It was necessary, given our colonial poverty, to find a place in World History, discover our hidden being, reconstruct history in a different way to "find a space of our own". –Enrique Dussel
The word has been given to us as a parable, not to distance us from things, but to have them close, even closer, like when we recognize someone familiar in a face, like when a hand brushes against us. —Giorgio Agamben
kurimanzutto presents the latest chapter from the exhibition series The Man Who Should Be Dead in New York by Mexican artist Daniel Guzmán. Following the project's most recent iteration in Mexico City in June 2023, Notes on the Dead House, the Fire, and the Tale continues the artist's exploration of drawing forms initiated in 2017. For this presentation, Guzmán expands a selection of his works on paper, transforming them into three-dimensional structures that incorporate additional visual references from his artistic practice.
Music criticism, science fiction, narrative literature, essays, and poetry are just a few of the influences shaping Guzmán's works in this series. Throughout each chapter, The Man Who Should Be Dead unfolds a narrative universe filled with places, gods, characters, references, and inspirations. Pictorial references, such as Philip Guston's depictions of Nixon as a vociferous and repulsive scrotum, are reimagined by Guzmán as the form of a partially ruined house with hanging testicles, engaging in various actions across the series. Guzmán also draws inspiration from the dark scenarios of George Grosz and Max Beckmann, incorporating black environments, fragmented landscapes, and contrasting colors that have been constants in his compositions for over a decade.
The artist has developed a glossary of references and visual markers challenging the contemporary representation of Mexican identity. From recognizable motifs resembling glyphs and representations of deities in pre-Hispanic codices—like the mutilated goddess Coyolxauhqui and the sacrificial Aztec flint with eyes and teeth interacting across many works—to the omnipresent influence of muralists such as José Clemente Orozco, whose monumental characters embody the sinister father (sometimes merging Hernán Cortés into Darth Vader).
In each chapter of The Man Who Should Be Dead, Daniel Guzmán intertwines new visual and literary references. For the upcoming presentation in New York, the figure of the mystical Mexican artist Dr. Atl and his admiration for the volcanic explosions of the Paricutín volcano, along with his creation of the idyllic Mexican landscape in the early 20th century, takes a prominent place in Guzmán's latest visual narrative. Materially, the works may be deceiving—what appears as a painting is, in fact, a work on paper, existing somewhere between a drawing and an acrylic painting, mounted on wood. Emphasizing the significance of drawing, the artist brings it to a three-dimensional plane through subtle gestures, such as raising the paper a few centimeters from the wall with the frame and treating the structures of larger pieces to create a sense of sculptural circulation.
To be born is a mystery; the place of our birth imposes a history and a language on us, an origin. We begin to walk through life trying to assemble the narrative, the story of that origin, the dead house, and the fire of the mystery that brought us to life.
The new drawings are a note, an attempt to recount a personal experience of the world we inhabit among the ruins of creator myths—the dead house and the metaphysical fire; language that sweeps away everything we once knew.
A kind of prequel, in the manner of classic science fiction films like Alien and Star Wars. We are now on the quest of the story of the man who should be dead. —Daniel Guzmán, Guadalajara, November 2023.