Kepa Garraza (Berango, 1979) materializes in this project a chronological story in which we go over the highlights of a self-satisfied character’s life, with whom the artist shares name, profession and looks. Born in the ‘50s, the fictional Kepa Garraza succumbs to the flattering and the inertia caused by the network of economic forces, media and de facto power that turn him into a myth. He presents to us this alter ego, an authentic socialite, accompanied by well-known members from the highest levels of politics, the arts, business, rock music or the papier couché. The artist, brought up under the sign of media bombardment, employs the post-modern practice of appropriation of images. After selecting them carefully, Garraza inserts himself in the images, replacing the least significant personality and proceeding to a double perfomative action. In the first place, he undergoes a characterization process in order to get integrated in the context and adapt his image chronologically to the different moments. In second but most important place, he creates an identity to which he lends his image. Once transformed into this other Kepa Garraza, whose artwork is never shown, the artist embarks on a journey through space and time that takes him to coordinates that in no manner correspond with the ones of the real Kepa Garraza, whose work is exhibited for the first time in this gallery; conversely, he does not have a public social life. Jose Luis Brea in his essay “fábricas de identidad (retóricas del autorretrato)” states that there is no room for autobiography outside the environment of the collective, without the exchange with others. This way, through “snapshots”, in which the character appears rubbing shoulders with other members of the star system, company availing the status he enjoys, the artist manufactures this identity. Being its creator initiated in the knowledge of the subject’s inexistence previous to its appearance in the spaces of representation (Brea), from the media he picks explicit visual references that he manipulates for the execution of this series of fictional self-portraits that he wields as a throwing weapon against the archetype of the artist-star, devoted to social relations and public appearances rather than to his work, whose attitude before life and the profession lack the sufficient rigour. In the pictures, Garraza lets himself be seen with several personalities like Warhol, Hirst or Koons; products of the culture industry, much-reviled by Adorno, that Garraza, “the young”, deems accountable for the neglect of the political responsibility that art should assume (Benjamin) and for the vacuous spectacle for massive consumption that we are offered. The new character, through whom the real artist is imbued with notoriety and generational respect, will be able to act as a Trojan Horse for the true artist to undertake the fight from inside.
The self-portrait, genre that emerges in the Renaissance with some precedent in gothic statuary, derives from the anthropocentric thinking and the self-awareness of the artist as such. Some practiced it exceptionally, like Leonardo, or in the form of “cameos”, without entitling themselves to a prominent role in portraits or collective arrangements, possible cases are Velazquez or El Greco, yet without irrefutable confirmation, while in
others the will to outline an autobiographic narration is clearly recognizable. Sometimes, a purely narcissistic personality is underscored, as with Courbet, and others, in most of them it seems that the aim is to find an auto-cathartic therapy enabling them to avert the sorrow and the lonesomeness: Van Gogh, Egon Schiele, Frida Khalo, Bacon or Lucian Freud. Examples of extensive practice in a lifetime are Rembrandt or Picasso, who even lent his physiognomy to the Mediterranean myth of the Minotaur, with which he often identified himself. A less frequent form, Albrecht Dürer’s Self-portrait wearing a jacket, seen by some as a representation of the Ecce Homo, could be the first example of this variation; that acquired the category of central axis for a lifetime work with Cindy Sherman. Affiliated to the post-modern movement, of which she is the maximum representative in photography, along with Francesca Woodman, Nam Goldin or Thomas Ruff amongst others, they carry out the critical recuperation of the space of the self-portrait in the era of the technical image (Brea). Nevertheless, it is due to the mediation and “anonymity” that the technical media grant that some theorists judge that the self-portraits product of the technologies of the image should not be considered as such, stating that the self-portrait must be made by the artist’s own hand, with the sole assistance of a mirror. According to Brea, in the space of representation one is always other. As his authentic nature is questioned, the author plunges into a baroque maze of different identity layers, evidencing, following the steps of Baudrillard, how in the consumer society reality is reduced to a game of appearances and fiction, in which art creates simulated universes.
Serialization, chronology and staging are some of the characteristics that could define the work of Kepa Garraza, along with the hybridization of media and photographic realism, elements that establish a parallelism with the work of Jose Ramón Amondarain.
The subject of reflection in all his work is the world of art in its most diverse aspects: history of art and the romantic concept of the artist in “Ángeles caídos”; in “BIDA” (Brigadas Internacionales para la Destrucción del Arte) the script inserts a supposed terrorist group in different exhibition spaces pretending to destroy the system of the art as it has lightened the present times, with the purpose of retrieving another set of values in order to contribute to the regeneration of society.