Xavier Coronel – ‘Wonder Boy Complex’

Centro de arte contemporáneo (CAC)
Quito, Ecuador
Curated by Rodolfo Kronfle Chambers

What has most distinguished the painting of Xavier Coronel (Guayaquil, 1988) is that it resists being defined by a concrete and evident framework of interests. His ambition with respect to this is manifested, however, in his decided inclination towards large formats, against the progressive domestication of local contemporary painting in the last ten years. In spite of the indications he provides in the titles and figurative suggestions, his paintings on a heroic scale allow us to perceive – in certain passages – a formal filiation for abstraction, where expressive gestures and a particular way of applying paint that may evoke the post-war art of the New York School are revealed: a bet on the emotional flashes that texture, color and other plastic resources and ideas such as – in his words – “the stain, the slant, the void, the lack of framing, the distortion“.

In his approach, that narrative hermeticism with which he has sought throughout his career to shield his works – his propensity to build fiction upon fiction exponentially – seems to have gone hand in hand with the “inherent impulse towards the abstract” towards which he gravitated, as a function of his subjective understanding of abstraction as a language/concept that overflows its usual interpretation as the simple antithesis of representation.

This “filmmaker-painter”, as the artist has defined himself, has asserted himself in an extreme freedom of approach that has led him to produce an entire exhibition fabulising an extraterrestrial invasion over the landscapes of the Ecuadorian coast (Omari Fox Bay, 2016), or to elaborate a dense plot where he intertwines science fiction and Latin American political intrigue, tracing apocryphal links between the cinema of Ridley Scott and the literary fiction of Joseph Conrad (Nostromo, 2018), and then producing, for example, paintings in which he uses captures of a live stream of Justin Bieber in the backyard of his house throwing golf balls into the pool.

For the series that makes up this exhibition – entitled Wonder Boy Complex – the artist confronts the links between the historical figure of the child prodigy and his extraordinary imagination at the stage of adolescence, an oblique way of approaching the long memory of the autobiographical that has also appeared in other instances of his work. In the choice of imagery for his recent work, there does not seem to be a process of conscious attraction to the referents used, nor a desire to weave a superficial discourse around the specificity of each image. Coronel affirms himself in an apology for the “unimportant”, and this is where the political aspect of his gesture resides, by opting precisely for an antithesis of the high-flown rhetoric and over-intellectualisation that accompanies much of the art of the present in order to return it with an inverted logic: the vindication of the banal through grandiloquence.

The macro project for WBC seems to be based on the construction of very dissimilar and diverse layers of meaning. Each painting includes, behind a veil of deceptive spontaneity, a careful selection of images drawn from his heterogeneous visual consumptions, without the artist feeling he has to justify the agenda behind his criteria: we may find the silhouette of the tattoo on his arm scrawled by his niece, or a capture of a film whose name he does not remember (where he values more the cryptic geometry of the shape he cuts out in the foreground than the “quotation” of the film as a cultural text); or we may confront some random find from his everyday life that may be trivial, like that tyre and ab ball that caught his eye in a corner of the gym.

Coronel’s work is a type of painting anchored in the contamination and hybridisation of multiple sources, but attentive to the power of signs and in which he hopes that psychologically complex chains and stories will emerge that configure a certain depth around the indiscernible. In this type of speculative figuration, an unstructured network of signifiers is woven, based on the anonymity of the origin of the images, and on a type of communication in which a mental flow that is difficult to systematize is translated. In WBC the artist duels with the lightness he finds in the institutional system of art that surrounds us. In his contest he confronts the hermeneutic arrogance with which artistic production is calibrated with the creative immodesty of the child prodigy: here he mines and exposes his own subconscious in a particular crossing of the cerebral and the emotional that does not deny metaphorical operations, but is reluctant to them as dissections around the evident.

Rodolfo Kronfle Chambers