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Thoughts on the photographs of Álvaro Pérez Mulas

In her studies on the optical subconscious, Rosalind Krauss recalled that the American painter Frank Stella often said that the person he most admired was the baseball player Ted Williams, who boasted that his vision that was so quick that he could see the stitches in a ball as it flew over the base. The exceptional vision of the sportsman attracted the painter because of his ability to amplify the spectrum of what was visible and go a step further than natural sight by discovering details in a world that we could not otherwise perceive, thereby accessing a kind of “abstract state” of vision.

The photographic gaze of Álvaro Pérez Mulas manages to capture the details of objects and urban surfaces that the human eye is incapable of detecting, but not so much because they are invisible, rather because their “humble objecthood” makes them disappear. In other words, what we discover through these photographs will never be seen by passersby, and this is where the value of the images lies – their capacity for revelation and transfiguration, because in the end the images that are created are totally autonomous from the reference object from which they have been taken. In this sense, the photograph takes up an aim that once formed part of painting: to make us see what we would otherwise not see, to make us know what we otherwise would not know.

We all know how photography was born with the illusion that it would be a way to capture reality more precisely and more objectively than any other medium, immobilising it and lending it two-dimensionality. But the different discursive spaces that photography has developed in recent years have led to a further twist whereby what is false is converted into something truthful, the deception is perceived as certainty and reality – or rather the indices of the real – is perceived as abstraction.

As Jean Baudillard has asserted, the technique of photography takes us beyond replica and optical illusion. Through its unreal visual play, its immobility, its silence and phenomenological reduction of movement, photography has reaffirmed itself as the most pure, while time is seen as the most artificial ex-position of the image. Photographic vision has transformed sight and has caused a double play between reality and simulacrum that amplifies the concept of illusion to infinity.


In the photographs presented by Álvaro Pérez Mulas under the meaningful title, [reconfiguraciones ([reconfigurations) abstraction, if we can call it that, appears almost as an enigma, but also, following on from Baudrillard, “…as a reality more real than the real.” Some of the images were perceived – as they can in the new series – as “landscapes of everyday objecthood” that are transfigured through the fragmentary gaze of the photographic objective. This makes them autonomous, constituent fragments of a universe that has distanced itself from the real in order to re-constitute itself, above all in “post-pictorial space”.


Pérez Mulas has been moving in the realms of paradox with his photographs, revealing a radically non-objective universe that resides within the structure of objects. The image hides itself so much that it breaks free from the real, because the fragmentation and lack of scale help to isolate it from its reference point, taking it, virtually, to the realms of abstraction, but never losing sight of its descriptive capacity. In each image there is evidence of the object’s inspiration but also of its inter-changeability with forms of painting, understood to be the maintenance of format, with outer interpretation, and above all, with the language of aesthetics and signs - the compositions determined by linear drawing, textures and fields of colour –, as well as with the representational space, limited by imaginary quadrangular margins that provoke a two-dimensional viewpoint.


This unfolding causes an intriguing tension between the imaginary and reality, since in each photo we encounter the mark, the trace, the dissection, the referent; but at the same time we witness a kind of "symbolic murder of the object" that accentuates the paradoxical ambiguity implicit in the photographic act. Each one of these photos is offered independently as an “objective fiction”, a “fragmentary re-configuration of reality” and we come to perceive them – without realising – as “the image simulated by the appearance of the image”.


F. Javier Panera Cuevas

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