El Dorado

Some emerge, spreading out of the canvas seeming to reproduce indefinitely. Others burst out (from bottom to top) creating pyramids and domes whose foundations are never seen, all being improbable invasions like an inverted Dorado. El Dorado, the title of a painting by Alexis Duque depicting a working class quarter, ironically refers to the famous legend which enticed conquistadors to search for a city of gold in the area of Colombia and the Andes.

They could be clouds or floating clusters, amorphous contours that fit any shape confirming their adaptive ability. None of the settings include decorations; the backgrounds are white, neutral and nonexistent. Nature only reveals its presence as something wild and invasive, destructive even, like in Terrazas. There is no other reality but its own.

The artist draws the viewer's attention to the isolation of the transitory residents, like semi-nomads that emigrate hoping to find a better life on the outskirts of large metropolises. How are these new habitats in precarious equilibrium, these hovering countries that remind us of Swift's floating island sustained?

In denouncing the human and social drama that often plagues the over-populated capital cities in developing countries, Alexis Duque relies on just a few colors. Notwithstanding the use of acrylic paint, the artist makes the influence of illustration apparent, equally attending to all of the aspects of the painted surface without leaving anything to chance. He does not resort to the type of realistic painting style of some committed Latin American artists of the twentieth century. Rational and imaginary, often blended with a tinge of humor, Alexis's work could well be called fantastical.

The Colombian artist introduces architectural features that are characteristic of the Western Civilization, from ancient Greece and Rome: columns, capitals, and niches. They are symbols of the bygone ruling culture and the aesthetic model of the European colonizers, now an integral part of daily life of the populations of Latin America.

Finally, a parallel could be drawn between Duque's proposition and that of the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman (b.1953), who questions the portrayal of the people and their status as "extras" in Modern representation. Alexis Duque makes them "act" by their non-existence. In Alexis's El Dorado, the people are conspicuous in their absence.

Claire Luna