HUMANISM AND FORMAL PROWESS IN THE SCULPTURES OF LUIS MONTULL
“My mother tongue is the human body or the milieu, the object, through or in which man lives, suffers, enjoys himself, feels, thinks, “said the German Expressionist sculptor Ernst Barlach,” and the same might be said of the contemporary Spanish sculptor Luis Montull.
Known throughout Spain, where his monumental figures are in numerous public collections, Luis Montull lives and works in a studio in the Canary Islands. His pieces have a presence and a power that comes across as monumental, even on a relatively modest scale, as seen in Montull´s recent exhibition at Agora Gallery, 415 West Broadway, in Soho.
What immediately strikes one about Montull`s pieces in both stone and wood is wisely he has chosen his art historical influences and fashioned them into a personal style. The elemental from and raw primitivism of a piece such as his stone figure “Golpe de Viento” appears to draw some of its power from Pre-Columbian sources, yet the extreme posture and expressiveness in his simplified figure of an earthy woman in an extreme posture also recalls the prehistoric carvings of certain North American Indian tribes. At the same time, Luis Montull`s work bears favorable comparison to the aforementioned Ernst Barlach, who also drew liberally from folkloric sources.
Like Barlach, Montull is above all a humanist and he appears to have an even broader range than his famous predecessor, in term of his ability to move easily between degrees of realism and abstraction in order to accommodate the emotional temper of his individual subjects in a piece called “Provocation” for example. He works in white stone and adopts an elongated manner to covey the pathos of a slender young woman lifting the hem of her dress in an all too blatant attempt at seduction. Even as she bares her thighs she turns her face away, suggesting shame that something-perhaps unrequited love or desperate financial need-has driven her to such desperate exhibitionism.
By contrast, the figure in Luis Montull`s carved wood sculpture “Homage Isidora Duncan” takes hedonistic pride in her physicality as she dance with abandon, her hair flowing forward, her arms thrown back, in a dance of joyous abandon. Here, too, Montull displays his skill at working in a more realistic mode. The figure is perfectly proportioned and smoothly nude, but for a flowing scarf wound about her body-possibly a symbolic reminder of the long scarf that got tangled in the wheels of an open automobile that the famous dancer was riding in, strangling her and causing her untimely death.
"Homage Isadora Duncan" is minutely detailed, right down to the separate strands in the figure´s long, lank hair and the graceful articulation of each individual finger and toe. Totally opposite the blunt power and formal simplification in some of his other, more neo-primitivistic figures, the sculpture demonstrates the remarkable versatility that makes Luis Montull an extraordinary, impressive talent.Wilson Wong. 10/2006,