Lacan’s Habit, 2012. Mixed media on vinyl, 190 x 200 cm. Photo: Daniel Chen

Cutting Silence: A Conversation with Pablo Lehmann

For more than two decades, Pablo Lehmann, who teaches at Argentina’s National University of the Arts in Buenos Aires, has produced obsessively complicated works in which patience, attention to detail, and technical knowledge come together in dense overlays that defy distinctions between text and image. With one eye on figuration and the other on abstraction, he uses the word to link disparate universes. As he explains it, “The word is for me the secret and perfect bridge because it allows the possibility of concrete references (like the image) but structured from a couple of lines that don’t represent anything (which applies to abstraction).” His cutouts, objects, photographs, and reliefs constantly venture into new territory. By giving volumetric dimension to the blank space of the text, he opens up potential meanings beyond the obvious. Lehmann’s strange labyrinths lead to no final destination, and the paths of their evolution can remain unknown even to him. The letters, cut out of paper and plastic, engender infinite interpretations, as the word becomes a code or sign for meaning and significance—nothing more, nothing less.

María Carolina Baulo: The conceptual soul of your work seems to be the word, which also determines your process and formal strategies. Manipulating text as form through the use of cutouts creates volume, and it also does strange things to negative and positive space, making emptiness visible. Could you explain this fundamental aspect of your work?
Pablo Lehmann: I think of space as something dense and full. I don’t understand it as an empty place to which things are added, but rather as a tissue . . .

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