11 June 2009 - 31 August 2009
Víctor Palacios
Sebastián Romo

Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach?
Herman Melville. Moby Dick, or the Whale

The present exhibition displays the work developed by Sebastián Romo (Mexico D.F., 1973) over fifteen years of professional activity. To be more precise, we should state that here the notion of work refers to an artistic practice or proposal in the broadest sense of the term rather than to a set of pieces carefully selected in order to satisfy the usual demands (chronological, generic or thematic) of a retrospective exhibition. The show intends to grant the greatest visibility to this artistic practice, emphasising the elements, processes and actions that can be identified as its central themes, i.e., the work’s intermittent links to nature, the use and treatment of photographic images and video, and sculptural interventions in public spaces, all of which are continuously interacting in interdependent fields of action.

Romo’s artistic practice is distinguished by its ability to generate long-term processes of research and production that reveal his interest in combining a range of disciplines, supports and constructive methods. The starting point of his career (1993) is connected with the aesthetic precepts and formal solutions that characterised land art in the seventies. Consequently, in his early days Romo produced ephemeral works made of materials found in situ, in open spaces where nature, specific contexts and landscapes were the raw materials and the source of reflection on art itself. This incipient formative and self-taught period based on experimentation with various materials and means would soon prompt his participation in the debates and strategies posed by post-conceptual art of the nineties and, at the same time, to a series of notions, elements and experiences that would distinguish the development of his practice, such as landscape, the idea of limit, site-specificity, the relationship between action and its recording, the temporal dimension of sculpture, travel, space as matter, chance, drawing as a tool of memory and fiction, words, manipulation of the photographic image, the public domain, metropolis, will as a question and touchstone, among others. During this defining process, Romo spent a few years in Rio de Janeiro, a determining experience for it entailed his assimilation of Ferreira Gullar’s theoretical postulates on the aesthetic experience and plastic sensuality that characterised Brazilian neo-concrete art, above all the oeuvre of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, which led the Mexican artist to involve other people in his work and explore its sociological and historical aspects, via film, architecture or the modern idea of monument or public sculpture.

The exhibition title acts as an open statement, a proposal capable of covering or eliciting a range of approaches to the complex and controversial concept of will from a strictly philosophical perspective as well as from a more colloquial angle. At the end of the day, what is will? The question leads us inevitably to the thinker Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and his famous and influential work The World as Will and Representation. Broadly speaking, the German philosopher departs from Kantian thought to explore Plato’s ideas and Hindu culture, posing a metaphysics of morals in which he studies in great detail how will is the key to explaining, from deep down inside, the great enigmas of the world.

To explore, to scrape the surface of human will, the will of nature and the will of all that which exists and re-examine it is a habit that feeds and convulses Romo’s creative impulse. Like Ismael in Melville’s novel, Sebastián reflects on the causes of the irrational actions that often end up marking the course of events.
To conclude, I should like to say that Romo’s recent work is, in his own words, pervaded by an intense desire to return to the roots, to the essence of art, however simple this may seem, stripping it of accessories and mediations, and this desire evokes the reflections published by Guillaume Apollinaire almost one hundred years before on the demands, the specificities and virtues of cubist painting. In his urge to convey this desire, Romo seems to symbolise the French poet’s maxim, “The time has come for us to be the masters. And good will is not enough to make victory certain.”