At first sight, Eduardo Sarmiento’s art could be categorized as “low-brow,” that late-Twentieth Century underground synthesis of commix, punk-culture and other graphic urban tribes. Some people feel lowbrow is too limiting, even insulting. In a proper modern fashion, they want to elevate “low” to “high” and restitute its value. But that’s not the way to go: Art is art. Sarmiento’s line drawing is crisp, deliberate; the color application well blended, almost gleaming. These paintings and drawings suggest a cross between Jim Nutt, Rat Fink and a distant Miró. Depending your take- this show can be irritating, grotesque, disturbing -even cute. It’s all good.
Let’s try now to connect the dots: Sarmiento’s title is Deseo y Posibilidad (“Desire and Possibility”). But the possibility of desire seems almost an oxymoron. On the one hand, human desire is doubly infinite: We are perpetually unsatisfied when we get what we want, and we are capable of wanting anything at all. On the other hand, desire eventually must consume itself.
This dynamic is conveyed in the Shakespeare’s Ulysses: “Since appetite is a universal wolf, / so doubly seconded with will and power […] it must make perforce a universal prey, / and last eat up himself.” If desire is both infinite and self-consuming, what possibility is there for desire?
The answer must be sought within Sarmiento’s images. Each painting or drawing reveals a certain possibility of desire, which inevitably leads to a desire of some other possibility. It’s as if possibility kept biting desire’s tail, or the other way around.
Here are some –possible- leads:
- There are heads and members. In “Deseo y Posibilidad” a blue ox appears headless, its legs amputated, suspended in midair (being ridden by a green frog). The ox’s thin erected penis contrasts with the ox’s head on the ground -which as a stubborn decapitated witness spits the show’s title as a speech bubble. A star in the orange sky announces the event, which -in the final analysis- is nothing more than a staged scene. In other words, possibility staging desires. Coming back to Sarmiento’s members and heads, which of the ox’s two “heads” is better suited for desire?
- To be “inside” is a matter of “facing it.” Caution: you’ll always be watched: A smiling naked male looks inside the face/mouth of a female. She sits naked on his body, but they do not mate. Instead, her long fiber-optic-like black hair goes inside a hole and comes out through another not far away, transformed as a head. Then the female’s hair/head watches. Is it possible for desire to detach itself from its source?
- Desire looks at itself in the mirror of possibility. Sarmiento seems to suggest that sight hurts. As a naked female sits still next to a hole on the ground with her legs spread showing her vulva, two frogs and a one-eyed butterfly look intently. One frog comes close to the female vulva; its long, agile sticky tongue getting all excited. Is it the sweet scent of the female vulva? Or is the female vulva a metaphor for the very sight of possibility? Better yet, is possibility itself the sight of desire?
- Beauty hurts. Her big-eyed face is filled with sprouting, thorny flowers coming out of flesh wounds all over her body. Why? Beauty shows itself as pleasure, a pleasure superior -in its refinement and violence- to all other pleasures. The glittering stars above sense it. Frogs know beauty, which is why they lay low and smile approvingly.
Is beauty not the fruit of possibility? Which brings forth a parallel idea: Without desire, is there possibility at all?