Opening: Saturday 11 March 16.00 - 19.00
Family is supposed to be a safe haven; should anything go wrong, you know where to turn to. But in the event of an engulfing fire, do loved ones still look out for each other, or is it every man for himself? In his new body of work, Luis Xertu reflects on his bourgeois upbringing, in which he was protected as long as he was of use, realising love and care were all but unconditional. Xertu's father instilled the concept of survival of the fittest into the artist's young mind, often shutting down grievances by stating: 'In nature nobody would care for you either'.
Being part of a social class is of great comfort, as long as you obey the unspoken rules: one must not burst the bubble of nonchalance. Xertu, unwilling to conform to the hedonistic posture and aesthetic of the Mexican upper-class lifestyle, was confronted with a dilemma. He was free to leave, but that meant he would be alone. The artist's mother seems to be muted – in Xertu's painting, she is represented as a powerless mare veiling her face in the greenery, like an ornamental commodity to display symbolic status yet possessing no identity.
Starting from a personal journey, Xertu also probes socio-political debates on a macro level. The series of paintings is an allegory where animals try to survive in a forest under attack, tantamount to the 1923 Felix Salten novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods. This body of work follows a twofold narrative that begins with observing a state of bliss, belonging, and togetherness — a family of birds relaxing on a tree, seductive men resting after a workout or posing in their swimwear. Beyond these bounds, structures crumble as soon as their surroundings are set ablaze, everybody reveals their egocentric nature, and children are left abandoned and helpless. While little Bambi represents people threatened during the interbellum, Xertu references the horrors of a looming environmental catastrophe.
Xertu's idiosyncratic language that employs painting and real foliage captures themes such as privilege, narcissism, belonging versus dominion, queerness and digital culture. The plants’ gradual discolouration through decay brings the viewer back to reality and hints at the notions of temporality and impermanence.
“The young doe said, "In this very hour many of us are going to die. Perhaps I shall be one of them.” - Felix Salten, Bambi, a life in the woods (1923)
About the artist
Luis Xertu (1985) moved from Mexico to the Netherlands in 2004 and graduated from the Rietveld Academy in 2009. He further developed his visual language working within the performing arts, where he designed set pieces that experimented with the mediums of theater and dance. He was nominated for the Dutch Royal Award for Modern Painting 2019 and was awarded the Audience Award. 'In nature nobody would care for you either' is his second exhibition at TORCH Gallery.