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Karmelo Bermejo
On View:
October 5, 2013

The art of covering surfaces with paint comes from prehistoric art. It is not until the Renaissance that the painting as an object was invented due to the popularization of the technique of covering fabric with oil paint, which facilitated its transportation and storage. Paint, which was previously tied to a specific site, became portable, allowing its entry to the world of market goods. Paint constitutes a covering material, innocuous to the intrinsic qualities of the material on which it is applied. Gilles Deleuze solved the mystery of the way Leonardo Da Vinci covered a cloth with the image of La Gioconda, explaining that Gioconda’s smile was oily. 


The optical illusion of color in Fiscal Oil Paints is configured using glazes, paint technique most commonly used in the Renaissance, to transform the natural transparency of oil in total opacity, by overlapping layers on layers of paint, obtaining a solid color exactly like the standard manufactured color appearance. A final glaze of oil impasto set the inscription "Undeclared Income" with the accuracy of color transparency and opacity of the rest of the painting surface. The monochromatic illusion makes the text legible only from certain points of view and with certain lighting conditions; otherwise the text remains hidden. In a similar fashion to Robert Morris’ box created in 1961, which included in its interior the sound that was generated during its fabrication, these works hold the “secret noise” of the buying-and-selling performativity that will be executed with them.


Oil paint is the most volatile material in the market once its original ready-made state is altered by the alchemy of art. Oil paint is the underlying asset; art is the derivative product. When the alchemic process is undergone in the artist’s studio, privately, the value created is clandestine, impossible to monitor by the tax collector of the government. When any action by an artist is susceptible in becoming art, it is impossible to monitor every action that might be producing art. From the creation of value by central banks comes the creation of the value of art. Central Banks print small pieces of paper called money while an artist in his studio is a human printer that prints artwork. As humans’ life is limited, production ends by death. The human printer will stop working: no capital increases and liquidity injections on the artwork of an author. The Federal Reserve will continue to print dollar bills in a hundred years, but it has been almost half a century since the last new matisse was introduced in the market.


The monochromatic illusion disappears in Blank (Virgin). The title alludes to the piece’s resemblance to an untouched canvas. Blank is a white monochrome built by craftsmen, using hundreds of layers of oil paint over a year to get the shape of a readymade canvas. The fact that each layer is monochrome makes the work an authentic monochrome, unlike those made by the traditional method of applying color to the fabric’s surface. Its authenticity as a monochrome carries its falsity as a canvas. 

The fabric, framework, and staples are all made of solid white oil paint. Blank is the trompe-l'oeil of a ready made. Blank is also a trompe-l’oeil of the absence of paint, simulated by paint.


Karmelo Bermejo (Málaga, 1979) is an artist from the Basque Country, Spain, whose work is concentrated in finding the ways to put under evidence the economies of value -commercial value or prestige- of the visible/invisible structures of contemporary art and their private or public funding. Karmelo Bermejo has set in motion a mechanism that ultimately underlines the superstructure of the raw consumer economy, to the extent that it generates the paradox of it folding into itself and financing the celebration of its own destruction. The logic of his actions and works refers to a critical waste: the manipulation of the luxury economy that exists around every work of art.


Bermejo has participated in the Liverpool Biennial and Ljubljana Biennial, and has showcased his work in Bloomberg Space (London), Artium Museum (Basque Country), Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City), Museo del Eco, (Mexico City), Casa del Lago (Mexico City), Para Site ARt (Hong Kong) among others. He was awarded with the ARCO Award (Madrid) in 2010 and Zona Maco Award (Mexico) in 2011.

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