The Archives of Norma Esperanza Lopez
It is refreshing to encounter work that challenges categories that are so often taken for granted. Norma Esperanza Lopez’s work does just that and more. From a distance it is easy to identify her work as painting. The Support (canvas) and the paint (acrylic) help the viewer make this recognition. On closer analysis, however, the notions of painting, abstraction and expressionism- suggested by the dripping of paint well as loose gestures- are called into question. The Gesture appears frozen on the surface of the canvas as if produced through some methods of mechanical reproduction. Pop art comes to mind; artist like Andy Warhol, who understood the commodification and reification of the painting’s gesture appears as possible referents to Norma’s work. Warhol reproduced, over and over again, both the uniqueness of gesture and the accidental quality of painting, by striping from the art piece its spontaneity and randomness. Warhol’s gestures, institutionalizing an image that becomes authoritative- were endlessly reproduced until they became marks of camouflage, simulation and branding.
Like Warhol, Norma Esperanza follows his strategy of commodification and appropriation of the abstract expressionist language as well as pop art’s mechanical reproduction of gesture, yet she also introduces an unexpected, intimate and fragile emotional landscape. Her gesture acts as memory tracing a psychological map. Lopez’s paintings exist in permanent transit. Like never finished scripts, their gesture, the physical evidence of her body in the generation of the two-dimensional pieces, reminds us of the relevance of the process itself and of the space that exists in between her body and they attacked surface. The gesture that builds Norma Esperanza’s paintings exist in the space of becoming a definitive sign butt resisting at the same time the possibility of finitude. Elegant, though dramatically intense, each of her pieces take us back to the moment of their elaboration. It is impossible to forget, viewing of Lopez’ work, the moment and process of execution, which is always a register, inscribed and documented on and by her paintings. One working session can produce an amazing amount of pieces, all of them performing as pages of the same book or words of the same sentence, all of them totally different from each other but yet connected and influencing the reading and registration of a moment. In this reading of the paintings, the negotiation of randomness and control that take place in the elaboration of Lopez’ paintings is evidenciated. Every single one of the traces that constitute these paintings expose the exhausting battle and need of control that the artist constantly experiments through out the process of production. Once removed from the studio, from the place of origin, these paintings appear as the embodiment of a process, thus bridging Lopez’ desires and needs with ours.
Bits and pieces of fragmented memory appear to interrupt the harmonious flow of the brush. Technical inventions by the artist once again, interrupt the flow of the experience for us. As soon as we identify the object as drawing, painting or calligraphic gesture, there is a mark that reminds us that what we have in front of us is a technological invention of the artist. Maybe manifestations of a repressed and strongly latent feeling that keep finding ways to materialize through Norma’s inscriptions on the painting surface. In this sense it is easy to connect Norma Esperanza’s work to the work of artists like Jason Martin, Jackson Pollock or Peter Davis. AS Martin, Lopez documents the movement of her body as in decimal evidence of her physical choreography in the process of painting. Different from Martin, Lopez chooses not to cover the totality of the surface so as to link the creation along gesture with scriptural text and the singularity of calligraphy, on the one hand, and to me reference to the idea of path, incorporation to her process the notion of journey, on the other. Lopez’ work suggests a journey, that unlike Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, has characteristics of cultural migration and consumption. However, we don’t refer to a man, or to a European or American male character. We are confronted to Norma Esperanza Lopez, a Latin American Woman, tracing her life as if tracing a line on a map, on a paper. She defies definitions and stereotypes. She consumes in her gestures the male will to dominate and defines them as the ejaculatory language of painting and turns it to her favor, as an empowering discipline for women. The Euro-American gravitational center of painting is taken and manipulated by Norma so as to create her own language, one without clear definitions, where the differences that create meaning are established by accumulations, rather than by specifications.
As Peter Davis, Lopez writes in reference to art and its trends, but unlike Davis, is not knowledgeable of the facts that articulate her discourse, but knowledge and appropriations of the forms. She utilizes others’ definitions of calligraphy to write her own language. The product of this liaison translates and materializes into the body of painting, the inscription of her biographical, psychological and emotional map.
Norma thanks of her paintings as figures of women transfigured by emotion. I can’t avoid but to thinks that the figure is herself, while transfiguration occurs in the practice of painting. Lopez gives an official document of her body, for at the end of the day, her body is the only thing she has left to define herself and put together the pieces of her life. We can all connect to. The need of leavin a proof of our existence and through this proof, given wholeness and solidity to our self. Norma documents her physical existence and gives to it the strength of life, but of life aware of its transitory condition.