Jesús Moroles – 2003

jesus-moroles-essayTHE OLSON GALLERY | Bethel College

The Silent Poetry of Granite

I saw a block of marble under a waterfall as nature had left it, and it was like a script to me. … If I could cut stone like that—to touch nature, not take it over.

My work is a discussion of how man exists in nature and touches nature and uses nature.
—Jesús Moroles

Some artists begin with abstract ideas, then work their materials until fitted to the ideas.  Other artists begin with their materials, listening carefully and openly to them.  What they find there then becomes their abstract idea until, eventually, it becomes clear how that idea relates to the rest of the world.  This is how Jesús Moroles works.  He has, in the richest sense of the word, been seduced by stone and all the deep processes and structure latent within stone.  He pays attention to the internal structure of the granite, thinking about where its strengths lie and where its fault lines make it vulnerable.  He cares about how its raw or broken surfaces—he calls them “tears”—are rough and jagged, almost like bones exposed, while their polished surfaces are as smooth and tender as skin.  He says, “each of my pieces has about fifty percent of its surfaces untouched and raw—those are parts of the stone that were torn.  The rest is smooth and polished.  The effect, which I want people to not only look at but touch, is a harmonious coexistence of the two.”

For the viewer willing to live with these works beyond the first glance,  Moroles’s sculptures play with more harmonious coexistences than rough and smooth.  He sets into motion a whole series of opposites that create a silent dance of many elements.  He plays weight against suspension, solid mass against open space; crisp geometry against organic edges and shapes; light against darkness; and calculated pattern against accident.

On the purely formal level, Moroles’ works engage us in a sustained meditation of form and variation.  But inevitably, these sculptures are also associated with so much more that is outside of them.  There are connections with ancient human cultures that also used stone powerfully.  One detects the presence of ancient Mayan and Aztec religious architecture and sculpture, the grinding stones with which indigenous peoples made their daily food, and the totemic figural references of guardians and deities that are nearly universal to all early cultures.  These associations speak of deep spiritual currents that are archetypal in human consciousness, even as the nature of stone revealed here formally speaks of deep natural processes within the earth.  Many ancient cultures have treated stone as sacred, or as somehow housing the sacred.  Many have used stone as markers of significant events or presences.  There is a connection in the human mind and spirit between the earth’s natural stone—its very bones—and our longings for eternal, spiritual presence.  Moroles taps into our most ancient resonances with earth, form, and materials, and how these are expressive of spiritual, religious, and cultural forces.   His sculptural language is modern (Noguchi, Surrealism, abstract minimalism are all referenced) at the same time that it is as old as human expression and awe.

Wayne L. Roosa
Professor of Art History, Bethel College