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'NATURAL FREQUENCY' REVIEW
By Luz Sepúlveda

   
Art Nexus, Issue #81 Jun - Aug 2011.

The photographs by Oswaldo Ruiz (Monterrey, Mexico, 1977), exhibited at the Galería Luis Adelantado in Mexico City, are imposing more for their quality as objects than for being representative of something else. Ruiz portrays landscapes that appear to be staged. The images are constructed with a tangible corporeality based on volumes and shadows illuminated with stage lighting.
In its physical construction over an acrylic sheet, the photographic paper is treated as if it were canvas. The matte surface has subtle, almost imperceptible, textures that are nonetheless velvety, a characteristic that enables a richer emotional impact when observing the figures gathered under the intense lighting. A tension emanates from Ruiz's photographs in the way they appear to invade the space beyond the limits of the frame. In other words, both the figures posing in the environment inside the image, and the person observing the work, see the nature of their interaction altered by an irrepressible and powerful attraction that is created between them. Despite the calm manner with which the objects appear to be exhibited on the stage, it is possible to perceive a certain vibration that can solely be interpreted as affective dynamism; namely, a sensation produced when we experience an emotion --an aesthetic one in this case.
The exhibition is based on the concept of Natural Frequency, a term used in mechanical engineering that refers to the degree of freedom (or limitation) of movement of certain structures as they withstand the weight of other constructions. Thus, aside from the physical force that emanates from the portrayed objects, Ruiz's photographs convey vigor through the tension generated by the perfect balance between moving and resonant forces. The resulting effect is a thorough and joyful experience before the strangely, and apparently motionless, images that, nonetheless, are propelled by a constant harmonious vibration. The series that depicts the enormous cylindrical stone towers, built in Ireland between the Eighth and Twelfth Centuries, capture the moment when the imposing vertical structures, surrounded by trees, shadows, and the outlines of graves, constructed around it, were erected. An intense but never halcyonic calm can be perceived; a silence about to burst as result of a sensation of volatility generated by the light contrasts on the figures that had been kept in almost complete darkness. An image that stands out from the other tower images, is one that cannot be accessed at night given its location, inside the 'sacred island,' as it can only be visited during the day. Ruiz depicts the island with the tower placed in the distance¿its visibility almost forbidden, in nearly total darkness, where only the shadows of the vegetation that surrounds the construction can be perceived.
Another room contains a group of photographs of magueys that, although already dead, still stand, and will stand for a long time, although the plants are sterile, as their stems will continue to grow. The dark backgrounds in the image accentuate the illuminated sections of the millenary plant that exhales its last breath as it basks in the glory of having accomplished the mission of giving life to its seed-dispersing stem. While there is an analogy between the vertical construction of the round towers and the stems, in that the towers were once also a receptacle that sheltered life, human life, or that used their over 98-feet height as vantage points from which to guard, or to storage seeds and food. On the other hand, the stem vibrates with the imperceptible movement generated by its slow growth, but it is portrayed at the point that marks the culmination of its existence. Both forms reach toward the sky, as an almost sinister environment engulfs them in a darkness partially illuminated by the artificial lighting Ruiz relies on to impregnate the portrayed objects.
The work of a video that appears to stay unaltered grabs our attention during the walk through the exhibition. From a fixed point of view, it shows the interior of an Irish prison in Kilmainham that was built in the Sixteenth Century and was reconstructed three centuries later, following the high-security Panopticon prison model designed by Jeremy Bentham. It is a design that ensures that inmates are watched at all times without them knowing that they are being observed. During the six-minute long video, in loop, the hallway lights are gradually dimmed until the central lobby, surrounded by the cells that today house a museum, is left in total darkness; only to be lighted again at once, as the dimming process is reinitiated, when the uninterrupted video completes a cycle.
Set as part of an installation, another video shows a decorative garden behind bars that, nonetheless, moves freely and is accompanied by the almost monotonous voice of a female singer who, with a sustained note, is able to generate a resonance that gives the sensation of continuous movement in unison with the back-and-forth movement of the plants that are placed along a wall that raises more than 33 feet high.
There is consistency and cohesiveness among the works exhibited in Natural Frequency. The visual quality of the photography gives the work a certain pictorial appeal, while the constant vibration keeps it in perfect equilibrium.