José Antonio Hernandez-Diez, San Guinefort, 1991, mixed media, 57½ x 104 × 33½ inches. Courtesy Sandra Gering Gallery.
José Antonio Hernandez-Diez poses an inversion of the ordinary, an inversion that makes the viewer complicit in the humor that constructs his artwork. He is a social realist with a pop sensibility. Skateboards, washing machines, pool tables, brown paper bags, wooden bed frames, fake nails, blood plasma, a cow’s heart, pork skin (chicharrón), surgical equipment, a nitrogen tank, open heart surgery, a giant mechanical jaw, battery-operated remote controls—these are some of the materials Hernandez-Diez uses. His uncanny images are indebted to his curiosity for medicine. In his video Liquid Fuel Prototype (1995) the image of a man pissing looks like a rocket blasting into space, undermining the penis as a sexual object and exploring the poetics of its most ordinary function.
Soledad Miranda (1998) functions on equivalent planes of abstraction and representation. At first sight we perceive the piece aesthetically, as an abstract composition, and then ten giant nails representing the femme fatale anchor the former reading within a particular social context. In San Guinefort (1991) we see a gothic casket in the form of a transparent cage that we can invade, using black rubber gloves, touching the corpse of the saint/dog. The work is sensorial and not sensational; firmly anchored by the artist’s very particular humor, which is always a surprise that engages us in a more intimate relationship with the artwork.
From the transformation of popular religious icons to his recent work, which uses more banal and hidden fragments of our contemporary landscape, Hernandez-Diez transforms the natural debris of our technology into shamanistic objects that disturb our aesthetic habits. Using the plastic-molded tops of battery-operated remote controls and other common electrodomestic equipment, enlarging them to a giant scale, the artist combines these found objects into sculptural compositions that recall the work of Anthony Caro. Here we find a symmetrical contradiction between plastic sculptural perception and the literal source. The art works on these two planes as if our perception were always double, the visual and the social, woven together with eloquent humor.
Jose Antonio Hernandez-Diez, Soledad Miranda I, 1998, wood, sandpaper, ten acrylic “nails,” 22 × 3 feet. Courtesy Sandra Gering Gallery.
Jose Antonio Hernandez-Diez, Battery Covers, 1999, mixed-media installation. Courtesy the artist.