Carlos Amorales presents Words of Mouth and Hands, his first solo exhibition in New York at kurimanzutto. It comprises a video installation with a set of original music scores and works on paper that take as their point of departure a creation myth the artist imagined in which a serpent created the underworld by burrowing through the earth with its voice. Together, the artworks follow the transformation of the written word into choral music and the subsequent translation of music into graphic symbols.
Amorales’ six-channel video installation evokes ideas of the sublime through chants. This major work portrays musician, composer, and performer Sarmen Almond singing two poems and the myth of the serpent. As a counterpoint, percussionist Diego Espinosa performs a series of dancefloor rhythms with his hands and body. In another video the hands of the artist are shown browsing through a notebook in which he developed an idiosyncratic system of signs and symbols for conducting choirs. The drawings in this notebook were inspired when seeing a choir director gesticulate with her hands, arms and body. The artist imagined these movements as drawings in the air.
Voices, sounds, traces, gestures, claps, signs and symbols collide as the fragmented elements composing a series of drawings, Motion Clapping, in which the artist uses the contour of his hands to trace the motion of music. The voice and body percussion compositions, commissioned by Amorales for his videos, directly correlate with this body of work. A second series of works on paper depicting a succession of supine profiles suggest both a landscape and a pentagram. A large-format installation of paper banners, Silent Choir, depicts a sequence of spray-painted profiles suggesting the presence of a massive choir in the gallery.
Words of Mouth and Hands continues the artist’s transdisciplinary inquiry into the relationship between contemporary art and different cultural practices, which in previous works have ranged from wrestling to the music industry, fashion, literature, and cinema. These various areas have interested him for their potential to manifest the sense of existential fragmentation in contemporary life. Through the act of repetition, formal experimentation and conceptual questioning, Amorales offers new perspectives into such practices and displaces them into art.
“During the process of my research, seeing the renown choir director Wilma Ten Wolde conducing the Nationaal Vorouwen Jeugdkoor at a choir festival in Utrecht was something sublime. Out of that experience I keep reflecting about the relationship between the body of the conductor, the choir and the public who listens; how sound is perceived and the language that can be created from it. Observing the conductor’s practice allowed me to connect to the music as a visual artist, consequently developing a language that took the form of a handwritten coded notebook.”
Occupying the gallery space, simple elements such as hands, profiles, colors, dots and lines allow the artist to enter the musicians' language and shape the direction of the performative aspect of the project, creating a formal and a conceptual link between the videos and the graphic artworks.
In an oscillating motion of translation that goes back and forth, Words of Mouth and Hands delves into the ancient and sublime connection between vocal and hand gestures, into their graphical representations. By symbolically presenting an anonymous singing mass, Amorales opens a political stance on the unifying power of singing together and its potential to invoke the will and power of the people for a common cause; hence, pausing the individuals' existential fragmentation through the act of communion. The choir, through vocal and hand gestures, is an expression of a unified whole.