Text for a Project Room About Migration

Enrico Mario Santí


Lydia Rubio’s works start out with the premise that Art is a mystery worth investigating even though it cannot ultimately be resolved. Her composite exhibits spread out a conceptual unity among a number of art forms—paintings, sculptures, maps, books—and the objects they represent—birds, boats, landscapes—all of which function like clues in a whodunit. It is up to the spectator to trace, as if translating from a foreign language, all these clues in their wondrous spread, bouncing from painting to sculpture, from figures to words, and from words to maps, even though they all lead to one ultimately simple conclusion: the mystery will keep spreading and all the clues add up to an even greater wonder. In this, Rubio proceeds seductively. Her powerful forms, images and colors, their strange inner light, all bear the trace of an ancient ritual whose meaning, now lost, is nevertheless present and summons our attention, perplexity and glee.

Working with a superb command of representational technique, Lydia Rubio constructs figures of uncanny beauty which in turn act as signs within a hermetic plot whose sense perhaps she herself does not know, though she does remain convinced, as we do, that it is worth interrogating. By plot I mean here all its three senses: a secret plan, a story, and a site or space. All three have one meaning in common: they are all questions. Among these is the mystery of place, which in Rubio’s work recurs in the figure of the map and, more generally, of Geography. And yet we are dealing here with an imaginary Geography, a kind of utopian space whose traces we can certainly recognize and identify but which remains stubbornly imaginary, literally unplottable. By inventing this space Rubio points to the existence of worlds parallel to ours. Our access to those worlds may be forbidden, in a strictly physical sense, but we can nevertheless desire them. In this, Rubio succeeds in making exiles of us all, her onlookers and spectators. She forces us to imagine a plot, an imaginary site, and to desire our return to it.

If Art is indeed ultimately a question, then Lydia Rubio provides delightful answers that make us wonder what our conversation with the world’s forms is all about.

Enrico Mario Santí
William T. Bryan Professor of Hispanic Studies
Department of Spanish & Italian
University of Kentucky

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