of private histories which implore us to hear them."
I hesitated to put up photos here because the paintings are flattened so on a screen. They are indeed pretty much two-dimensional although the paint has been applied in layers, but of course paintings themselves have a depth that photos can't hope to reproduce, and in these paintings the depth is very important. However, you can learn something from them I hope if you can imagine their subject: an old fortress on an island in a harbor, stone room upon stone room, often dim, connected by archways, through which the light filters, sometimes one color, sometimes another, depending on time and weather.
The paintings have no names, only numbers. Wandering past them evokes wandering through thearched doorways from room to room in San Ulua.