Gallery of ilustrious silences

During his long journey as an activist of silence, the multifaceted talent of Tres has unfurled not only in the artistic front but also in many different directions. Moreover, it has unfolded in multiple levels that address the spectator, the consumer and the citizen in different ways. Tres suggests that silence is a spiritual fact as well as a physical phenomenon. A notion underlying all the dimensions of the subject’s existence: sensorial, ethic, aesthetic, social; constituting something akin to the negative of its common and sensible experience.

It has been said that according to Tres, silence is a valuable Utopia, with the revolutionary connotations that this term has presently acquired. It is from this point of view that one must focus his artistic actions: manifestations of an integral project always aiming to change life, a proposal for a new field of relationships for the individual. In this sense, the artistic actions of Tres connect not only with the most radical avant-garde movements, but also with the characteristic attitudes of missioners and preachers, of the fervent proselytizers, interested in gaining adepts for a projected cause, and which claim collective achievements.

The latter contributes to adequately frame a striking aspect of the pieces Tres presents in this exhibition: his affinity with propagandistic placards. These huge portraits, accompanied in all cases by words or phrases that act in the form of mottos, of premises, of slogans, evoke the posters that are used in political campaigns or commercials, advertisements for concerts, conferences, important cultural events. The very contrasted treatment of image, its seducing effects, aim to capture and impact the spectator’s attention, and do so by way of a calculated relationship between effectiveness and the economy of means (a sole figure, a flat background, black and white). It is evident that Tres makes use of these “silent placards” with a, shall we say, “revealing” purpose in mind. Proof of this is that the most immediate precedent to these portraits were cards and posters of a much smaller size used by Tres himself to advertise many of his previous events. Many of those pieces serve as a base to the bigger “placards” that nonetheless go further, since they are now presented transformed into silent backdrops, chambers of silence, by virtue of the way in which they have been drilled and mounted.

In effect, the numerous holes punched into the surface of each piece, not only spatter emptiness- silence- but allow, through them, to discern the silence- the emptiness which hides behind the image, in the space comprised between the surface of the piece and the background of the frame over which it has been drawn. One can foretell an empty space through subtle effects of light and shadow, which provide these works with enigmatic depth. Thus, Tres continues to dig deeper in this series of his pieces that he has named “emptied papers”, one of the venues he has explored most exhaustively in recent years. This is not the only way in which Tres complicates and subverts this apparent affinity between his work and propagandistic art. All of the characters wear masks, and words or phrases related to silence almost constitute riddles that the viewer must decipher paying close attention, since due to the disposition of the letters, many times separated (as if floating in silence), and occasionally veiled in gray over black. The result is, as is frequent when involving Tres, a fertile paradox: that “lure”, that “graphic cry” which makes up every propagandistic placard, is submitted by Tres, to a process of internal silencing. It is inevitably hushed by successive interventions that comprise so many other metaphors of silence whose superimposed effect, in good measure subliminal, finally provide the work of art in question with a strange and perturbing symbolic force.

Tres’ work also suggests yet another equivocal affinity, this time, with the celebrity portraits that Andy Warhol turned into postmodernist fetishes and which have never ceased to inspire a legion of publicists and designers. As in Warhol’s pieces, these “emptied papers” tendentiously take hold of the personalities of the characters portrayed by Tres, to invoke and simultaneously illustrate a tradition, both enormously rich and complex, as is that of silence in the course of modern age. There is something in his new pieces that summons an association to propagandistic works of art while also inviting an association to portraits of illustrious personalities, even to posters of singers and movie actors. This is what happens when dealing with, in one case or the other, cult objects. Of profane cult, obviously, but ultimately cult, thereby justifying our referring to these “emptied papers” as very particular shrines of silence, simultaneously ironic and reverent.

What Tres exposes here, in other words, is his very own “gallery of illustrious silent figures”, and he does it, why not? with the solemnity the case requires, but leaving clear clues- those masks!- that the personality of each subject has value in this context because of the worth of his/her silence. In this sense, this collection of portraits is equivalent to a “brief dictionary of authorities” in silence, from which one can deduct an attractive and instructive grammar. This being something to be summed to the absolutely non-monolithic, non-fundamentalist conception of silence Tres makes. In the meantime, he has become an avid tracker of silences, capable of detecting them where you least expect to hear them. Each one of the portraits presented corresponds to a different silence and together, they invite us to think that this range of silences, so whimsically selected, could expand infinitely. Tres plays intentionally with the polysemy of the concept and above all, with an open spirit, as he dares to invoke great and brainy theorists of silence- Mallarmé, Beckett, Klein-together with divas of the cinema and opera- Callas, Garbo- who both found above all else, protective shelter in silence.

By contrast, with the highly aesthetic treatment of the “emptied papers”, Tres exposes a collection of what he calls, “bagged silences”; plastic bags containing newspaper cut-out photographs of diverse personalities, all celebrities – from Pope John Paul II, through Pablo Casals, to Le Pen- imposing silence with a finger or paying special attention to sound. In every case, the photo in question is placed in a plastic bag together with diverse professional acoustic absorption elements that reinforce and ironize the gesture the character is making. Another manifestation of the multiplicity of levels at which Tres is capable of acting. These “bagged silences,” add a humorous comment to the seduction and resounding solemnity of the “gallery of illustrious silences”. In each case. the same principle of “revelation” of silences in highly unusual or unexpected contexts, with the purpose of pointing out in what way the shadow of silence underlies every situation and every conduct.

In the end, in a last provokingly instructive gesture, Tres presents an edition of “erasers” which drink in the ready-made tradition of Dadaism, of virtual poetry and conceptual art. The handle is made of lead (the silent metal), and on their felt bases (another silent material), these typical classroom erasers bear a silk screen with the letter ”H”: the silent letter in Spanish. They are proposed this way as a jumble of allegories: noise erasers and at the same time producers of silence. Lyric and humorous reminders of the most militant facet Tres has, he does not limit himself to divulge silences, but he postulates himself as the great Silencer, author of unheard “blackout concerts”, of busy “silent cocktails” and the promoter of surprising actions, such as the silent parade in 2003 or the concert for silence and orchestra in 2002 among so many others.

Ignacio Echevarría
October 2005.

From the exhibition catalog "Emptied papers/ Bagged silences". Gallery Alegría. February 2006. San Juan de Puerto Rico.

Translation from spanish: Margarita González



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