Libraries: Signs of Abandonment

March 29 - April 11, 2021
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  • "Instead of offering us either a pleasing soporific or a fashionable cynicism, he has chosen to look daily life’s bitter truth in the eye. It is his determination to see the world for what it is, and to bring it to bear in his paintings, that singles him out from his contemporaries. Knowing there is no other world but this one, Tacla’s paintings invite, as well as help, us to dwell among the decaying ruins of our time."

    --John Yau, "The Sprawl: Recent Paintings by Jorge Tacla"

  • Jorge Tacla began painting libraries in 2015 after visiting Trinity College in Dublin. His first painting (Señal de Abandono 1)...

    Jorge Tacla, Señal de Abandono 1, 2015

    Jorge Tacla began painting libraries in 2015 after visiting Trinity College in Dublin. His first painting (Señal de Abandono 1) shows Trinity's vaulted ceilings and rows of books stretching away from the viewer, rendered in the artist's signature mixture of oil paint with cold wax.

     

    In the years that have followed Tacla has painted all kinds of libraries from all over the world. The institution is one of the main subjects in his recent work, and one that has come to have increased meaning during the pandemic.

     

    Highlighted in this viewing room is Señal de Abandono 57, which shows the Upper Lusatian Library of Sciences in Görlitz. Dating to the 18th century, this library was a vital resource to scientists working to develop the Covid-19 vaccine last year. Alluding to this connection, Tacla has painted a picture of its historic hall overlaid with drips and stains of red paint.

  • Jorge Tacla, Señal de Abandono 57, 2020

    Jorge Tacla

    Señal de Abandono 57, 2020 oil and cold wax on canvas
    30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)
  • Libraries are vital records of civilization, containing the inscribed histories of the people, places and beliefs that have guided us to where we are now. Tacla, however, fears that they are being forgotten. The title of this and his other library paintings--Señal de Abandono--translates to "sign of abandonment."

  • Part of Tacla's concern is how the concrete materiality offered by books has given way to the Internet, in which information can be endlessly distorted, re-written, fragmented and even erased. As was evident in the previous U.S. Presidential administration, those who control access to information can manipulate history. Tacla's Sign of Abandonment series is a reminder of the centrality of libraries--and knowledge--to a more just world.

  • Jorge Tacla, Señal de Abandono 58, 2020

    Jorge Tacla

    Señal de Abandono 58, 2020 oil and cold wax on canvas
    30 x 40 inches
    76.2 x 101.6 cm
  • Señal de Abandono 58 depicts the Trinity College Library in Dublin. It is one of several paintings Jorge has made of the subject, including the first library painting he ever created. Holding over seven million titles, the Trinity College Library is home to the Book of Kells and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. As a copyright library, all publishers in Ireland must give a copy of their works to the library for posterity.

  • Jorge Tacla, Señal de Abandono 27, 2018

    Jorge Tacla

    Señal de Abandono 27, 2018 oil and cold wax on canvas
    60 x 60 inches
    152.4 x 152.4 cm
  • One of Tacla's most poignant memories from when Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in 1973 was the raid of the library that held all of Santiago's far-left texts. The military removed the books from the building and burned them in a pile in the street, making a clear statement as to what kind of thinking would be valued in the new regime, and what would be punished.

     

    Tacla later selected the spot where the books had been burned as the site for his video Informe de Lesiones, in which he set his notebooks, personal records and papers on fire. Informe de Lesiones is shown here in its entirety to underscore the threat posed by the loss of libraries.

  • Jorge Tacla, Señal de Abandono 55, 2020

    Jorge Tacla

    Señal de Abandono 55, 2020 oil and cold wax on canvas
    30 x 40 inches
    76.2 x 101.6 cm
  • Tacla's libraries are always shown without visitors, a deliberate choice on his part. With empty study halls and unperused books, they project a timelessness that lends to their abandoned appearances.

     

    A credo of the Party in George Orwell's 1984 is "Ignorance is Strength." It means that those who are ignorant of the truth give their power to those who tell them what to think. Tacla's vacant libraries are a warning to not forget our history, lest our ignorance enable injustice and oppression.

  • Jorge Tacla, Señal de Abandono 25, 2017

    Jorge Tacla

    Señal de Abandono 25, 2017 oil and cold wax on canvas
    71 1/2 x 49 inches (181.6 x 124.5 cm)
  • Señal de Abandono 25 shows the interior of the Mark Twain branch of the Detroit Public Library, which was demolished in 2011 after suffering years of neglect. Designed to be a gathering place for the community, it functioned as a circulating library but was also large enough for events. The building first closed to the public in the 1990s, due to economic decline in Detroit. For nearly two decades, the building languished, deteriorating while financial woes and mismanagement prevented its reopening. Despite public outcry, it was leveled in 2011. Tacla's painting shows the library in its neglected state, with books strewn across the floor and graffiti on the windows.

     

    To view more about Jorge Tacla, please click here.