by Jacob Klintowitz
In Horacio Kleinman's sculptures, human figures are contained in an arabesque, itself a seemly boundless continent no different than them, that is not an isolated element, a contour that defines the limits of the visual field. In his work, arabesque and human figure are mutually generating in a continuous, everlasting action without beginning or end, an amazing perpetual motion that confers height and transcendence to the apparently static bronze.
In Horacio Kleinman's sculpture, the perpetual motion leads to a concentration in itself, shuts down visuality to external references and eliminates, in several ways, the idea of dimension. What is the real size of these sculptures? Evidently, their size is defined by their material bulk. This is the primary rule of the earthen world of tridimensional forms. In the case of art, however, we are dealing with the projection and materialization of fantasy and desire -
in which case we could project Kleinman's sculpture onto any dimension we may find suitable. This is partly due to the proportions of his sculpture that suggest, bring about and invite monumentality.
Actually, it is due to its psychological capacity to presents us with a self-contained universe. This universe, which is self sufficient in terms of visuality, is complete and generates a narrative rendered in the dialogue between observer and artwork.
To viewers, Horacio Kleinman's sculpture evokes muralism. It evokes the type of muralism that tells a story, renders an account of community life as well as its epic, religious and social history. More than merely signaling with the impossibility of a non-existent third dimension, it presents a recurrent suggestion. It is precisely their narrative character and clear narrative messages that convey its similarities with mythical muralism. Although the artist's intent
could be interpreted in different ways, this multiplicity of interpretations is not found in the confusion of signs or possible intentional concealments. As far as understanding is concerned, the issue resides neither in misleadings nor on an intention to deceive the public. It just so happens that the world of individuals is made up of secret societies. Despite all that is said, demagogically, about communications and everyone's easy access to everything, knowledge remains
a hermetic realm. Nothing needs to be hidden. Esotericism spawns from people's individual ability to grasp certain language skills. For this purpose, it is not necessary to found secret societies or design strict regulations and rituals. Those who are able will understand it, and nothing will change this. Like in the work of other artists, the same thing applies to Kleinman's sculpture, itself a work of substantial formal clearness.
Even if we had not been aware of the artist's background in architecture, these compositions would refer us to an urban setting of squares and row houses containing people and family legends: human gatherings at villages, grotesque towns, troglodytic cave people - harmonious beings sharing delimited spaces.
The human experience is one of building cities. Its entire history mentions cities and organization of human beings. In a well-defined manner, individuals have structured for themselves an awareness that is totally self oriented, and they are defined by their urban and political structure. The life of the Hellenics, the history of Romans, the constitution of modern times, literature, visual arts, science, war and peace, all of them have taken place within the realm of political history.
Certainly, Kleinman's "cities" are not situated within a recognizable timeframe. They may refer to grotesque groups, medieval squares and 20th-century conglomerates. It is only natural that the artist adopted forms suggested by his time, as well as it is only natural that we recognize our daily visual elements. In Horacio Kleinman's work, these recognizable forms do not lead, mechanically, to concept: rather, they bridge the gap between his work and the public.
We know what it is that so impressed the artist's eyes, and we know he is our coeval. He is one of us; he belongs in our immediate reality - or, at least, in that which we view as reality. In my opinion, the initial empathy inspired by this work spawns from this apparent encounter. And, in terms of appearance, we are in a same situation and share a same identity.
The historical period is not revealed, just as the characters also remain incognito. By association, i.e., while observing the carriage of figures and the rhythm of their inner motion, we could think up various situations. The artist handles visual nuclei, prototypal situations and abstract models. His sculptures reach back to archetypal memories and arouse in viewers a great variety of historical, imaginary of model recollections - all of which favor research and stimulate
imagination in different cultural fields.
At times these figures seem to fold back onto themselves, at times they are characters performing a slow dance of an idealized oriental country. We expect them to rub their hands together, lift their eyebrows, revolve their eyes and shuffle their feet. It is as if all these signs were meant to refer us to the legend of encounter between male and female energy, al the origin of our known universe that, as predicted, will be ending on a previously set date when all things will
come together as one and the conflicting opposites will no longer have any meaning.
The notion of ancestry prevails in Horacio Kleinman's work. Possibly, we could be watching an initiation rite inside a cave known only to the artist. Each sculpture is a visual capsule containing an important moment of history. The sculptor tells us about his intuition and how everything came to be. He is a "chronoless" chronicler. We do not know the circumstances, nor the cave, nor the people, nor even the date when all this happened.
In this timeless narrative the artist puts historical time "on hold" and shows us the atemporal side of human condition. Perhaps he takes us even further, as this time interruption presents us a being that is directly related with the universe and responds to its metaphysical possibility. But this answer is not an absolute connection; rather, it is the lack of this connection, i.e. man's tendency to become engrossed in his own affairs, his history and his sheer existence.
In other words, a human being connected with himself. The anguish of contingency and the absence of transcendence.
Horacio Kleinman is an artist of our time. It is now, right before our eyes, arousing our emotions, that these scenes take place and lead us to assumptions, bring to mind subjacent memories or let loose our imagination. Image and action. He is certainly an artist who shares with us this magnificent act of shaping images and gets enthusiastic over his possibilities, for he is also an observer just as illustrious as the most unpretentious viewer among his public.
Alter all, he is no longer capable of telling whether intuition gives rise to form or form stirs up intuition in this everlasting interplay between knowledge and performance - an interaction without beginning or end, a situation that confers virtuality to art and life.
To make it is to learn it. Signs convey the present time: city, language, the nonexistence of the divine, a lack of perspectives, and an obsession with the continent. The technique is domestic and has been devised with the available technology, well within the social and physical scale of South America. In a different situation or another scale, these sculptures were to stand in public spaces; they would have other dimensions.
The artist belongs in direct lineage to the Renaissance. He focuses on the human figure, amasses different types of knowledge, combines different areas of learning and, mainly, leaves out everything that does not belong in the man-made world. It was not World War I that annihilated God: it was the option made over the last 500 years of modernism. From this viewpoint this world is made different because of the ancestry load and the countless suggestions of archetypal models.
In art, the option for the symbol forcibly leads to the refinement of perception and counters the modernist discourse.
Any ambiguity that Horacio Kleinman's sculpture may possibly arouse results from the complexity of its language. The difference between art and everyday commercial communication lies in the repertoire. Whereas art is unexpectedly articulated to render symbolic forms, everyday communication puts out its message in a redundant and predictable manner. While the first reveals the world and our self- image to ourselves, the other pacifies us by validating prosaic images.
Ultimately, in art, the very nature of the repertoire will have changed and, despite the shared starting point, the repertoire of signs available for the tribe, we will have distinct formal, visual and linguistic realities.
Horacio Kleinman's sculpture does not reveal itself to the viewer at a first glance. On the contrary, it comes totally enshrouded with mystery, so it becomes necessary for the onlooker to scrutinize it, slowly, before setting out to unveil the sculpture. Kleinman's work presents itself quite simply as an arabesque that contains nearly tridimensional figures and that, one way or another, always address the same issue. These various possibilities of interpretation
and approach, or yet the various degrees of mystery contrast with the leading trend of our time, i.e. taking at face value all that great majority of things which, in fact, are but merely apparent.
This finding may seem unforeseen to anyone, who has ever dwelled on the subject, but the truth is, art loathes appearance. Anyone who thinks the current communication gap between art and public has been introduced by the vanguards is totally misled, possibly by an ideal notion about art of the past. Even and mainly totemic art of mythical societies is built on revelations that are not communicated at once to the unaware viewer. Likewise, our historical art - based on purely
human things and free of both, the presence of gods and the connection between human and divine - has always been communicated to the public through a sophisticated system. 0ften those manifestations produced in the art circuit by the media and the fashion industry are mistaken for the entirety of artistic manifestations. This is due to many reasons, one of the most influential of them being the notion that the media and reality die the same thing. To begin, they are not:
furthermore, the media make up a communications system and, as such, are a fabricated product. In the great majority of cases, they are nut essentially different from other products, as news people would like to believe. Furthermore, something fabricated is not the same as reality. As could be expected, in present-day art-field there is such a great amount of mystification that the public's distrustful reactions are fully justified. Even so, would seem imprudent to turn away
from the plenteous art source only for this reason. Such attitude would denote the victory of deceit and an impoverishment of human existence.
In his work, Horacio Kleinman utilizes the opposition of polarities: full-empty, background-figure, contour-content, modern-ancestral, profane-sacred and static-movement. Furthermore, he does not illustrate concepts: rather, he establishes new observation rules and prompts our enlightening perception based on our own frame of reference. As we view his sculpture we no longer tread familiar paths: we blaze our own way and find ourselves plunged in this incognito magma that,
as part of art itself, also becomes our own magma.
Horacio Kleinman is an artist of sound cultural and technical background. He is a well accomplished architect, painter and sculptor who had a conventional art education; he has handled oil paint with the same dexterity with which he now handles bronze, marble and wood. At age 15, Kleinman began to learn drawing and painting from Oscar Capristo, in Buenos Aires. In 1962-63 he took sculpture classes from Peter Grippe in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA., while at Brandeis
University: He also studied architecture at Columbia University, in New York, and at the School of Architecture and Urbanism of the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires.
Initially Kleinman was a figurative painter of grave, dark tunes of gray and black. He produced a physically dense, intensely manipulated painting that focused mainly on scenes of intertwined human figures and spaces. This was precisely the theme which he later chose to render into sculpture.
As a sculptor, Horacio Kleinman began by experimenting with large spaces and communicating directly with the public. He produced large format murals in Buenos Aires using both clay and lime plaster. After that, in abidance by the social trend of sculpture itself in South America, he turned entirely to the production of medium-formal bronze, marble, clay and wood sculptures. This new phase in his career corresponded to a period of introspection during which he remained
relatively withdrawn from the public art scene, plunged in architectural design. For many years Horacio Kleinman seldom showed his art work, always with the same rigor and moderation found in the intimate relationship he established with his art-making process in his quest to understand the world and achieve inner peace.
This work clearly evinces the author's intention to render a certain idea, a seasoned notion, into concrete form. Its main focal point is always man and his standing in the world - in this case, a constructed world, the human space, the universe of language. Now, what do we have in this allegory of human life in a man-made space? A strict, hermetic language entirely concentrated in itself. In this articulation there is no room for anything else but itself. It leaves no possibility
for transcendence. It bears the formalism of language, the creation of language, the structure of thought, and man is captured in this universe which he himself has built. A universe (of language) that in fact has served to define him.
Man inhabits the space-time of language. The place of man. A faceless man. A man-space. The human labyrinth. Bronze men. Man in a man-made labyrinth. In the same way that in this labyrinth there is no transcendence, in most 20th-century art there is no God. Furthermore, there is no oppression or external threat, there is no Minotaur. Likewise, there is no possible help out of this situation, there is no Ariadne or guiding thread. In the guise of commentary and contribution to the
traditional notion of labyrinth - where the entrance is easily reachable, but the way out we have great trouble finding - is changed to include a closed entrance and exit that are forever frozen in themselves, constituting exemplary situations of a secluded universe.
The labyrinth as devised by Horacio Kleinman is a world frozen in time and space. We know neither when it began nor when it will end. His labyrinth is a logical impossibility because it has no entrance - therefore, there are no passages for outsiders. As a maze it does not fulfill its historical mission, because it is not open to the outside. And what about those who are inside, would they have entered or was the labyrinth erected around those figures as an environment built
around them? Most certainly, there is a concrete hypothesis that the labyrinth was built by its inhabitants, in which case it would be a house, a casing that grows out of the being itself, an utmost protection, the exoskeleton of a strange being.
Traditionally, the labyrinth represents an initializing process. Man enters the labyrinth and the obstacles ahead are his trials. The game calls for reaching the center and then finding the way out. The center represents balance, the fusion with the divine and, at the same time, the central point itself. The forked pathways, the changes in course, the illogicalness, the concentric circles found in the nave of some cathedrals, all are part of the hero's passage to his inner-self,
his inner sanctuary, and to his encounter with the divine. The labyrinth endorses intuition, i.e. a consultation with the inner voice. a
non-retinal vision. The man-hero must not be distracted by accidents: rather, he must carefully mind his steps. The blind oracle is an example of intuition and contact with divine message. His eyes do not see the prosaic world, everyday things and illusive matter, which turns him capable of plunging in introspection, listening to his inner voice and wordless knowledge. The blind oracle has freed himself of the appeals of illusory reality and the sentimentalism of the ego, and
devoted himself thoroughly to the emergence of the divine and the unutterable. Man has been blinded so he can see.
Kleinman's challenge consists of permanently focusing his attention on shapeless things. There is no getting distracted over mutable, perishable or dependent things. However, this disposition could be passed on by some entity. It originates from the quest for self-fulfillment. The artist teaches himself: he is his own master, and we could even affirm that his course consists of discovering his master, who is none other but himself. Although instructors warn about the risks
and guide the search, they cannot instruct more than students can instruct themselves.
By and large the labyrinth is seen as man's way of representing infinity in its two aspects that are found more constantly in human imagination: eternal mutation and eternal return. The spiral denotes this endless mutation or permanent transformation, whereas the braid stands for a never-ending return, the going back to the starting point, a cyclic movement. From this standpoint, we see Horacio Kleinman as an artist engaged in making braids, an eternal return and a cyclic
world. Could one possibly fail to notice this element - this masked, obscure and yet existing myth of eternal return - in Kleinman's work? His sculpture is an interlacing of form, a permanent interlocking, a braid. Here the mythical signification, rather than the anthropological, seems more influential though both have been side by side, quite consequentially, since the turn of this century. Such signification is consistent with the formal structure and explicit allusions
to the human nature of Kleinman's sculpture in terms of cyclic recurrence and return to the starting point. Time and space stand stationary in their cycle, because they regularly return to the starting point.
The arabesque conceals the braided format that, in turn, reveals the myth of the endless return and places us inside a Kleinmanian labyrinth. Here man seeks the center of form as well as his own center. He seeks the accurate concept of this time-space, which he created and in which now he feels trapped. Possibly and above all, he may feel as an indissoluble part of this structure. The structure and he are one. In the Kleinmanian labyrinth, man and maze are one and
the same: the entanglement of paths is like man, and initiation is like man capable of initiation. An initiated is a new man; and he who is incapable of initiation, has failed or did not find his path, actually knows nothing and does not even realize he has been submitted to initiation trials. He achieved frothing. so he perceived nothing. To him, an artist on the margins, entangled and confused paths leading nowhere are all there is, and life is but this blank trajectory
of the retinal vision (that lacks inner vision). The life of bronze men.
photo: Nelson Kon