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Pierre Restany

Just contemplate Roberto Márquez’s women: Indians, half-breeds, whites. At times they bear on their bodies the tattoos of a target or a musical score. Stubborn masochists, they stand naked, facing the bull with their panties as a muleta. Or crouching on the sand they stare at the creature in the open and obstinately maintain a tête-à-tête with it. They all belong to the same morphological repertory of healthy youth: long, slender, firm bodies; hair drawn back or crew cut. But always thick and dense. Their proportions are naturally harmonious, as they inscribe easily into the ambient visual space. And the men who are the parallel witnesses of these same vast stories are fixed is a still frame of the hieratic sequence. When Márquez’s vision becomes image it eludes time and the narrative's duration to become frozen in the eternal present of metaphor.

Bull-charmers, object-women, they are also magicians and circus performers who love the theater of the world. They represent the magnets for men's glances; the very men who contemplate them from within the painting; the very men who imitate them when they are alone, given to their intimacy. It is the same with those who regard them from the outside, viewing the paintings hung on the gallery wall or through the pages of a catalogue.

These women are the basis of the metaphor, the officiants of magia menor. It is they who quench their thirst in the blood of poets, who practice the games of fire and Snakes. They are all the women of Lot who return to life through their Somnambulistic dreams. They return to the life of the painter who created them. They are creatures of Balthus who would live in a world where Borges would receive dozens of unexpected friends, from Proust to Hemingway. This neo-classic, cold and measured world is at the opposite extreme of the extravagance of Baroque churches, religious processions and carnivals or the narrative lexicon of the muralists, the most evident signs of "Mexican-ness" today.

And yet this painted world treats existential magic and the world's great mysteries with the conceptual richness that Borges succeeded in giving to cosmopolitan humanism. Magic and mysteries are celebrated in a domestic space which is that of the Spanish Colonial where severity neither creates an illusion nor lends anything more than the opportunity to inhabit the space just as phantoms, day dreams, animistic and Freudian references do in their virtual expansion. Márquez ' realm is that of the house of the rich plantation owner where the wife is naturally the queen, the servant naturally the mistress, the mistress naturally the whore, the adolescent naturally perverse and naturally inclined to the prestidigitation of white and black magic.

This mental and sentimental naturalism is combined in the permanent present. That is doubtless the key of Roberto Márquez’s vision, a sheath of unparallel, assumed lives, like so many other inescapable destinies because they are accepted and lived without passionate excess. Moderation is the rule. Roberto Márquez’s women know their role far too well to abuse their powers. They are unique and memorable in their "natural state," just as Márquez’s paintings are. This is what constitutes

great art.


March 2, 1994


published in the catalog for the exhibition “Sojourns in the Labyrinth” a survey of paintings: 1984-1994, Tucson Museum of Art

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