Often walking on a wide, flat beach, one can observe how shallow waves create parallel, rippling lines as they move across the sand. One can see at times how the uniformity of these moving lines can be altered as the waves and sand flow over a stone, causing the space between the parallel lines to widen, to become irregular, taking alternate directions. A beautiful layering can also be observed as additional waves, flowing from different angles and directions, flow across the initial, receding wave. In 2000, after spending time working in Cuba, the Mexico City-based artist, Fernando Garcia Correa, began a series of drawings that make reference to these gentle patterns in the sand made by waves. These drawings have developed into a method of working that the artist has continued to engage with his paintings and drawings, creating abstract compositions that reference organic topographies as well as woven textiles.  

With these drawings, Garia Correa begins by delimiting the edges of a rectangle on the page, and beginning at one corner, he draws parallel lines in fine pencil. As the artist continues with these lines, they often begin to change slightly, to waver or curve, as they move from one edge of the paper to the other. As the artist repeats these lines, slight alterations become increasingly visible, creating rhythmic passages within the whole composition. Gaps between the lines appear in areas, an occurrence that the artist began to consciously repeat at various points throughout the drawings.

The artist has also created drawings in which he has inserted elements for the flows of line to react against. He places invisible vertical lines within the drawings. As he draws lines across the page, when they encounter these vertical lines he changes the direction of the movement of the multiple lines. These verticals, form barriers or transition elements, dividing the over-all composition into distinct segments. 

The resulting drawings, such as 12181G5(2002), recall the patterns found on a beach, as well the rings of growth evidenced in a cut tree. The rings seen within a tree represent layers of time, as the tree has grown numerous, layered skins over decades. This evocation of time is central to an understanding of these recent works by Garcia Correa. These drawings and the subsequent paintings, evidence a working process that marks time; making the hours, the labor(in the form of repeated gesture), clearly visible and comprehensible to the viewer. 

Optically, Garcia Correa’s drawings create stimulating vibrations. One’s eye moves rapidly over the dense placement of fine lines, creating a perception of advancing and receding elements, evoking a feeling of physical movement. This sensation is referred to as the moire effect, a French term derived from the optical effects produced in statin, when two weaves of satin thread cross at different angles.

Both the optical play and this reference to woven textiles increases as Garcia Correa translates the working method developed in his drawings into acrylic paint. In a painting such as 81.51012(2002), we are presented with burgundy lines painted over a rich blue-black ground. The lines flow downward from the upper corners, in loose repeated configurations, densely placed beside one another in sections of the painting, curving irregularly in other passages. There is a transition area within the painting, slightly to the left of center, where all of the lines change direction along the same axis, creating a subtle, diagonal line within the composition.    

The artist has created several paintings using dark grounds. With these paintings in particular, the viewer can observe the time, precision, and care involved in the artist’s working process. Garcia Correa uses small, narrow paint brushes to create these works. He begins from one corner of the wooden support and pulls the acrylic paint across the prepared ground. He continues a line until the paint is depleted, at which point he stops, refills his brush and continues where he had previously stopped. When executed onto a dark ground, as in the painting 1221222(2002), this process produces a range of interesting effects. As the full brush of paint touches the dark surface it appears opaque; in this example, a soft yellow-peach tone. As the brush moves across the dark-blue ground however, the acrylic paint becomes transparent and its color is modified by the color beneath. When the paint runs-out, it is applied again, creating another opaque touch of color. These moments of density of the applied paint, not only make very clear the process of start and stop executed in the production of the painting, they also create subtle rhythmic patterns, highlights, and crescendos for the eye. 

In 1221222(2002) the artist’s handling of the lines and his choice of organic tones evoke traditional woven objects, such as hemp baskets, or thick wool rugs. The gaps in the lines that appear in this painting allow the blue-black ground to be visible, creating holes or openings in random patterns. These voids recall the decorative method of deshilar, where threads in a textile are separated and then stitched in order for these openings to be maintained.   

Garcia Correa increases the complexity of his working method in paintings such as 1222002(2002) where he performs three stages of repeated lines compositions, painted in three different directions, in three colors. This painting, and several others like it which engage multiple line patterns, look very much like woven compositions.  It is in fact ones eyes that are weaving the colored lines together, however. If one looks closely, the artist’s method reveals itself to be one of layering; layerings of line patterns on top of one another, rather than a woven pattern of lines painted over and under one another.   

Discovering the sequence of the placement of the layers executed in a painting such as 1222002 is part of the pleasure involved in spending time with this work, revealing a story of decisions made by the artist, as he built up this complex surface.Onto a pale blue ground the artist first painted a series of cerulean blue lines moving diagonally from the left to right across the entire surface. They are painted in a pattern involving open lines, followed by a denser band of lines, then open lines again. On top of this pattern Garcia Correa has then painted a similar series of lines in gray, moving across the surface of the painting in the opposite direction, from right to left. The third and final layer of lines, painted in black, move vertically from the top to the bottom of the painting. The layering of these lines create both a visual and a physical sense of depth; one’s eye moves from one series of lines to another, observing the physical thickness of the paint as lines cross over one another.

Garcia Correa has experimented with the density achieved in these paintings made by layering patterns. He has created paintings that have up to six patterns placed on top one another, at which point, the individual patterns are almost completely indecipherable. He has also experimented with creating subtle transitions of color within one area of pattern. In paintings such as 1221224(2002) one can observe in the bottom layer of lines, a transition in color from a darker red-orange at the top left corner, toward a lighter orange as it moves downward toward the right corner. This color change is very slow and complicates the visual reading of these lines, as two additional line patterns are layered over it.

The artist has engaged numerous revisions and self-critiques of his methods as he has developed these works, describing his need to exaggerate his methods at times and then to pull back; creating a fluctuation between complexity and simplicity. After pushing his methods and compositions toward greater density and intricacy, the artist described his need to retreat back to single color line compositions. He has additionally begun to produce very small pieces on wood, using pencil and pen, drawn over a colored ground. 

Garcia Correa has used a variety of wooden supports for his recent paintings. Several of his paintings with line are painted on unusually thick wooden structures which have rounded edges. This format gives these paintings a greater presence as three-dimensional objects on the wall, while additionally emphasizing the colored plane of the painted surface. The thickness of the structure creates an interesting dialogue between the evocation of depth that the lines create on the frontal plane, with the actual physical depth of the support visible from the side.

Many of the optical effects of these paintings recall Op Art works by such artists as Brigitte Riley and Victor Vaserely. Garcia Correa’s use of patterning and his reference to textiles also recalls works from the 1970s New York Pattern and Decorative Painting Group; works by artists such as Miriam Shapiro and Joyce Kozloff. While the finished paintings show affinity to the works of these predecessors, Garcia Correa’s works distinguish themselves through their emphasis on process versus the resulting image. The value the artist places on the labor, time, and craft involved in the making of these works, does have an interesting dialogue with the feminist, revisionist works of Shapiro and Kozloff however, whose use of quilt patterns and textiles sought a validation of these forms as related to a history of female artistic labor. Unlike these works however, Garcia Correa’s paintings do not make specific historical or gender references. 

Garcia Correa describes his desire to “create a will for an image,” developing ways of working which are a result of initiating processes from which an image can emerge. He is interested in working methods that allow him a certain detachment from the resulting image. The artist’s previous works reveal similar production experiments, involving the development of systems that use repeated gestures. The work 11.711.7P1059 (2000) made of 1059 small square pieces of painted wood, was produced through a system where the artist painted one color at a time onto sets of approximately twenty small wooden squares. He used four different colored woods. He would paint the color in a line composition onto the raw wood. He devised several simple rules for painting each piece. One rule was to maintain an equal distance from one painted line to another. Another was that each line in the composition should be of equal width. He would alter one approach to his use of line with the next; such as using one thick diagonal line after using many thin vertical lines. He would then repeat this process using a different color, painted onto another set of squares. He produced twelve sets, which were then arranged onto the wall, constructing a work in which the placement of squares with diagonal lines creates a central v-form within the overall composition. The artist has created other, hard-edge works, such as 2020P200(2001)which also involved a repeated and alternating use of a limited range of colors, painted onto multiple wooden panels.

Garcia Correa’s more recent works with line reveal a more gentle, open approach to art-making than those evident in these previous works. It is perhaps the organic elements that the recent works evoke- those of waves, land topographies, and woven fibers- that convey a greater sense of calm. While the gestures involved in their creation reveal a discipline that is consistent with all of the artist’s work, these works seem less intellectual, more subjective, and quietly emotional. The repeated gesture of moving lines feels cathartic, like a tender ritual. While sophisticated in the ways they engage the viewer’s visual perception, they have a generous simplicity. They emanate a clean, refreshing elegance, a consistent characteristic of all of Garcia Correa’s deeply engaging work.

Tobias Ostrander

November 2002.