Fabian Marcaccio was born in Argentina in 1963 and has lived since 1985 in New York. He uses modern techniques in an attempt to redefine painting, extending its parameters in time and space. His Paintant Stories is in every way an exceptional work. Over a length of approximately 100 meters the artist unfolds a universal panorama of contemporary existence, with all its contradictions and conflicts. Marcaccio presents the human condition as a network of discontinuities frozen at a single moment in time.
Plunged into a series of microcosms and macrocosms, the viewer is simultaneously exposed to infinity and fragmentation, chaos and order, the concrete and the abstract. With our attention constantly being captured by a wide range of allusions and associations, we are unable to grasp this multifaceted work in its entirety.
At Casa Daros, Paintant Stories is set up so as to wind through the exhibition spaces of the first floor. At a given point, the work passes through the outside wall and crosses the institution’s indoor courtyard in suspended form.
Curated by Hans-Michael Herzog
Paintant Stories, 2000
Oil, silicone, solvent base inks and polymers on vinyl, wooden structure
Approx. 4 x 100 m
Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich
Website Fabian Marcaccio
Painting today is in a constant maneuver to define itself and its grounding in relation to other domains. It is in a permanent “variant” condition, in a complex state of being in itself and out of itself, in a ghost and mutant state.
Painting is on the side and defense of the rights to subjectivation and open to the multiple ways to relate to the real. It brings continuous, productive, and organic models at the heart, brain, and guts of human processes of subjectivation.
Painting today is a form of resistance, a form of labor, an alternative way of desiring and being in the world. Painting is a continuous and organic non-alienated labor. Its making follows a bottom-to-top logic from unity to totality. These characteristics make it a target of attacks from left, right, and center, rendering it too idiosyncratic, too human, too animal, too messy.
Painting is a resistance to the inertia of language-based and ready-made image-based art, to the culture of the “cut and capture” fragments disembodied from any domain of photo, video and movie. It is in opposition to top-to-bottom bureaucratic and monolithic data mining. It is an alternative to the parasitic logic of dematerialization and light projections. It is against the flimsy culture of the “interesting” and in favor of the “interested.”
Painting still brings sporadic innovations and triggers singular affection. Conceptual artists try to use it, painters in general misuse it, photographers use it as a default, digital arts constantly remake it, and the market loves this dark and slippery commodity. Perhaps painting can deal with its complex of inferiority in relation to other newer media by holding and exaggerating its own specificity while taking what is important from other mediums.
(Extract from: Heute. Malerei (cat.). Eds. Annegret Laabs, Uwe Gellner. Berlin, Jovis Verlag, 2013)
Fabian Marcaccio, who was born in 1963 in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, and has lived since 1985 in New York, was brought to a wider audience at the documenta 11 in Kassel in 2002 by his environment Multi-Site Paintant, which extended out into the surrounding space. Right from the beginning, Marcaccio has moved between the genres in art. But his point of departure is always painting; from there, he reaches out in various ways into concrete space, culminating in monumental installations and works of sculptural dimensions. And right from the outset, his painting was also presented by means of other media: up until the mid-1990s, he worked primarily with the technique of collography, a kind of monotype,in which relief forms are transposed to a picture support by means of a printing press. In terms of content, these abstract configurations reveal that the artist has given deep consideration to the paradigms of modern painting. He, for instance, frequently returns to the theme of the brushstroke as a metaphor and relay; it does not appear as some ingenious gesture, but rather to be frozen, as in a comic, and undergoes a host of mutations. Marcaccio brought together many of these pictorial codes, which serve as building bricks for his paintings, in the publication 661 Conjectures for a New Paint Management 1989–2004 (2004). In addition, he freed himself from the traditional rectangular system of the painting by partly shaping the stretcher in such a way that it twists round into the surface of the canvas. Painting and picture ground, always strictly divided into the visible and invisible, enter into surprising liaisons in his works. And he even allows the painting and the wall to interact in a way that creates environmental configurations.
Since the middle of the 1990s, he has produced increasing numbers of works involving digitally processed photographs, which he mostly finds on the Internet. The possibility of scanning photographic motifs so as to process them with a computer graphics application and then combining them with plaster, paint, and silicone forms, has enabled him to connect with realities in people’s lifeworlds. Although he had also worked signs and symbols into his earlier abstract configurations, he now adds motifs that would scarcely be conceivable without computer software. And this technology also allows Marcaccio to perform leaps in dimension that were hitherto impossible.
In 2000, Marcaccio created a monumental Environmental Paintant measuring some four meters in height and a hundred meters in length, in which illusionist elements, thickly applied paint and sculptural applications flow visually into one another. This piece, entitled Paintant Stories, was first shown at the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart and, subsequently, in slightly modified form at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne. The work was then acquired at the beginning of 2002 by the Daros Latinamerica Collection and put on display in 2005 in the Daros Museum in Zurich. Marcaccio associates his neologism Paintant with words like “actant”, “replicant”, or “mutant”—terms that apply as equally to a visual structure that simulates a biomorphic process as to the active role of the viewer. Indeed, the Paintant Stories extend so far into space that the viewer’s body awareness is unavoidably brought into action. Which means the only appropriate way of viewing them is for the beholder to move along in front of the picture sequence, such that the visual elements themselves dictate the speed of the motion: abrupt staccati demand that one slows down, while large stretches of painterly applications prompt acceleration. As a counterpart to the seemingly cinematographic movements in the picture, coupled at times with an extreme illusionism, the viewer has an alternating experience of continuity and discontinuity or, as the artist himself would put it, of “flow” and “cut”—a quite cinematic experience that compares with the camera pan and the edit.
As regards the motifs, at first the Paintant Stories take a self-referential turn and depict the underlying substance of traditional painting: canvas and paint, presented here as woven fabric and brushstrokes. But even in the interstices of the photographically projected fabric the artist has integrated micro-images made up of hybrid political emblems, corporate logos, cars, portraits, technoid weapons and, time and again, pornographic motifs. And during the course of the painting, these flow into larger-than-life depictions of political symbols, orgiastic sex, and scenes of violence—a jungle-like panorama of today’s world in thrall to the media.
Interesting here is the interplay between collage and montage. While the collage draws the viewer’s attention to the material reality of the artwork through the applications done in paint and coloured silicone, the actual surface of the material withdraws in the montage to become pure depiction, which the artist manages convincingly through digital printing. The collage derives its strength from the breach, the montage from the continuum; in Paintant Stories, the two merge together, and in paradoxical fashion, as Marcaccio himself has noted: “Paintant Stories are indexical like a photograph, but literal like a painting. They are flat, but hyper-textural. Swift like advertising, but slow like analytical painting. Gestural and chaotic, but totally constructed and organized. They extended out into space, but they are about time. They come from the multiple heterogeneity of the collage, and move towards a new type of continuous, homogenous integration of the media.” For all the jumps in dimension that develop from the painting’s digital foundations, everything in Marcaccio’s polyfocal universe seems connected with everything, but in such a way that the viewer can never take it in as a whole; his gaze is constantly defocused.
In his recent works from 2011 onward, Marcaccio has performed yet another unexpected turnabout: he has replaced the cipher-like digital network with a real net of hemp ropes and climbing lines. In addition, there is a new viscerality to the way the paint is applied, using a thick mixture of alkyd and coloured silicone. Although at first sight these paintings also look abstract, they are more content-driven than ever before. In a panorama of images, Marcaccio presents here the underbelly of US American history and its mentality as he tackles subjects such as the Waco disaster in Texas, the Fallujah massacre in Iraq, and the high school shootings at Columbine in Colorado—a series that has yet to come to an end.
Translated by Malcolm Green
To follow the work of Fabian Marcaccio over the years is to follow an oeuvre in a state of alertness. An oeuvre that, despite abiding by a rigorous program, deliberately avoids becoming commonplace, for this would imply renouncing its critical strength and abandoning a specific form of the aesthetic-political prophesy that Marcaccio has been formulating over all these years—a prophesy at once euphoric and dark, capable of detecting some of the ways in which things and images operate in the contemporary world through the fusion of analytical painting and political images.
His oeuvre proposes two main themes of research that are imbricated or “interwoven,” to use a term related to Marcaccio’s work: the intensification of experiments with materials, supports, and forms (seeking both in the roots and in the future of painting), and the visibility of images that the artist considers paradigmatic in defining our day and age. We could say that there is an academic line of work that connects his oeuvre to the tradition of reflecting on the material conditions of painting (from Luis Felipe Noé’s experiments with pictorial supports to Robert Ryman’s obsession with brushstrokes), and a more documentary line of work that plunges into the images of contemporary terror, that blend of politics, brazenness and power we could call “porn-comedown;” all these are instances of the greatest social disease that the artist chooses poring over history or in the vastness of the Internet: wrecked bodies, zombie soldiers. And yet increasingly, these two lines of interest of Marcaccio’sare mutually absorbed, corrupted, and fused to the point of becoming one and the same thing. The clearest examples of this range from Marcaccio’s now classical interpenetrations between political symbols and brushstrokes (Conjectures for a New Paint Management) to his most recent works (Analytical Rage-Paintants) of abject or wretched bodies that work sculpturally, but are produced from documentary records, with complex and sordid techniques that would seem to refer to a three-dimensional painting made from a materialization of digital impressions and siliconized parts, seams, and padding.
Nothing is as it seems, and there is no possible purity: the information regarding the hidden or superficial violence that defines us as a society stems from an increasingly dematerialized, accelerated and stupefied world in which thought has come to a standstill and bodies, according to Marcaccio, have begun to disintegrate, explode, or operate posthumously, as in the animations presenting armed skeletons. In turn, the pictorial or material developments in his work are never pure, but exist in a state of permanent contamination with problems derived from photography, video, sculpture, craftsmanship, or fashion: “Painting suffered its own crises a long time ago,” Marcaccio notes. “Pictorial space today can engage in dialogue with the crisis of photographic space or the crisis of film. The avatars of these media are mutually connected, giving rise to what I call ‘unstable compounds.’” Thus, we see that “painting” and “world” are two key terms in this artist’s plight, although they have an almost archaeological value; Marcaccio’s oeuvre points out that these terms no longer exist as closed entities, but are only useful if we maintain them as broken, crossed, contaminated categories.
Marcaccio is a niche artist. Totally connected to everything, exploring a universe made up of thousands of complex sutures, in today’s art world, he is also a sort of loner, an exception: “My basic influence was the Neo-Baroque of people like Severo Sarduy, Néstor Perlongher, Arturo Carrera, and Emeterio Cerro,” he says. “In their work, what interested me most was the idea of the excess of text that makes a noise, the idea of transvestism. Other influences were Witold Gombrowicz, the way in which he connects and adds details that gradually lead to a story, which does not emerge from one point to the next, but as a meander, and Reinaldo Laddaga, with his utterly brutalized humanity, his charting of continuous disaster.” These choices or affinities, their insistence on what is complex, fortuitous and exuberant, place the art work in a special predicament unfavourable to the conceptual or minimalist paradigm prevalent in contemporary art. Moreover, the links of his work with so-called bad painting as an affectation based on the shame and chagrin of taste and his preference for corporate language as an irony on the dominant system are further drawbacks that enhance its critical capacity.
The ethical perspective of these works consists in preserving and even emphasizing the complexity of the world and its relationships, a gesture that affords them their characteristic tone of urgency and apocalyptic anticipation. Marcaccio is an artist determined to analyze the present. And an artist who rightly fears it.
 Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, translated by Ann Smock, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (Nebraska), 1986.
 Literally “porno-bajón.” Luis Alberto Spinetta, in the song La bengala perdida, 1988.
 Conversation with the author, “Fabian Marcaccio, el taxidermista,” Otra Parte (Buenos Aires), No. 2, Autumn 2004.
Translated by Josephine Watson