Tomás Díaz Cedeño has a fixed set of concerns. Through his three solo exhibitions–Vessels being his third–he has asked how the body is or can be represented; he has probed the limit between objecthood and humankind; and he has examined the expressive range material objects can embody when forced into previously unknown relationships in an obsessive artistic encounter. He examines these questions through a delicate, tenuous–even grotesque–visual language rooted in a committed, intimate dialogue with the materials he uses.
In Dispossessed souls, no man was my brother (2013), his sculptures took on an overt eroticism; splayed and penetrated, they hung on whip-like structures, exposed as they crumbled to the floor. In Wetworks (2015), Díaz Cedeño restricted his sculptures to a more established form of restraint: the frame. However, the works were equally rebellious. Removing the frames from the wall and standing them around the gallery floor, in a more confrontational relationship with the viewer, Díaz Cedeño imbued his nearly two-dimensional sculptures with a third dimension. Their backsides exposed, Díaz Cedeño’s works ignited in the show’s visitors the feeling of doing something illicit.
In Vessels, Díaz Cedeño leaves behind a more intellectual relationship with abstraction –in which his works defied concrete objectivity through their monochromatic, iterative language– and instead embraces a vocabulary rooted in daily Mexican life. Monstrous, uncouth, beastly, the “amulets,” as Díaz Cedeño describes them, replicate marginalized systems of belief.
In what he calls a “morphological remodeling,” Díaz Cedeño’s sculptures have taken on the material and symbolic language of witchcraft. Mounted on the wall, the protective, mystical structures encase organic and inorganic materials representative of popular ritual—objects one finds wandering the markets of Mexico City. By repurposing his treatment of materials like gesso and plaster applied now to natural materials like vegetable fiber or organic fabric, Díaz Cedeño reinvigorates the unique approach to materials he has mastered in previous works. The result is a sort of uncanny synthetic skin that envelops each sculpture’s precarious, ritualistic landscape: a jagged support, coarsely stitched, that wavers between organic and inorganic consistencies.
Sculptures that once dwelled on an otherworldly coming-to-life of objects, conjured by an intimate relationship between object and body, now incorporate a visual idiolect with superstitious, salvific characteristics typical of Mexico City, where Díaz Cedeño is from and continues to work.
A nail, a crown of thorns, seeds, skins, furs. In Vessels, these materials are suffused with a sense of urgency—the result of an individualistic spiritual aspiration and the associated anxiety, of a yearning for contentment. This form of object-driven occultism–what Díaz Cedeño has characterized as a material-based questioning of the object as a representation of the body’s inherent mysticism–obtains a newfound complexity. The sculptures in Vessels reframe Díaz Cedeño’s examination of fragility, weakness, desire, and representation, within the social and economic structures that govern the contradictory and bizarre business of salvation.
— Nika Chilewich