Exhibiting the work that Robert Brandwayn has been creating intimately in his studio since 2014 brings us closer to the great mystery that is memory—a space where real facts, due to time and society’s transformation, pass from generation to generation while undergoing interpretations and transformations. Memory is a space that exists in the thoughts and mind of each one of us, and by its very ethereal nature, is subject to the perception and sensitivity of whoever evokes it.
In Brandwayn’s case, the starting point for the research and esthetical exploration into his family’s archives was his father’s silence. The unasked questions, the unknown places and unnamed characters, the letters and documents in many languages, and the photographic registers that tell of specific moments all ignited his creative curiosity.
The transdisciplinary form and his family’s hybrid culture inspire Brandwayn to identify, assimilate, and recreate the vital essence of his lineage; where lineage is understood as an invisible force transmitted from generation to generation and manifested in different ways, always maintaining a proactive attitude and creative mindset to face the circumstances of each period while preserving its resilience.
In 2014 we began a prolonged dialogue between the artist and the curator, with no pretension other than confronting the conceptual consistency and the expressive form in Brandwayn’s findings. We spent hours reviewing his proposal to link or unite pictures, official documents and letters. There were more questions than answers and imagination substituted those gaps in memory, while at the same time the resources of color and material served as pretexts to integrate or conceal. One of the stages in Brandwayn’s artistic process included covering the image transfers with one layer of color and then excavating and scratching over the painting in a sort of sensitive archeology. His proposal to dig in the memories would materialize in a creative act.
After beginning my curatorial visits, I was especially curious about the canvases selected by the artist, and the preparation of layers of paint and experimental works that only served as support. The artist’s answer to my inquiries about this curious procedure, and the reasons for its use, was surprising— “I want to build upon what I’ve made, over the memory of my artistic experiments. It is an archeology, a sort of palimpsest, where I have to tear to discover, and accumulate to leave a mark.”
In the first period of work our conversations developed around small envelopes of a distinct, treasure-like nature, recovered from different family archives, which the artist grouped into categories that he changed again and again. It was a new experience to see how Brandwayn used elements that were already a unit of meaning by themselves as raw materials for his conceptual and aesthetical creations. The artistic joy and exploration in this stage of construction of the pieces was aimed at finding the essential components that allowed him, from a point of artistic sensitivity, to identify and recognize the strength of his ancestry, focusing on two leading figures— his grandfather, Israel Brandwayn, and his family before leaving Żelechów in Poland.
During the aesthetic experience it was vital to continue the search despite gaps or voids in the historical traceability of story. According to Brandwayn, in the process exists an Aleph, a Bet, a Gimel, which form an underlying structure with their own language in order to tell the story of his lineage. In this creative adventure two findings marked the final product: the solidarity while emigrating and the resilience when immigrating.
After more than 2 years of work, Brandwayn’s proposal needed other readings and interpretations to be able to confront its intimacy with the opinion of recognized experts. Venezuelan semiologist Víctor Fuenmayor and curator Jimmy Yanez were invited to an intense weeklong immersion in the artist’s studio, and their approximations and readings ignited in the artist a clear conscience of the importance of continuing with this form of aesthetic expression alongside a validation of his artistic proposal. Later in the year, curators and experts from Colombia, Mexico and the United States were invited to share their vision around Brandwayn’s work.
An invitation to exhibit in the MACZUL (Zulia Museum of Contemporary Art) in Maracaibo, Venezuela, from March 25 to April 25 of this year begins an itinerancy that will take Brandwayn to the Sephardic Museum of Caracas the following May, followed by Mexico and the United States. We accompany Robert and a concert of curators to narrate a story of resilience, discovering through artistic and multimedia expression the Vital Memory.
The interest in making the invisible visible, and shaping those moments where the pieces don’t exactly fit together, where the registers have become blurry, eroded or simply lost, allows the anxiety of the nonexistent to be solved by a multimedia creation from elements that Brandwayn transforms through artistic processes and tams by fixing them to a canvas. By tearing them apart, pigmenting and layering them, Brandwayn looks to transmit in each piece through a contemporary aesthetic experience what happened during that search for meaning. In this exhibit each spectator is compelled to evoke, interpret, and complete, or simply feel the need to recognize that ruptures and voids are opportunities to create and generate life.