Dina González Mascaró: All of the Rubble
by Marcia Crosby
“In Argentina, I remember going to watch when buildings were being demolished (I am fascinated with architecture and its destruction …) When it was over I would take a piece of rubble to my house and paint it white” (Dina Gonzalez Mascaro, April 2007).
Dina Gonzalez Mascaro has always been interested in the destroyed as part of a whole. Her exhibit, Rubble, at grunt gallery is her most recent in a series of projects set off by the past five years of architectural change in Vancouver. It is an eclectic mix of drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures made about or from the rubble of the continual construction, demolition, and re-construction of the city.
Gonzalez Mascaro works with material that could be seen as artefacts, as public, maybe even as historic, but the materials themselves are inherently devoid of any sense of the local. Building materials—rebar, cement, nails, brick, wood and plaster—are some of the constituents of her lexicon for the presence of what is no longer here. Not here. As in the hospital that used to be on 10th and Heather, or the parking lot that used to be on the corner of Seymour and Smithe.
This rubble is nothing like what she collected as a young woman in Argentina. There, to take home a piece of the Palacio Municipal, for example, would be to collect a fragment of historic architecture that could be 350 to 500 years old. Having a piece of the building, a freize, column, plinth, a scroll, even the foundation or wall, would reflect a sense of its value as a precious part of a venerated history. Here in Vancouver, Gonzalez Mascaro has created an exhibition of unpretentious rubble, a process that resonates with some of the ideas in El Hombre, Todo Los Hombres (“the man, all the men”), a book that she referred to in her artist’s talk; the text’s meaning translates in her exhibit as a single piece of rubble that can stand in for all of the rubble, or vice versa: each of the works and its components, a synecdoche for the city, all of the city, including the parts that have disappeared.
In the exhibition, four works on two shelves are clear links to the relationship between the particular and the general. On one shelf, all the rubble, the rubble, consists of a small “pile” of concrete pieces placed over a photograph of Vancouver. Bits of rubble fill two thirds of the foreground to create a horizon line against small skyscrapers and tinted blue sky, and all of it is cast in amber resin. Beside it, used nails cast in resin, straight, rusty and crooked, are framed in something like a shadow box; in all the nails, the nail, the nail is displayed as an entangled mass of many, or any. On the next shelf, a work made with a plywood backing, mostly obscured in white paint, is embedded in a lining of plaster, and along its bottom, the odd nail and a few wood splinters (some painted green and red) are held in resin; the title, all the wood, the wood, is stamped in letraset, tenuous and uneven, above the wood bits on the bottom. The fourth piece, the parking lot, consists of a bed of crushed concrete and red brick. In its center is a flat piece of plaster, and on it a detailed green sketch of a parking lot. Like most objects placed on a shelf, each work, framed in white and bearing similar titles, conforms to one another. Displayed like framed family photographs and collected mementoes of an unforgotten past, they blend with my memory of Neruda’s Invisible Man. In this poem, there is a clear shift in the Romantic poet who turns away from one kind of love for another, that is, from the interests of an individual, to an interest in all of the people, objects, and events of everyday life.
The work in Rubble cannot be described as precious, but the first of her works that I noticed when I came into the gallery was titled nice. And it is. Wood rests at the bottom of a pale green rectangle of resin; on top of that is a piece of rebar wrapped in concrete, filed into smooth planes on one end and washed in a shiny finish. Both objects are thickly coiled together in two places with 1/8th inch wire. Like metamorphic rocks made up of irregular plates (the schist used for building walls an d houses and for testing alloys), her exhibition leaves its mark. It is a schistose assemblage that speaks to an on going metamorphosis in the city, a layering of what is no longer here, or not yet here, with what is. In the deepness of the city (Painting: acrylic, graphite, gesso, latex, enamel and resin), she limns white striations and scrapings of paint over a planar field. It drips, but like a line that has the possibility of becoming three-dimensional. She paints like a sculptor, makes work about what is and isn’t here, leaves traces of her labour, her ideas, and her creativity in every object, the beauty of which can be seen and felt when she speaks of her fascination with the production of architecture, and its destruction: “I love that,” she says.
Although her work may evoke memories of particular city sites, the exhibit underlines that the spacialized locale does not simply exist. In fact, she makes visible the fact that its production and destruction require continuous and deliberate attention. Similarly, memory does not just exist, that is, the memory of a person place or thing does not inherently exist in an object, or in one’s mind. The past has to be articulated to become memory, which, unlike history, is always about the present. So, Gonzalez Mascaro’s work may evoke a memory of, say, when you last saw the parking lot at Seymour and Smithe, the cars just hanging there in the air, or floating toward you as you drive toward the lot, and that memory may even be nostalgic. But her work, this exhibit, is about the fissure that opens up between an empirical reality, and the memory or representation of the past. It is about the cleavage of building rubble and resin and paint: cleave as in angle of repose, and cleave as in split apart. This paradox is not only unavoidable, it is what makes Rubble alive with the present.