Hanging in the air, on lines stretched from wall to wall, stiff blankets stand still, creating partitions of thatched, grided colors in Downtown’s CB1 Gallery. They resemble a protective curtain into the gallery space, obscuring all works behind the initial three. As you approach them, their image becomes sharper and into focus, each cluster of blurred colors becoming more defined, revealing themselves as things that are not made from fabric: they’re made from paper.
These “blankets” are the work of Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia and are the cast members of his Papel tejido solo show: gigantic, woven heavy cotton rag paper constructions that smash multiple disciplines of art, history, and cultures together to form a new artistic expression. They are all “paper constructions,” created from paper and acrylic paint, a fact that is both equally confusing, curious, and captivating, sparking so many questions about his work. They have to be glued together–right? “There is no glue,” Hurtado Segovia said, when we spoke with him: “They’re all put together by hand.” That question was just the first of many regarding his process.
His pieces are composed of paper he paints, on both sides of the sheets, a different pattern on each side, and then cuts into quarter inch strips–those strips are what he weaves together. “It’s a very basic process–but it’s very tedious and time consuming,” he says, hinting at the multiple steps in his creative equation. Each piece takes him about a month to produce and can be quite taxing on the hands and back, as you can imagine. “But, it’s just a part of the process,” Hurtado Segovia says, as we walk in and out of his hanging Papeles.
The pieces are a combination of many influences but, grabbing the blanket idea again, find much of their basis in Scottish tartan, a pattern fabric typically used for kilts. “There’s an official registry that records and archives the tartan by the color and the amount of changes within the design,” he explains, detailing that he used the database as the point of departure for many pieces, acting as a visual cue to define his own grids. He is a big fan of the tartan’s variation and how everything from even the smallest change in pattern to the difference in material used could change the tartan’s taxonomy.
The tartan also highlights just how mathematical color patterns can be, which Hurtado Segovia explained in relationship to his process. Before he begins work, he creates his pattern and maps out his work by sequencing the colors he plans to use and numbering them on the grid. Of course, sometimes he improvises (like the tartans sometimes do) to create new characteristics in his patterns and to break the monotony of the grid. While in the room, you can’t help but be slightly overwhelmed by the work that goes into his process. “You get into the habit of doing them, making it not as daunting,” he humbly responds to such a notion.
Another world his Papeles draw from is painting, which was his point of departure to arrive at these giant woven items. It was from “meditation on how the grid is a motif of deconstructing pictures” in painting that he came to these blankets, mentioning artists like Mondrian in relationship to modernity and post-modernity. Yet, the grid as a motif is something that stretches back for centuries: “The grid is a pre-modern invention through weaving. Modernism made a lot of claims to universality and that’s where I figured that maybe there is something universal because the grid–through weaving (even though it wasn’t thought to be a grid)–is a technique that is over and under and happens across the world, in all ethnicities.”
Clarifying and jumping seamlessly between subjects, Hurtado Segovia shared a view of his other group of exhibited works at CB1: small grids that are tacked onto the walls, all leading to a gigantic Papel. These smaller pieces are older than the rest in the gallery, acting as parts of his own artistic history. They confront the notion of painting head on, as he would paint on paper, convert them to strips, and then create a new work through weaving. “What does it mean to truncate the painterly gesture and reorganize it through weaving?” he asks, alluding to how his earlier works both transform the result of a painter’s work and mimic the action of painting by how the rest, like brushstrokes themselves. These smaller ones are also held together with glue, aligning them to collage work. This is a big difference from the his “paper blankets” because they are all sewn at the ends, tying them to seaming.
Aside from weaving, his small and large works are all free from specificity in presentation: you can display them however you like–there is no wrong or right orientation. Moreover, although the front and the back of each piece are different they are both “equally valued.” He notes this as he points to the largest piece, which sits at the back of the room with the tiny squares (tiny only in comparison, of course).
We move back into the main exhibition space, where he points out one thing everyone notices in them: crosses. “The crosses are a loaded symbol for many and for me, personally, as they are an emblem of my faith,” he says, highlighting how they evoke that of church steeples and architecture along with Catholic symbolism. They are the most seamless image he can literally weave in: “If there was going to be an image in this, the most basic image is a cross: they follow naturally into the grid.” The crosses appear most at the entrance of the show, serving as almost a “panoramic view of a town.” As you make your way through, “you see other emblems of crosses” weaving in and out, literally and figuratively, of the Papeles. Even in the end, the back of the furthest piece holds a heart with a cross in it, as if you are within a townsperson’s soul, at the center of the village.
Because they are woven paper, they also can become quite tense and therefore have a lovely play with distortion, which Hurtado Segovia does his best to account for and even play into. He says he always needs more material as a result and can even weave in more colors to unite (or accent) the warped parts. He notes that, as he makes them, he can only focus on one side, leaving the backside slightly up to chance in design, working from what he had in mind when planning out the colors in his mathematical system.
As we round out our conversation, you can’t help but marvel at how much work goes into creating these unique and breathtaking artworks. We have to ask, before concluding, if he has a special tool to help him cut the paper, as everything that goes into his pieces seem incredibly labor intensive for the hand. “If you know how to do it with some other tool, tell me: I just use a straight edge!” he says, laughing, making the value of his pieces all too apparent.
Hurtado Segovia’s Papel tejido at CB1 is on view through February 19. Hurtado Segovia will actually be giving an artist’s talk this Sunday, February 12, at 3:30PM where you can hear more about his process (and get to see CB1’s fantastic space). Definitely be sure to stop in to see the show as his pieces are truly works that–despite this lengthy conversation and photos–need to be experienced in person.
Main and third photo courtesy of CB1.