On ViewJames Cohan
May 1 – June 5, 2021
In golden and grandiose paintings like cosmological topographies, Eamon Ore-Girón uses a geometric and mathematical language to reconsider the value and meaning of ancient aesthetic systems. Building upon medieval, colonial, and ancient Andean influences, Ore-Girón’s work allows multiple truths to exist in harmony and perhaps suggest new ways of thinking about how the past persists in the present.
Ore-Girón describes painting in 20-hour shifts where time begins to break down. The bending of time is evident in the ambiguity between sky and earth and when the cerulean hues of sky enter the foreground in Infinite Regress CL (2021). Though aesthetically harmonious, the works explore these ambiguities and seek to reconcile discrepant influences, materials, and histories by transforming these languages. We can partly read this intermingling of aesthetics as the artist’s personal reckoning with a hybrid identity as the son of a Peruvian father and fourth generation Irish American mother. His proximity to Peru, visiting family, and eventually living there were no doubt essential to developing a compounded world view.
As abstract works, the paintings collapse time and space; earth and sky; the past and future. Celestial and terrestrial seem to overlap where earthen colors coalesce with sun-like golden rays and circular disks resembling revolving planets or phases of the moon. Gradients in bands of color mimicking the plums and turquoise of the horizon are stacked in angular patterns or unfurl diagonally like Andean textile weavings. These geometric patterns reference both Andean motifs and technological diagrams. Lines formed by the negative space of golden foregrounds intersect with circles like networks you’d see in genealogy tracing or even microchips.
Though vaguely referential, there are also compositional similarities to depictions of the Virgin Mary in colonial Cuzco School paintings, the alembic in medieval alchemical diagrams, and Peruvian goldwork designs. At eight and nine feet tall, the sheer size and dominant gold coloring in these works suggest reverence and awe. The triangular shape of gold concentrated at the bottom of many works are like pyramids from splendorous civilizations. They also recall the shapes of the Virgin Mary’s billowing skirt or the sacred emanations that beam from her heart in paintings from colonial Peru, which also often had syncretic iconographies like those in The Symmetry of Tears. The Virgin was often a stand-in for Pachamama, the earth goddess revered by Indigenous Andeans.
The teardrops enclosed in circles that balance above pyramidal fields of gold could also be a borrowed motif from alchemical drawings, which are full of mathematics and geometric designs. The vessels depicting a process of purification with the goal of extracting gold were shaped like teardrops—the central forms of these works. The allusion to an ultimately failed process of transmuting hybrid elements into a pure form is apt. Instead, these works favor a process of incorporation, layering, and expansion. Metallurgical processes were first used to create gold regalia for rituals in the artist’s patrilineal country of Peru. These objects were mostly pillaged by the Spanish and melted down into bars and coins, and few artifacts have survived. The semicircle shapes and dangling bells of golden nose ornaments appear in abstracted forms throughout these paintings.
It is argued by scholar and art historian César Paternosto that more than ornamentation, the geometric designs in gold objects and textiles from the ancient Andes were part of an abstract, conceptual visual language. The interplay of line and circle formations in these works can be related to the quipu, a device using hundreds of colored strings and knots as a record of information. The quipu testifies to a mathematical thought process where the physical world was constructed through mental diagrams rather than representational forms.
Though open-ended, grand rhythmic works, the show The Symmetry of Tears is also a direct acknowledgement of philosophies that colonization tried to eradicate. By forcing the medium of painting to contend with ancient and classical systems of knowledge, there is an insinuated challenge to a Eurocentric hierarchy of aesthetics. In looking to Andean art for guidance, Ore-Giron considers the displacement of ancient conceptual systems and explores how they can remain alongside his ritual of painting, one informed by many narratives.