Telephone Call, 1984
Neon light, straw, clay.

This was the first sculpture I shown in a gallery after arriving in Madrid. It was part of a project organised by the alternative space “Poisson Soluble”, run by Victoria Encinas. The space agreed with the Spanish telephone company to borrow 10 telephone boxes over which the artists may work. At this time I was still under clear influence of Arte Povera.

Axis Mundi, 1986
Iron and salt rocks.

I made this, my first serious sculpture, to be shown at the Palacio de Sastago, a renaissance palace in the middle of Zaragoza in Spain. It is a 5 metres tall tower representing a mountain. I had climbed few months before the San Lorenzo mount in La Rioja, the place I was born, by walking in a spiral of seven laps towards the top. It took me one whole day. The tiny dot in the picture below is me while the performance.

Cold War X, 1987
Various objects.

The reason I was interested in this object might be evident, so I have nothing to say about it. Or it might be instead so obscure that I cannot recognise it, nor remember it.

Las tres partes de la filosofía (Three Parts of Philosophy), 1987
Wood, iron, quartz salts.

Due to readings on Alchemy I came up with this object which sums some of the symbols of the tradition. I still find interesting Alchemy, to the extent that its processes have some similarities with those of art: the manipulation of physical materials in order to obtain changes in the soul. Also due to its character oppositional to science. The “philosophy” in the title is the Alchemist’s knowledge. “The Three Parts of Philosophy” is a classical alchemy book, from which I extracted the texts printed around the buckets. The work was shown in Maastricht, at Gallery Wanda Reiff (the last image).

The Essence in Art… , 1987
Iron, earth and grass.

At that time I started a series of works in which the use of living grass was the highlight of the objects. The focus was always put the in process: the need of maintenance, the constant effort to control the growth, in the decadence and the rust. The artworks were both straight examples of uncontrollability and metaphors of thought and language, the impossibility of attaining fixed definitions of things.

Supported Nature 1, 1987
Stone, grass, iron, stick.

I believe this was the first work I made in grass that I considered so. It was shown at Moriarty, in Madrid, at my first exhibition in the gallery. It was about sculptural problems and the fragility of the natural environment.

Supported Nature 2, 1987
Iron, wood, earth and grass.

A second version of the same idea. This one was never shown.

Switch (Conmutador), 1987
Wood and switchers.

A statement for a wish for full control of the passions, as if the switches actually had an effect on one’s own mood. The signs say “Anxiety/Boredom”, “Anguish/Rapture”.

Tao (object), 1987
Marble, feather and knife.

This was an object made out of the happy encounter of few objects in the studio. The marble plate was found in the street, the feather given as a present by a friend, the knife came to the studio table during lunch. The combination reminded me the idea in the Tao of the lightness of a feather able to cut the hardness of the knife. As a result the work appeared.

Tao, 1987
Iron and antirust paint.

This intervention was one of a series of wall paints the city of Madrid commissioned to different artists. The walls were located in various parts of the city, quite distant one of each other. Supposedly one should give a drawing made to scale for the painters to reproduce, but I did not like the fact of having a mediator, nor the graphic character that those images usually have, or the industrial finishing. Instead I thought to contribute with a work which will incorporate, in the concept and execution, the unescapable deterioration that the work was going to suffer. There were four planks of iron in each of the two drawings. The lines of the funnel are made with thin iron bars that should channel the rain hitting the planks during the years. Antirust paint was applied in the background of the drawing, but not inside the funnel, so then the rust will be destroying slowly the planks, dripping and leaving its imprint in the wall below. The work lasted there for more than 15 years. The sentences are from Tao philosophy: "Only nothingness penetrates in what has no cracks”, and “a knife which is constantly sharpened will not keep its blade for long”.

The Black Lagoon, 1987
Iron, tar, water, moss and earth.

There is a high mountain lagoon near of where I was living at the time in Spain, which is called “the black lagoon”.  The sculpture was shown in Moriarty, the gallery that can be seen in the pictures.

The Fixed Idea, 1987
Bronze, apple.

I casted those half apples in Germany and a week later I put them on a show at Gallery Wanda Reiff in Maastricht, The Netherlands, where they were sold and I never saw them again. They have been the only work on bronze I have made. Bronze is always a temptation, because it does everything “so artistic”. Bronze casting gives the most straight (and somehow trivial) artistic result of the idea of fixation, of stealing things out the flow of time, and give them an eternity leave.

Untitled (balance), 1987
Iron, grass, earth and scale.

This work is a different version of the fragility of balance in nature I had reflected upon in Supported Nature.

Untitled (Tower), 1988
Lamp, clay, electricity and iron.

The electricity passed through the spine of the tower and through the wire the lamp was hanging from. The contact of the lamp with the tower was instable, just by one sharp point. For me it suggested a connection of the sky with the ground similar to lightning. But the sculpture also implies another link out of picture faraway, by which the circuit is closed, where electricity is produced. One of the images is in Ciento Gallery in Barcelona. The others are in the studio, while building it, and some tests with versions of the same idea. The show was reviewed in Artforum by Gloria Moure.

El Elogio de la locura (The Praise of Folly), 1988
Clay, iron and glass.

The two towers are made in the same material than those of the former work Untitled. The concept of the work has to do also with the idea of instability that interested me in the previous sculpture. The 1 by 1 m pieces of glass are supported just by that very same point in which the terminals made contact in Untitled. The names of Nietzsche and Hoelderlin are written in the wall, and are cut in half by the glass in such a way that, if you look from below you see the low part of the word mirrored, and if you look from about, you see the top part reflected. The image of the word is also the mix of both parts, the reflected and the seen through, and it makes the text somehow difficult to read. There was also the drawing in the picture, which usually accompanied the installation. It was shown at two exhibitions organized by the Instituto de la Juventud, one in Madrid, at the extinct Museum of Contemporary Art, and then at the Konstructioner, Udstillingsbygningen, Copenhague (Denmark). The drawing has been photographed at the studio.

Cordillera, el paisaje romántico, (Mountain Chain, the Romantic Landscape), 1988
Iron and electric light

This work went to Sao Paulo Biennale, when I participated representing Spain in 1989. It is now in the collection of the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. It was inspired by Morning in Riesengebirge, a painting by Caspar David Friedrich.

Phenomena and Noumena, 1988
Iron, electricity and candle.

A small work inspired on a reading of Schopenhauer. I cannot remember what happened with this object.

Fountain, 1988
Iron, seeds.

This work was shown in Moriarty Gallery in Madrid and in Ciento Gallery (Barcelona). It was the starting point for many of the works I made during the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s with living materials.

La cama de Ulises (Ulises’ Bed), 1988
IIron, water and tree of Brazil.

Oddly enough, this is the only image I have of this work, which was brought to Brazil and shown at the Sao Paulo Biennale. The trunks were alive and, after some time the work installed, they got a branch with some leaves coming from the sides. The trees supported the plank in the air.

La Libertad solo existe en la lucha por la libertad (Freedom only exists in the seek for freedom), 1988
Iron, Wood, oil.

The sentence written in this small work must have come from some anarchist literature I was reading at the time, Landauer or Kropovkin. The meaning has accompanied me during all my life, and is present in all I write currently. The word “freedom” has been replaced during the years by “truth”, “justice”, “knowledge” or “art”, but the principle continued working in the same way. The first thing that it implies is that there is no definitive freedom, justice or art, and that if one wants any of them, one cannot ever rest. The lamp is always lit, an oil candle as Romans used 20 centuries ago.

Night and Day, 1988
Sieve, soil, grass.

The sieve is hanging from the wall in a corner. At the same distance from the corner in the other wall, like mirroring, there is a circle, of the same size than that of the sieve, of scratched wall. The grass grows in the sieve, kind of horizontally. Ideally, it would reach one day the other circle.

Panoptic I,1988
Copper, iron, cypresses.

This first Panoptic was shown in Moriarty Gallery in Madrid. It is, like many other previous works, a presentation in sculptural problems of the idea that balance has to be constantly maintained, that perfection, when achieved, is only momentary.

Sacrifice (Representation), 1988
Coconut plant, iron, photographic print, soil.

The process when showing this work was to take a picture of the leaves of the coconut, to cut the leaves by the framing of the picture, and put the picture in the wall as substitute. This work was shown twice and, even if I took care of watering the coconut, the plant died in both occasions. Another instance of the theme of fixation but pointing this time to the fact that representation ends with the phenomenon represented.

Seven Moments which are the Same, 1988
Glass jars, soil and grass.

I planted the seeds in order every other day. The day of the opening mean to be exact in line, as I hang the jars aligning them on the top. Then, during the show, I had to trim them down, because younger the grass is, faster grows. It was shown in Galeria Moriarty in Madrid. The theme of this work has been a riddle appearing in many other works later.

A Secret Knowledge, 1988
Iron, cooper, books.

The grip is holding 12 books which have had their spine sanded, so it is not possible to know what their titles are unless you unscrew the clam. It is made after Duchamp’s “A Secret Noise”. In the picture it is at the Galeria Ciento in Barcelona.

Untitled (books), 1988
Books and wood.

I have exhibited my personal library twice in this way. One was at Moriarty gallery, the second at the Expo 92 in Seville.

Cone, 1989
Iron net, grass, soil.

This cone was one of the last instalments within the “supported nature” series, made and shown at Wanda Reiff Gallery in Maastricht (The Netherlands). It has a nice repulsive effect.

Eclipse, 1989
Lamp, electric light, moss, earth.

This work was also shown at Wanda Reiff Gallery in Maastricht and it has remained there, as it was bought by one of the gallery owners. The image in the garden is the definitive location, as far as I know. I was very keen on this work at the time, due to the various particularities of the sculptural problems in volume/light, inside/outside, hidden/revealed…

Geviert, 1989
Iron and paper.

In the paper hanging in the middle of the sculpture it is written the word “Geviert”, German for “fourfold”. It is a term Heidegger uses to refer to the relation between sky, earth, mortals and gods. I do not know if at the time my intention was other than give satisfaction to the excitement that those words provoked in me. The sculpture was shown at the Colon Centre in Madrid and then bought by the Artium museum in Vitoria (Spain).

Green Plant, 1989
(244.1 x 56.6 x 7.9 cm)

A tray of soil from which grass grows during the time the work is exhibited. I put a net inside the tray in order to keep the soil in place while standing. The shape, size and installation of the sculpture is similar to Red Plank, a 1969 work by the American minimalist artist John McCracken. Green Plant was shown in Moriarty Gallery in 1989 and then bought by Jeffrey Deitch for the show Artificial Nature at the Deste Foundation. The images are of the grass growing in the studio and of the grass already dry after couple of weeks in Moriarty.

Holocaust, 1990
Wood and clamps.

I don´t think this was ever shown. It was only reproduced in catalogues. I did it very much for the sake of the pictures. I guess I would not call it “holocaust” now, because even if it is still “everything burned”, after studying so much about WWII and the Shoah, the term has now very different connotations than the ones, more personal, I wanted to give to this object.

Home, 1990
Photographic print.

This is a happy coincidence converted in a successful shot. Happy coincidences are always about to happen when one has a studio full of things that linger around. There are many years already that I do not have one, and this represents a kind of cleansing of the reservoir of objects one carries around. The image was used for the booklet of Art Summer University, a project I did at Tate Modern in London in 2007.

Panoptic II, 1990
Iron, cypress.

I produced this iron chubby version of Panoptic for a show in Wanda Reiff in Maastricht. It has never been my habit to work in series, but in this case this object was composing nicely with others in the show, more than acting on its own.

Terminus, 1990
Iron.

This object was originated by my first thought on self-referentiality. At least I see it this way now, when the matter has become so important in my understanding of art and life. The sculpture was shown at Galeria Barnola, in Barcelona, and sold to the collection of La Caixa. The picture with me in the wall was shot in Villoslada de Cameros, a small village in the north of Spain where I was living for 9 years.

Tristan and Isolde, 1990
Gas bottles and iron.

I was not very inspired when I put the title to this sculpture. I liked the suggestion of danger of two things that attract each other but are, due to their similarity, incompatible. Probably this is not that explicit in Tristan and Isolde as, perhaps, in Lancelot and Guinevere, for instance. Now it makes me think on a quote of Schopenhauer to which Lyotard refers in a lecture, about the hedgehogs getting together to protect themselves from cold but keeping distance to do not prick each other.

Destruction without Bitterness, 1991
Knives.

This work was shown many times, in different sizes and setups. It has a story similar to that of the ship of Theseus, because every time that it was sent to an exhibition, it returned with a number of knives missing, which I had to replace. Knives seem to be items especially attractive to lifting. The sculpture was at the 92 Expo in Seville, in Gotteborg Kunsthalle, in Atlantis gallery in London… so its soul is well spread.

Virtuous Circles 1, 1991
Installation and drawings

This was a site-specific installation for the Espai 13 at the Miro Foundation in Barcelona. A wall crossed the room in diagonal with two doors which opened in different directions. The shape invited to circulate, to go to one door as soon as you have left the other. The perfection of the circle come from the exact equivalence the attraction has with the impulse, without living any rest. A sort of symbolic perpetuum mobile. There were also these two big drawings illustrating relationships of circulation and mobility.

Virtuous Circles 2, 1991

This second version of Virtuous Circles, although different in form, shares with the first those ideas related to perfection and circularity. The work consisted in twelve balls of clay mixed with grass seeds which were hanging, in an ordered circle, from the ceiling. The two times that it was shown I hanged the balls and put a bag with water around, so the grass was growing in the gallery until the opening of the show, when the bags were removed. The images are from a solo show at Wanda Reiff Gallery, in Maastricht, and from a group show in Pulchri Studio in The Hague, called Ode to the Light. The picture of the bags is Pulchri Studio. The arrangement of the twelve small blackboards is another try of the same period.

El mundo profanado (The Desecrated World), 1991
Grass, cypresses.

This work was a site-specific installation for the, then starting, Biennial of Lerida (Spain). It was also for me a preparation for the series of gallery wide installations that I will produce in the following years. Curator Gloria Picazo organized this biennial which had many editions under the name of Bienal Leandre Cristòfol. It was my last work on circularity and central perfect models of the world.

Biological Chips, 1992
Grass on paper.

These three drawings were made by sketching the labyrinths with glue in the paper and then covering the glue with seeds. After that I was watering the drawing for a week or so. When they were shown the grass was still alive, and one can see insects running inside the case/frame. Two of them are in the collection of Reina Sofia in Madrid. The design with the floral centre is in the floor of the cathedral of Chartres.

Last Laps, 1992
Electricity material and electric light.

I installed this work three times, one in the studio, one in an art fair and one in a show. The result resembles traditional craftwork and, as craftwork, it is extremely labour intensive to make it. I was proud when it was sold to the Reina Sofia collection, because the only artwork delivered was electric cable, pins and a bulb. In the next year “recent acquisitions” show, the museum presented the work and I heard that the technicians who installed it cursed me few times.

Statu Quo, 1992
Iron, bricks, concrete.

As part of In Conformity with Logic, a show I made in my home town that gathered many works shown later in various exhibitions, I made this liveable size upside down house. It was a proper sculpture, with volume and balance issues, and with a sculptural weight. I am amazed now when I remember that the roof travelled through all the UK to be shown in different venues, in a tour called Five Voices from Spain. The walls were built locally. The sculpture was also shown in the Palacio de Velazquez in Madrid. The poster of the show in my home town featured the picture with the long windows upside down, thus the house looked like hanging from the ceiling.

Transfusion, 1992
Wood and apple.

Another sculpture produced for In Conformity with Logic show, in Logroño. When it was shown in Santiago de Compostela, while opening the show, a famous Spanish politician said that it seemed to be “the cubication of the sphere”.

Master Slave, 1993

I do not know if this title had the same implications in 1993, when computer technology terms were not so common in daily life conversations as today. At the time I was interested in the relationship of dependence that has the master with the slave, equal as the one of the slave with the master, both trapped in their mutual use, looking at and blinding each other. The work of the two chairs was one of the various experiments I did during the period of casting bulbs inside concrete blocks. The bulb did not last long usually, due to overheat.

Fractal Archipelago, 1994
Earth and moss

Pictures are from the show Thinking of You curated by Rosa Martinez in Gotterborg Kunsthalle, but the installation was shown also in Peru, at the Cultural Spanish Centre. In Peru I couldn’t use moss, but a kind of tropical grass with very broad leaves. The idea that in each fractal level of the island there is a different island, with different perimeter length, and different surface, all of them simultaneously present in each sublevel, suggests the image of an archipelago.

Blind Fate, 1994
Clay and straw.

This installation was made in response to the invitation of Greek curator Sania Papa to take part in the International Meeting of Sculpture at the European Cultural Centre in Delphos (Greece). Many artists from different countries came to Delphos to produce a work to be installed in the side of the mythological mountain Parnassus. My installation consisted in some 30 heads casted in clay and straw out of my own, that were installed as if the body was buried beneath. It was inspired by a torture of American Indians that left sufferers blind by forcing them to look at the sun, and by a line by Jocasta in Oedipus Rex: “Of what can, a man driven by a blind fate, be afraid?” I also projected the sculpture in such a way that, after some rainy days, it would melt with the red soil of the Parnassus.

Counting at Riesengebirge, 1994
Oil on canvas and altimeter.

Morning in the Riesengebirge is an 1810 painting, 108 x 170 cm, by Caspar David Friedrich. I painted a copy trying to be as precise as possible, using quite labour intensive veiling techniques. The time and effort offered to the painting was no justified by the mystical devotion to something supreme, because at the top of the central mountain, where Friedrich put a crucifixion, I installed an altimeter. It was shown in many places (everybody likes paintings) and finally sold to a museum in Burgos, a religious and mountainous province of Spain.

Metaphysics of Training, 1994
Bicycle, bricks and mortar.

After the installation in Delphos in Greece, where one can see the Omphalos, a stone that was for centuries considered “the centre of the world”, I came up with a series of mobile centres, reflecting on the idea that a centre did not exist anymore, leaving the value of it, by the time being, purely operational.

Reserves, 1994
Moss and earth.

This was the first of three gallery wide installations that kept me busy during 1994/5, and that represented unbearable physical labour and logistic problems. The whole Trayecto Gallery's floor, in Vitoria (Spain) was tessellated with heaps of earth and moss shaped and distributed according to a mathematical pattern. The pattern was taken from a book by Roger Penrose and it is a “quasi-periodic tiling with a crystallographically ‘impossible’ fivefold quasi-symmetry”.
Here is the catalogue of the show, with a long text about the concept.

Three Shots, 1994
Electric wire and bulbs.

The second of the installations was at Galleria Moriarty, in Madrid. It consisted in approximately 30 ladders made out of electric wire and elongate incandescent bulbs. The effect when entering to the gallery was quite surreal, because the amount of light and, as I discovered later, due to the fact that, contrary to the usual, the ceiling was illuminated. The connections were live, so there was a little danger of a mild shock. The theme of the three installations was the lack of metaphysical centre, in this case due to its profusion. The installation was later shown at EAST, in Norwich (UK), where I had my first encounter with ridiculously over-implemented health and safety regulations. The pictures in an office space were taken there. The last image is a test in the studio.

Digital Desert, 1995
Clay and straw.

This installation ended with my desire for big physical realisations. It involved seven tons of clay, weeks of work, expenses over my possibilities, production and operative problems… I had few people helping me to produce the pieces. In the warehouse we have put them for drying the atmosphere was too cold and humid, so the pieces were moulding. We moved them outside, to the sun, and then started raining and we had to bring them back to the warehouse. This task had to be done several times, and it took a whole day of work each time, and with many pieces broken in the process. It was emotionally quite tough. It is perhaps for this reason that the result seemed to me a miracle. It was installed in Galeria Antonio de Barnola, in the old neighbourhood of Barcelona. The light in the gallery was warm by the reflection and walking around was a great surreal experience. It really looked like an artificial desert. There were many visitors, but this time was the first in the history of my work (probably the only one) I felt that something different, unique, was lost forever when we dismantled it.

First Degree FX (Show your Wounds), 1995
Band aid and instant tan.

At the end of 1995 I was two months travelling through the USA and I finished in a residency at the University of Niagara. I was visiting virtual reality facilities around the country. Everything looked artificial to me (there were perhaps only my eyes), so I made this version of Denis Oppenheim’s endurance work (in the picture). I used a spray of instant tan. The title makes also reference to the “reality” quality of the works of Joseph Beuys.

Shroud (This is not a Trophy), 1995
Photo print.

This picture was also made during my residency in Niagara. To execute it, I called the main fishmongers in Buffalo, in order to find the biggest salmon in town. I bought it and brought it to a tailor who made, on the fly, this camouflage garment to measure.

Virtual Totentanz, 1995
Photo print.

In one of the trips with the salmon, from the fishmonger to the tailor to the photographer, I passed by this cemetery in Buffalo. Days later I made a self-portrait in fake virtual reality “outfit”. Years have passed and this image has becoming more and more relevant for me, as it presents many ideas about art, representation, self-consciousness and death I have been excited by in the last years. It presents the image of the artist, between the cutting edge technician and the clown.

Netscape, 1996
Oil on canvas

In 1996 the paradigmatic symbol of motion and dynamic change was the logo of the Internet browser Netscape, an animated gif with shooting stars. I made an everlasting oil painting with it. I am including it in this compilation of works because it has become obsolete as no other of the works of that time.

Interface, 1997
Diverse materials

My only exhibition at Galeria Elba Benitez in Madrid, Model )Worl(, consisted in this installation on virtual reality and representation. I asked a friend who worked in synthetic imaging to build a virtual room with the classical elements of the early virtual reality: geometrical shapes, a truncated icosahedra, wood patters and a single point of light. The room was them built physically, trying to copy the aesthetics in full. In the show consisted in the physical room and two monitors, one with the “original” 3D model and the other with a live close circuit image of the interior of the room. The work was reviewed by Jose Luis Brea in Artforum, and it was cited in various publications as a reflection on virtual reality.

Word by Word, 1997
Epoxy resin

The installation consisted in 32 dice with 32 sides each. It was inspired a quote by Mallarme: “the hazard abolished word by word”.

Disaster, 1998
Clay

After finishing this installation I moved to London, and started working mainly in video. It was many years until I presented an installation consisting on physical objects again. This one was shown at the galleries the Comunidad de Madrid had in the Plaza de Espana, where it was seized by the collection of a dodgy foundation belonging to an electricity company.