In the work of Nelson Leirner everything returns, but in a renewed and digested – duly translated – way. A reader of others and of himself, Nelson always returns to canonic works, either from the history of art or more contemporary ones, but he imparts to them his own ironic, critical, affective and iconoclastic view, always with beautiful lines, materials and colors that he remakes, invents and adds.
The aim of this exhibition is, therefore, to treat on Nelson Leirner’s creative process based on an unusual “angle.” Instead of making a reading that is chronological and serial – or even progressive – the idea is to recover the artist’s work based on a nearly circular perspective. “Nelson Leirner, a reader of others and of himself.”
A known facet of Leirner’s work is that he selects artists – such as Leonardo da Vinci, Diego Velázquez, L. Fontana, Mondrian, Duchamp, and many others – to serve as metaphors or pretexts. These artists return in his work, however, in an altered way and are shown based on a wide range of situations.
It is as though Nelson had talked with them and, in light of the dialogue he established, had taken a fresh look at his own self and his own art, and found them strange. Always resorting to an unexpected and often ironic sampling, Leirner revisits different artists and artworks, though ultimately always following a narrative that is uniquely his own. It is possible to perceive in his oeuvre a constant thread of continuous, coherent and persistent criticism of the art market along with the firmly established formulas it creates. The artists deified by the media certainly do not escape from the artist’s critical eye. Thus, Mona Lisa can appear in a hat and sunglasses; Hirst’s colored balls arise in embroidery; Velázquez’s girls are surprised by a swarm of flies; Fontana’s slits appear as zippers, which – very practically – can be opened but also closed.
Moreover, it is possible to tell a history of art, through the original way that Leirner makes art out of “itself,” taking as his basis his own gaze directed at the “other.” That is, producing a project that is uniquely his own, though based on his translation of others.
We know that nothing exists in this world in isolation, closed off from everything else, in a “purely original” state. And Nelson widens the gap and intensifies the uneasiness by showing how art has always been made, as it continues to be made today, through reference, inference, reading and translation.
As Lampedusa stated, every “translator is a traitor” – Traduttore, Traditore – and in this case of ours it is no different. Nelson Leirner makes “his” art both an homage and a far-reaching critique, insofar as it is accompanied by other works and repertoires that constitute his (and our) visual imagination. We think by “convention” and on the basis of previously selected images. What Nelson does is to expose his convention and play with it.
The result is a true dialogued vocabulary of art, which takes Nelson Leirner’s work as its straightedge and compass.