Jorge Méndez Blake (°1974 Guadalajara, Mexico) uses literature as a conceptual tool. His work explores the potential connections between literature, the visual arts and culture in general. For his exhibition at Meessen De Clercq (his first solo show in Europe) entitled Das Kapital, Jorge Méndez Blake is interested in the relationship between this central work by Karl Marx and A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. The artist realised that Marx was quoting Shakespeare with 'The course of true love never did run smooth'. It is rather unusual to note that in this theoretical text, which delves into the notions of money, speculation and capitalism, there is mention of a highly poetic phrase.
The major piece in the exhibition is a monumental brick wall that runs through the gallery. This intrusive installation makes the usual entrance impassable; the visitor is thus forced to take an alternative route to visit the exhibition. As the visitor moves through the gallery, he or she notices that the book Das Kapital has been subtly placed by the artist in a corner of the wall. Literally rendered illegible, does this "brick" not symbolise manual labour and the proletariat par excellence?
One cannot ignore this wall, which in itself represents a visual experience that is transformed into a particularly strong physical sensation. Related to conceptual and minimal art, this construction forces the visitor to reflect. What is the symbolism of this wall crushing one of the capital books of communism? Is it a monument? Is a wall to be seen as protection or as separation? What is the significance of the wall today? Whether one thinks of Berlin, Israel or Tijuana, various reflections can be raised.
The other centrepiece is the first 100 pages of Das Kapital (English translation) which are printed and framed. Of these pages, one is a different colour, the one on which the Shakespeare quote is underlined in red. These pages are an integral part of a general dramatic device which they nourish by their number.
Opposite this piece, the artist has installed the neon inscription "MARXXX". The triple X and the bright red colour give this slogan an obscenity. Various interpretations are possible for this work because the piece contains a strong confrontation between the name of Marx, the thought he conveys and the potential danger conventionally indicated by the letter X.
As a postscript, it is worth noting that Karl Marx lived in Brussels from 1845 to 1848 before being expelled by the Belgian authorities who feared his revolutionary ideas.
Jorge Méndez Blake recently exhibited in the group show mexico: expected/unexpected which has just ended at the Maison Rouge (Paris) presenting the Augustín and Isabel Coppel collection. He has also shown his work extensively in the main museums and art centres in Mexico. He is a professor of Contemporary Art History and Design Theory at the University of Guadalajara.