Prints may have grown ever larger, brighter, flashier over the past decades, but this small, quirky, black-and-white etching was one of the most discussed new releases at the IFPDA Print Fair in November. It is a testament to the fascination that can still be exerted by a few square inches of deftly handled ink on paper.
Suárez, who lives and works in Colombia, draws incessantly, spontaneously and meticulously; in the past 15 years he has produced some 5000 drawings, as well as numerous etchings and lithographs. The images are pulled from his imagination and from the imaginative realm of literature: his recent solo exhibition at the Drawing Center was composed of notebooks in which he makes a drawing every day in response to books he reads over the course of the year—texts that range from Ovid to Patti Smith. In this case, the subject is four mysterious hybrid animals (the heads look like dogs, the tails like otters, and the middles are wrapped in something that makes them look vaguely armadillo-ish). Each wears a ring through its pierced tail, and each ring sports a different large, ornamental bauble. The baubles suggest possible cosmological significance—the largest is a dodecahedron inscribed with stars, the smallest is a simple sphere. The dog-a-dillos suggest possible plot lines: they might be chasing each other, or they might just be ornamentally arrayed on the page. The combination of absolute specificity (the fur is particularly lovingly drawn) and complete inexplicability is captivating.
Suárez’ line has some of the insouciant grace of early David Hockney etchings, as does his instinct for narrative—there is clearly a story here, though whether it is one that could ever be given words is open to question. But while Hockney is entranced by the things of this world, Suárez moves fluidly between material realities and material impossibilities, finding poetics along the way.