I Could Do That!

I was impressed by the little description needed to make Colombian artist José Antonio Suárez Londoño’s current exhibition, “The Yearbooks,” come to life at The Drawing Center. With only a brief description of his project and artworks (no dense press releases!), I was somehow given unfettered access into the intricate inner-workings of his mind. It’s almost as if I was having an open dialogue with Londoño himself except he was speaking in emojis instead of words. I found the exhibit to be supremely refreshing because I hate how often I’m burdened with text and end up reading more about the artwork than actually seeing it; “The Yearbooks”, however, is wonderfully concise, free of intrusive plaques or blocks of text, but unlike most NYC galleries, it costs a few bucks to get in. 


The notebooks that Londoño has carefully sketched out and painted represent a tedious, methodological process in which he posits the reactionary effect of art on its recipient. Creativity, he argues, is always a response to something else. Therefore, Londoño centers the project around himself and produces drawings that are reflections from books he has been reading over the past 15 years; the subjects range from Ovid to Franz Kafka, to Patti Smith, to Eugene Delacroix


Not Your Typical Yearbook


Londoño’s drawings are also intensely personal as they are his own intimate thoughts, interpretations, and responses to some rather heavy texts put to page, but my favorite thing about them is how they represent a real time chronology of the mental processes that Londoño experienced while reading a certain text. Very similar to how you’d read a book and have vivid associations triggered by a word or phrase, Londoño transfers his raw ideas in a stream of consciousness into his notebooks in the same sort of way, sometimes representing an entire scene or just a single word. 


Jose Antonio Suarez Londono Drawing

José Antonio Suárez Londoño‘s colorful and stream of conscious artworks on display at The Drawing Center in NYC. Photo: Camilo Fuentealba


I love this because it emboldens the artwork by making it much more genuine as it doesn’t have time to be overanalyzed or even overdrawn – the entire point of the project is to animate Londoño’s reaction to the texts, not to perfect its images, although he doesn’t sacrifice the quality of his illustrations either. I was particularly amazed at the amount of detail Londoño was able to squeeze into these small 6” x 4” notebooks, then delicately flood them with color, sometimes bleeding into the sheets on the next page. But even mishaps from leaking pens or coffee stains are integrated expertly into Londoño’s artwork, coinciding perfectly with his idea of organic art that is grounded in a real reality, not the fake one in which most art exists. 


And to further emphasize Londoño’s theme of art as a reactionary medium, professional writers and poets were invited to do readings of their own work that was been inspired by “The Yearbooks.” I tried this myself and went home to write and paint, focusing on reacting instead of thinking – creativity’s, Londoño would say, worst enemy. 


Article written by Eric Rydin