Francisco Pereira By Susana Benko

The sculptures that make up the series entitled Bípedos, by the Venezuelan artist and architect Francisco Pereira (Caracas, 1959) are based, as their name indicates, on the hybrid representation of bodies belonging to the animal and human world.

His work is part of the fantastic genre taking as its starting point, paradoxically, the truthful observation of anatomical aspects of the bodies of the beings he represents. In addition to mastering his trade as a sculptor, Pereira has a deep knowledge of animal and human anatomies, so he can alter the logic of the body and create a new being of a hybrid condition through sculptures cast in bronze. He not only unites bodies of different origins, but all these new creatures present an altered nature by being transformed into bipeds.

This “humanized” condition – due to this ability to walk on two legs – fictional and at the same time so real characterizes the eighteen pieces that make up Bípedos, a series exhibited at the Galería D’Museo, in Caracas, in October 2013. The study starts with without a doubt from the study of nature to create these animals of invention. It shows both his mastery of the sculptural medium (volume, modeling and casting techniques in bronze, etc.) and his ability to observe natural forms, represented in a reliable and detailed manner. All this gives rise to a new sculptural figuration, conceptually solid, to the point that his work is the subject of analysis in the field of symbology and psychoanalysis.

For Gerardo Zavarce, curator of the exhibition, the process of evocation and association of ideas that this series arouses has an important starting point: the image of Noah’s Ark in the piece entitled El viaje. The reference is explicit since the artist has made a boat manned by the same animals (and it itself, it could be said, is transfigured into an animal). The journey to the origins of the species starts from the biblical story but is “narrated” in a disrupted way, because as the psychoanalyst Carolina Chirinos writes in the catalogue, Pereira “has broken the established, he has at odds with the natural order of things” . The question is: how to preserve the purity of the species without falling into the primitive instincts of the animal? This reflection, more than biological, reveals a psychic condition that underlies the human being. The sculptor confronts her with these pieces, acknowledging –as he has stated– that this bestiary results from a humanization process that manifests itself in the bipedal condition of the creatures, and in this “a tension of opposites coexists: consciousness and unconsciousness”. . This tension is, deep down, a profound and uniquely human psychic process.

Transforming animals into bipeds has another important meaning for Pereira: it is the lower extremities that connect it to the earth and, therefore, to its primitive condition, while the body rises, as he points out, to the “mysteries of spirituality”. ”. This awareness of the dual is the one embodied by beasts such as the Bitoro, the Bicierva, the Bicabra, the Bipardo, the Bicerda, the Biceronte, among others. This bestiary, on the other hand, alludes, as the artist points out, to mental processes similar to those of the child when in his fantasy he generates monsters. Therefore, they are vivid creatures that introduce dissimilar feelings into the viewer from the moment he is confronted with hybridism, alteration and transformation of species, seeing himself reflected by his own bipedal condition.

Beautiful in themselves as drawings on paper, the artist’s sketches and annotations record his ability to analyze forms and his connection to ideas. In these drawings are written down thoughts that complement the symbolic and spiritual meaning of each of the pieces. Many of these associations derive from his fascination with referential works in the history of universal art that serve as a support, such as those of El Bosco (think of The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Last Judgment and The Ship of Fools), paintings of Dalí, who alters characters and frames them in surreal landscapes, and Gaudí, with his neo-Gothic and organic architecture, full of “bony windows”, as Pereira describes them. This selection is not random. There is a clear connection between the sculptor and these artists who interchangeably work fantasy with reality. Special mention have the bestiaries used in medieval Gothic architecture.

In addition to mastering the medium, Pereira has given sculpture conceptual solidity, turning it into a visual –and emotional– experience capable of generating ideas, associations and diverse sensations in the viewer. With Bípedos, Francisco Pereira consolidates an interesting sculptural work and opens a new chapter of figuration in Venezuela.

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