My love for you baby, is like a roller coaster
It goes up, down, anyway you want it baby
— E.S.G., My Love for You
Yautepec is pleased to present Txema Novelo's second individual exhibition at the gallery, entitled Emerald, Sapphire and Gold.
Central to Novelo's work is the concept of "Joy Division / Sad Divine," a play on the basic Gnostic principle that humans are naturally divine beings yet divided from the spiritual realm (up) by their own physical creation (down). Logically, this pairing would be "Sad Division / Joy Divine" but through its reversal, Novelo clearly connects it to his medium of choice — that being rock 'n' roll — at the same time as he throws the principle's core assumption into critical perspective (anyway you want it baby).
For the Gnostics, myth was a medium. It was not a literal truth, but a tool for attaining divine knowledge through personal religious experience, understanding, and transcendence. For Novelo, these myths are algorithms, and as with any algorithm one can change the variables.
In this way, through re-mapping biblical scriptures upon the mythologies of twentieth century popular music and culture, Novelo has found a means of reintroducing a sense of the sacred into contemporary art — his own Personal Jesus, as it were.
At the entrance of the exhibition Emerald, Sapphire and Gold is the work Duppy Conqueror — vinyl text placed upon the glass doors of the gallery — referencing the phrase coined by Lee Scratch Perry and immortalized in song by Bob Marley & The Wailers, signifying one who defeats the malevolent spirits in this world.
Passing through the doors, one encounters a pair of large installations, ESG The Praying Machine and Bizarre Love Triangle. The Praying Machine is a large pyramidal structure that permits up to four people to kneel prostrate before a turntable playing the self-titled 1981 EP by the genre-defying South Bronx group, ESG, as the smoke of frankincense floats up above their heads. The Praying Machine, like Brion Gysin's Dream Machine before it, is intended to provide a bridge to a higher, divine mind state. It is based on Matthew 18:19-20 in which Jesus says that "if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Yet as a gnostic machine, it does not require a belief in Jesus but just the use of his literal name, the etymology of which is "the liberator." The Praying Machine is accompanied by two serigraphs, Repere and Reptare, which double as instructions for the its use.
In Bizarre Love Triangle, the newest work of Novelo's Teúrgia (Theurgy) series, we find The Praying Machine's immaterial counterpart in which the presence of the Praying Machine can only be manifested magically as New Order's Substance LP spins on the central turntable (my love for you baby, is like a merry-go-round).
Reverence is a photographic diptych of the statue of Giordano Bruno found in Mexico City's Colonia Juarez and the plaque commemorating the visit of Haile Selassie I to Mexico found in the Plaza Etiopia subway station. Upon each image, the form of the Praying Machine is superimposed, suggesting a holy stature to the place. Giordano Bruno was the Italian philosopher burned at the stake for heresy because he proposed that the sun was but one of an infinite number of stars surrounded by an infinite number of other planets with intelligent life, each likely to have their own equivalent of Jesus Christ. Selassie of course was the Emperor of Ethiopia whom the Rastafari movement considers to have been the return of the messiah.
The thematic connection to the final work, Teenage Jesus, is clear but the work still delivers a poignant punch. It belongs to Novelo's Crossroads series of corner installations in which he triangulates two song titles in wall-text with a record playing on the floor. In this case, he utilizes The Day That I Got Crucified by The Pastels and I Am The Resurrection by the Stone Roses, while the album Pre Teenage Jesus by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks spins on the turntable.
The intimation, which certainly reflects more generally upon the exhibition, seems to be that while we may now be lost souls in the material world, each of us was once a Teenage Jesus and the divine remains ever within reach. Repere, Reptare (like a roller coaster).