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The Eyes Have It
The Aguilera Triangle captures consciousness missed by Picasso
Thomas Johansmeyer (tomj)     Print Article 
Published 2008-03-09 04:28 (KST)   
The Smoker.
©2008 Julio Aguilera

Pablo Picasso may be among the masters, but his work has its flaws. His distortions led to a unique view of reality, but stopped just short of putting perception into the mix. While his place in the eternally unfolding history of the arts is beyond dispute, Picasso had a problem that has persisted since his death. His portraits are devoid of consciousness; faces are empty.

At first glance, New York artist Julio Aguilera appears to have a similar style. In fact, the artist readily admits the role that Picasso has played in his work. A second look, though, shows that Aguilera has taken lessons from the master and built them into a unique style. Aguilera's work actually highlights Picasso's weaknesses. The "Aguilera Triangle," which fuses the eyes and mouth into an expression of consciousness and emotion, is Julio's contribution to the tradition enhanced by Picasso.

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Picasso's Problem

Gaze into the eyes of any of Picasso's portraits, especially the women. Big black orbs reply in vacuous silence, offering nothing but emptiness. Picasso's people are forced to remain mute. The carved faces, rearranged body parts and abstracted context bring one into the mind of Picasso, but the subject itself has no voice. As a result, Picasso's human subjects lack the substance of his still life work.

Picasso made the eyes subservient to the body. Reflecting an inherent existentialism, in which the body is the arbiter of reality and the house of perception, the eyes become secondary. The body feels, and the body learns. The body does. The eyes, in Picasso's work, are a mere cog in the greater bodily machine. The result is an existential self-contradiction. Picasso grasps one part of the philosophy but sacrifices consistency for the sake of expediency

Existentialist philosophers, such as Jean Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, put knowledge in the body. The eyes are used to demonstrate consciousness in other people, saving the existential philosophical system from the trap of solipsism, that is, the concern that one is the only conscious being in the world. Picasso fails to grasp this subtle point, essentially conveying that "the other," to borrow Sartre's term, may not be conscious at all. To see Picasso's eyes is to wonder if one is the only conscious being in the world.

Only a Few Eyes Can See

The Aguilera Triangle solves this fundamental problem in Picasso's work, navigating the threat of solipsism and preserving the consciousness of "the other." Doubtless, the contributions of the Spanish master are evident in the Venezuela-born artist's paintings. Even as a child, Aguilera was captivated by the genius of Picasso, yielding an admiration that he continues to hold. Recently, though, Aguilera has broken Pablo's spell, infused more depth into his portraits than Picasso was ever able to muster. The Aguilera Triangle, a geometric relationship comprised of the two eyes and mouth of his subjects, is the solution to the emptiness with which Picasso's subjects were cursed.

To date, only one artist has grasped the importance of the eyes and been able to render them appropriately. Late Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer came close to expressing the consciousness of the human eye. Working three centuries before Sartre detailed the importance of the eyes in Being and Nothingness, Durer intuitively grasped the eyes as the seat of consciousness. One can stare at a Durer and sense that it is staring back. He thus avoids the difficulties inherent in bypassing solipsism.

While Durer was able to capture ocular consciousness, he missed the third part of the triangle. His eyes pierce, but they do not communicate. They indicate consciousness without revealing the thought behind it. It is this dynamic that Aguilera harnesses in his recent portraits, surpassing Picasso and building on the tradition of Durer. Durer's eyes exhibit consciousness without emotion. Aguilera brings the mouth into this relationship, giving the sense that his portraits are not only conscious but also feeling.

Portraits That See and Speak

"Geometric Carmen," part of the "Ladies of the San Fernando Valley" series, delivers the Aguilera Triangle of consciousness and emotion. Steel blue eyes offer a window into the soul of adult film performer Carmen Luvana, but focusing on the eyes alone is deceiving. Absent the rest of the face, Luvana's eyes are combative, hostile. Considered along with her mouth, angular and pointed in the opposite direction of her gaze, one can immediately sense a quiet anguish. The subject isn't angry; she is tired. A long day of performing -- either in clubs or in front of the camera -- and an aggressive promotional schedule, one assumes, leave her struggling to find that last bit of energy to get her through the last of her obligations.

Perhaps his best "triangle" is presented in "The Smoker." The mask worn by the subject leaves his eyes and mouth visible, betraying his thoughts if not the details of his whole face. Again, an apparent hostility in the eyes is the first reaction -- and is erroneous if one ignores the smoker's sly grin. Gripping a lit cigar in a backhanded pose, the concept of power is salient, but the Aguilera triangle delivers the motive. The smoker is addicted to power for its own sake, and he is looking for a convenient opportunity to deploy it. To be in the presence of the smoker is to experience the worry of imminent prey.

Julio's eyes haunt. They examine and learn. But, they do not speak for themselves. A new movement, the "Aguilera triangle" solves one of the most profound problems in the history of portraiture. Realists, Impressionists, Cubists and everybody else have struggled with bringing their subjects to life. Generally, paintings remain trapped in the emotion of the artist, making the subject a vehicle for the creator. The Aguilera Triangle breathes life into art. The inanimate benefits from the ability to see and feel. A centuries-old problem is resolved with three simple lines that have never been more important.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Thomas Johansmeyer

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