Ignacio Uriarte embraces rules in order to enjoy freedom. Almost 20 years ago, when he quit his last administrative job to devote himself to making art, he decided he would use office tools and methods familiar to any employee, working in a routine way and with routine as his subject matter. Since then, he has continuously set parameters and bounds for himself, convinced that art needs structure, and that such a structure is not a constraint but a fertile framework for an in-depth exploration of multifaceted questions.
In Sequential Operations, his second solo exhibition with Gaep, the artist leaves colour aside and limits himself to black on white. Consequently, the focus shifts to spatiality. His monochrome drawings demonstrate different ways of constructing space and spotlight the sculptural quality of shapes created through various techniques. Uriarte scribbles; draws straight lines in such a way as to generate complex painterly or three-dimensional effects; produces patterns using custom-made stamps with geometric motifs; and makes drawings out of typewritten letters that become studies around the expressive potential of geometry.
All operations are carried out systematically. Through repetition, division, overlaying, ordering and mirroring, he investigates the creation and dissolution of space in an ensemble of works that are as harmonious in the exhibition space as rhyme in a poem. On the upper gallery floor, each room has its own protagonist: organic forms, moirée effect and movement, respectively. From circles with outer lines drawn almost casually, in the first room, to the perfectly straight convergent lines that suggest the movement of a star across the sky, in the third one, a progression towards a higher geometric rigor is noticeable. Within each room, the drawings interrelate via subtle details such as the recurrence of the number four and its multiples in the compositions at the beginning of the exhibition.
The eight working hours and the remaining sixteen hours of the day. The twelve hours of the clock and the twelve months of the year. Space and time converge in Uriarte’s inquiries. Resulting from banal repetitive gestures, the cadence of which transcends the ordinary, his works probe the ways in which we spend time – and how we make sense of it. Some of the works comprise several drawings arranged in a sequence; their temporality is embedded in the very nature of a sequence. Others allow for the resources required for their production to be easily grasped; viewers can mentally recreate the time needed to fill out a drawing surface evenly by stamping – an action that the artist has further experimented with recently and which he invests with a performative quality. In one of the installations in the gallery basement, temporality is even more explicit; six rulers positioned in front of a mirror radially, similar to the hands of a clock, create a circle through reflection.
Uriarte adopts the reductionist strategies of minimalism (less is more), while also committing to everyday materials and a restricted field of action (do more with less). Both the drawings and the sculptural installations in the exhibition – made with objects sourced from the office supply cabinet: pens, markers, rulers, paper clips, stamps, paper in the standard DIN formats, etc. – honour the intrinsic value of these materials. Thousands of paper clips arranged in four concentric rings on the basement floor can be read as an ”office art” counterpart to Richard Long’s sculptures, and a sequence of metal sheets that have been cut out in sizes corresponding with A0 to A10 paper sheets looks like a drawing that came off the wall to inhabit the space with us. The questions raised by Uriarte’s sequential operations reverberate, nonetheless, beyond the office: what we accumulate, what we unite or separate, what we repeat.