The drawings in Fortifications span roughly 14 years from 2001-2015 and are comprised of landscapes primarily rendered in shades of black, white and gray. The restricted palette suggests simplicity, clarity, and seamlessness, but black also generates uncertainty. It is a vehicle for polymorphism, the appearance of one thing simultaneously seeming to be many, by perceptually acting as an absence of light, graphically as shape, and volumetrically as a weighty mass and a deep void. Black also holds personal meaning. At age 11, in the Prado Museum, I decided to devote myself to painting while in the room of Francisco Goya’s Black Paintings. I remember being struck by the ferocity and imagination of those images. My use of black is an homage to this rich history of Spanish painting, from the praying saints of Zurbarán to Picasso’s mid twentieth century work.
The drawings are also inspired by actual places. Oftentimes echoes of forms and feelings of a particular space appear and are recombined in the drawings decades after any direct experience. There are traces of the places that were most formative- Austin, Texas and Quirihue, Chile where I grew up, and Brooklyn where I lived from 2001- 16. There are also nods to Paris where I taught landscape painting for many summers, the Aztec step pyramids at Teotihuacan, and the many aqueducts in the show are inspired by ruins of Roman aqueducts I saw in Spain as a child.
Feelings of anxiety, vulnerability and protection are also through lines in the work. Being a child in the early 80’s, I remember hiding under my school desk in the fourth grade for “duck and cover” drills. Even at that age I understood how meaningless the desk would be as protection against a nuclear attack. Ruins, which I made soon after the attacks of September 11th, was one of the first images I made of a psychologically and emotionally charged landscape. Since then, this has become the primary way that I work. These landscapes manifest various contradictory mental states through architectures of defensiveness, strength, force and futility.