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For any literature lover, the book is an endless source of senses, a valuable treasure expanding the boundaries of language, a mechanism revealing the universes created by the power of words. For Pablo Lehmann, the book is, in turn, a generator of images, covert shapes and infinite artistic possibilities.
Following the steps of Stephan Mallarmé, Lehmann multiplies the visual strength of pages, although his research is no longer oriented towards the relationship between the word and its medium, but rather towards the relationship between these and the book itself.
Hence, the artist reinforces the concrete presence of the medium against the allusive strength of the text, which insists on denying its own reality.
His working method proceeds not by addition but by subtraction. Instead of composing, he unveils what is already there, underlying in each page. The cuttings hurt the sheet of paper, but only to shake it off its subjection to the literary aim and venture it across the paths of the three-dimensional world.
The artistic operation is, therefore, a tireless task of recycling and assigning new significance. On some occasions, the text is assigned a new significance by being wittingly incorporated into the collage; on some others, the marks left by the passing of time across the paper add their entire semantic content to the work.
Every element plays with the careful plots that set up the final structure of each piece. At times, these structures are guided by the orthogonal stiffness of the text, while in some other circumstances, the cuttings follow a way of their own that defies the words; in such cases, the page gives way, and the fragility supporting the writing, the language’s own precariousness become evident.
While some works respect the limits of the medium on which they spread out, in some others the pages fray, dissolve, tangle up and become lost, interrupting abruptly.
Such interruption in the two-dimensional plane is completed with an interruption in depth that results from the projection of the shadows of the paper onto the surface supporting it, usually the wall of the exhibition room.
Time after time, the artist plays with limits and their transgression, with the organization and its flaws. Shapes can follow a strict geometry, but they can also adopt a fussy, inexplicable and almost informal behavior, even insofar as to break away from the patterns which at first seemed to bring them to life.
The relationship between the pages and their blanks, whether physical or conceptual, the gaps, the transparencies, the unexpected whirls have an important value. In the hands of the artist, books find a new destination, a path that has to be crossed once it has served the literary demands. A path that even when it does not adjust to language still generates new pleasures, intellectual ways and interpretations.
*Professor at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), Universidad del Salvador (USal), the National University of Arts (IUNA), Buenos Aires, Argentine. Professor at Media Centre of Art and Design (MECAD), Barcelona, Spain. Curator of contemporary art exhibitions at the most important art venues in Argentine and Latin America.
Curator of the Argentinean Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2011.