For his second personal exhibition at the gallery, Jorge MÉNDEZ BLAKE (born 1973) continues the process of reflection initiated at the Tamayo Museum in Mexico City in 2010 while he was working from the archives of the museum. For Empty Bookshelf, he decided to build bridges and connections between various disciplines (architecture, visual arts, literature), oscillating between minimalist radicalism and manifest exuberance.
His starting point is reflection about the bookshelf as a place for storage and a place of life. Libraries have traditionally been considered as a place where knowledge and information are kept by custodians of the shared memory of mankind, but they have also been experiencing a profound crisis for the last two decades, following the ultra-powerful emergence of information technology. The library is one of those places that are constantly being reinvented today, whether we are considering the private library or the national library, to take the two extremes.
In his own way, Méndez Blake is projecting visions, seeing the library as a place of knowledge creation. So, in the alcove, visitors will be looking at twelve wooden shelves, placed in a corner so as to form a bookcase. The peculiar feature is that the shelves are entirely empty, except for a black book near the top, on the penultimate shelf. This solitary book becomes, in a way, THE book. As if it were the first, or the last. In a bookcase, one book is always classified in relation to another. In this case, the book is isolated, vertical, inaccessible and draws attention while allowing any imaginable interpretation. Is this a reference book, a private diary, an accounts book or even a religious work? Is it a black book, by allegory with a black box, which records all the conversations in the cockpit of an aircraft? Is it a book compiling the assembled recollections of a place, a person, a people? The mystery remains intact, as nobody can open it because it has been placed out of reach. Is the richness of the imaginary world sleeping in every book?
In the left-hand room, the notion of emptiness is further accentuated, since a single large structure in dark-coloured wood stands in the centre of the room. Its appearance oscillates between being a bookcase and a cage, while alluding to the minimalism of Sol LeWitt and the architecture of certain Frank Lloyd Wright interiors. This structure, which is a strangely disturbing presence, is counter-balanced by a large black drawing, judiciously entitled Black Drawing patiently drawn in lead pencil.
Moving into the right-hand room, visitors arrive in an exuberant environment, scattered with shrubs which both evoke the power of pervasive nature (here it is reminiscent of ancient cities reclaimed by vegetation) as well as a famous Marcel Broodthaers installation. A place of reappearance of the past, the bookshelf is observed here in excess, chaos, whereas it is normally regulated by order (storage) and rationality (the classification system). Two wooden scale models, counterbalanced by two large drawings, are placed on bases whose platform is a mirror, opening up a new space for expansion.
By including an inter-disciplinary approach and the fantastic, reference and ellipsis in all his work, Jorge Méndez Blake opens up scope for dreaming.