Perrotin is pleased to present Élan Vital the third solo exhibition by Mexican artist Gabriel de la Mora with the gallery and the second at Perrotin Paris. In this new exhibition, there are organic material such as butterfly wings and inorganic material – supreme golden obsidian. Together they return to the viewer the question of what life is, what is this Elan Vital.

The idea of the existence of a vital force that separates living beings from ordinary matter is ancient and persists to this day. At the beginning of the 20th, Henri Bergson introduced Elan Vital as a concept to name that impetus that distinguishes living bodies, and allows this energy to be explained as something more than just an emergent characteristic of matter when it reaches a certain degree of complexity. Bergson himself posits, however, that our thought, in its purest logical form, is incapable of presenting or understanding the true nature of life and the full meaning of evolutionary motion: life is not entirely comprehensible as we cannot explain how that force abruptly disappears after death.

In his quest to explain the division between living and inorganic matter, Bergson points out the characteristics that differentiate living beings from the rest of the objects, in a direction contrary to the exploration that Gabriel de la Mora undertakes his artistic practice, traversing the necessary paths to show reality as a continuum, where all entities coexist on the same level, much like how, for example, in the field of painting he unites polychrome and monochrome. Thus, these pieces do not directly address the discussion about the existence of a vital impulse, but they do give shape to the reflections on the passage of time and memory that are present in Bergson’s research.

Inanimate objects, following the philosopher, lack duration or history because they are already everything they can be, all their possible configurations are always present, showing a determined state that is only visible under a certain arrangement of its elements. In the living, on the contrary, there is an accumulation of the past brought into the present as memory, understanding this as a form of consciousness of duration and passage of time, but unlike matter, this accumulation is pure creative power that manifested in the evolution of species, as a search for new and diverse paths for its preservation, an Elan Vital that is behind all living beings; but it also particularizes in each individual, expressing that creativity in growth, reproduction, and, more evidently, in the transformation of surrounding matter. Life is will, it is the desire to create that awakens in the consciousness of the living being and in its ability to act on the environment. This is not an exclusive task of the spirit, consciousness exists in the materiality of the body, and it is the body that allows manipulation of objects.

Gabriel de la Mora’s works are a practical approach to Bergson’s reasoning: from the selection of seemingly dissimilar supports to the way he works with them. In this exhibition there is organic material –butterfly wings– that, although they have lost their vital force, accumulate the evolutionary history of the species, and inorganic material –supreme golden obsidian–, that results from violent eruptions followed by accelerated cooling. Placed side by side, they return to the viewer the question of what life is, what is this Elan Vital that animates organic beings, and what are the parallels of geological activity and organic vitality. This combination of materials also refers to the myth of the Aztec goddess Itzpapálotl, the obsidian butterfly that represents women who died in childbirth, and that unveils death as a necessary step to create new life.

The author’s creative impetus is expressed in the organization of carefully selected fragments to show a specific configuration of each object, a configuration that in the case of the supreme golden obsidian pieces pursues the transition between figuration and abstraction and, contrary to what Bergson would believe, do not show an arbitrarily chosen final state, but rather a time that unfolds in front of the spectator: a movement of the viewer or a subtle change in lighting is enough to trigger a new flow in the appearance of these artworks that evoke the process of the constant change of life, which is not a state but a tendency, a persistent desire, a power of transformation that is always on the verge of being realized.

(Text by Eric Nava Munoz)