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Painting ‘Fluid Boundaries:’ Joaquín Boz and Josefina Barcia in Conversation

Painting ‘Fluid Boundaries:’ Joaquín Boz and Josefina Barcia in Conversation

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Exploring materials, intuition, and his relationship with scale and space are fundamental aspects that define the Argentine painter Joaquín Boz’s practice. In conjunction with his most recent exhibition at BARRO in New York, “Fluid Boundaries,” the gallery hosted a talk between Boz and curator Josefina Barcia that offers insight into his abstract painting.

Joaquín Boz
Installation view “Fluid Boundaries” at Barro NY, 2024. All images courtesy of BARRO NY.

Josefina Barcia: One of the things I discussed with Joaquín Boz earlier is what abstraction in painting is today. To explore seemingly impossible questions, I sometimes look for a word’s etymology. Abstraction comes from “withdrawal” in English, meaning “retreat” or “state of being withdrawn.” I wondered if these works lead us to withdraw from somewhere or where they are taking us. Can you tell us if there is a place you can think of about these paintings?

Joaquín Boz: In the last two years, I have focused more on the materials I was using. The specificity of oil paint is my technique. From the beginning, I have always used that material. For at least ten years, I was developing these images. In the past, I used elements like linseed oil and solvents. Over time, I introduced new elements to create new models or layers. In the new series on view, I focused more on color because I always used darker or gray tones.

Joaquín Boz at BARRO
Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2024. 74.8 x 110 x 1.3 in. Oil on canvas.

Barcia: Yes, I remembered your previous works being much more muddy, with earth tones. These new works are brighter. Maybe something interesting is that you not only like to explore the oil painting technique but also change the support you use. You used to work on wood and paper, and then you switched to canvas at some point. Does that make a difference in the result? How do you feel about painting on such different surfaces?

Boz: Yes, because sometimes wood has a different temperature. With canvas, I found a way to create the same temperature as wood.

Joaquín Boz
Installation view “Fluid Boundaries” at Barro NY, 2024.

Barcia: So, are you trying to mimic the effect of wood on canvas?

Boz: Not necessarily. For this exhibition, I was working with new materials. The large paintings are on canvas and the small ones are on wood.

Installation view. “Fluid Boundaries” at Barro NY, 2024.

Barcia: Is there a balance between the small and the large?

Boz: I always feel comfortable with these two sizes because they are more about the scale between the painting and the physical space. Sometimes, I experiment with oil in different tables, and after that, I paint.

Barcia: Can you share with us the way you paint? I find it interesting that since 2011 you started working with your hands instead of brushes. Maybe you use tools, but there is a lot in your process about putting on and removing paint.

Boz: Since college, I always had a problem with brushes. The only way I found to paint was with my hands, nails, and fingers.

Barcia: Oil paint needs a very strong solvent that is not good for your skin. It is wild what you do, [gesturing to audience] he uses gloves because otherwise, his nails would fall off. What is the gesture of doing it with your own hands? There is a bodily gesture that is quite different from the idea of the painter with a brush.

Boz: In the past, you could relate it to primitive movements. It was like, well, I only have these skills or tools. What can I do with that?

Barcia: So, the lack of resources drives you to try as much as you can with the technique. One of the texts in the wonderful monograph of your work talks about how your works resemble Paleolithic cave paintings. Those painters touched the walls with paint because they didn’t have enough air to breathe due to the torches They were hallucinating and touching the walls to see what was behind them. There is something uninhibited, maybe primitive, in a very generative sense. I’m interested in what you don’t have in your paintings. You don’t have figuration, but you also don’t use hard geometric lines.

Joaquín Boz
Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2024. 74.8 x 110 x 1.3in. Oil on canvas.

Boz: Now, when I see the painting, I find a repertoire of gestures. I like that because all the time, not only with color, I think about what I can introduce again to change what I was doing.

Barcia: Do you work with all the paintings together and relate the work you are doing in one with the other?

Boz: I put many together. If you move, you can see in this case, I use this blue, and you can probably find them touching each other.

Barcia: They are related to each other.

Boz: Yes, they are related. They touch each other.

Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2024. 74 x 93 x 1.3in. Oil on canvas.

Barcia: Today, we talked about the direction in which they are hung. Do you mind if they are hung in another way?

Boz: Sometimes, when you see people’s collections, they hang the work as they want. Sometimes I use that system to see if the artwork works if you rotate it, but in other cases, it doesn’t work.

Barcia: I always think in terms of sound and music lately. I read a quote that said that painting is about space and sound is about time. I think your painting has a great component of time, maybe because of the layers. We are not used to spending time looking at a painting or seeing what happens in each piece of canvas.

Boz: Yes, because there is attention to detail and construction in each form that generates this entire painting. It seems very spontaneous, but it is not.

Barcia: In one of the texts, you are discussing with the author that one work is finished and the other is not. How do you reach that point?

Boz: The other day, I was watching an interview where the artist said it’s like a feeling. I don’t know if it’s that in my case. It’s more like a struggle. In the other room, you see what happened here with the material. Sometimes, it’s hard to stop.

Joaquín Boz
Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2024. 61 x 78.7 x 1.3 in. Oil on canvas.

Barcia: Thinking about that feeling of struggle or frustration in the process of painting, it’s funny because I would never think of frustration when looking at your paintings as they’re joyous and full of bright colors and textures. There is a genuine pleasure that one feels when seeing your paintings. Related to this, I wanted to ask you a hard question: How do you relate to beauty? As nowadays the concept of beauty is not a trend. Do you look for beauty? Do you care?

Boz: When I look at my paintings I feel the struggle, but I want to change it. Because I say okay this is more or less amusing until I find an error in the use of the color, without knowing why—that is when I change it.

Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2024. 62.9 x 86.6 x 1.3 in. Oil on canvas.

Barcia: Maybe there’s something about the beauty and joy in the process of painting that connects you with the pleasure of being involved with the material. Maybe that is shown in the outcome. In an interview, you talked about some of these color shapes as if they were hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics were originally carved and they were spiritual and I do think there is a spiritual beauty in your works. Can you tell us more about this idea? I think it makes sense in this conjoined way to display your forms.

Boz: I think now, in comparison to former paintings, I’m using them less as a symbol and more as forms.

Barcia: And that has led to an overload in the amount of paint you use, in comparison to your earlier paintings that were much lighter, with more “empty” spaces

Boz: Yes, not just the density has changed, but also the material.

Installation view. “Fluid Boundaries” at Barro NY, 2024.

Barcia: The shine of the different areas of color, does it come from the amount of solvent you use?

Boz: Yes, sometimes it’s very dry, sometimes it’s sticky. I don’t want a sticky canvas, so I use solvent.

Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2020. 11.1 x 13.2 in. Oil on wood.

Barcia: Why do you never use acrylic?

Boz: I don’t like acrylic. It’s very plastic. It dries too fast.

Barcia: Well, some people find it useful that it dries quickly.

Boz: But I don’t know. It’s hard to find paint that works with the images.

Barcia: Since acrylic dries, the color stays the same. When you do it with oil, it changes over time.

Boz: Yes, over time.

Barcia: Maybe that’s a good point to continue. Sofía Dourron said that oil is alive, and acrylic is not.

Boz: Yes.

Joaquín Boz
Joaquín Boz. “Untitled,” 2020. 13 x 18.7 in. Oil on wood.

Barcia: When do you consider a work finished? Is there something you look for, or do you just know when it is?

Boz: It is intuitive. When I feel that I have covered the surface in a way that satisfies me, I know it’s ready.

Barcia: That reminds me of what Syd Krochmalny mentions in the exhibition text about intuitive contingency. It seems like a very accurate observation. I think it’s interesting how you describe something that can change at any moment, but there is something permanent between the forms and the works.

Fluid Boundaries was on view at BARRO NY between April 4-May 25, 2024 and this conversation took place at the gallery on May 16th.

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