Arián Dylan, a 26-year-old native resident of Oaxaca, uses scalpels and knives to carve intricate abstract patterns and images into the surfaces of found books and magazines. A graduate of the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Engraving in Mexico City, Dylan has shown his carved books, which he calls “Cavidades” (cavities), in solo and group shows in Chile, Spain, Japan, Canada and the U.S.
Dylan’s incising technique was born when he began cutting into the multihued layers of his paintings. Now he works exclusively with published items, delicately excavating the pages, creating clever, graceful and often humorous concave mosaics. Some retain original images, like the raging T. rexes on the cover of a National Geographic in an untitled work from 2010, enhanced with bloodred mouths and stormy skies from colors found on buried pages. With most of the cover sliced away, the dinosaurs emerge from the depths, popping with texture and dimensionality. The swirling grisaille patterns cut into a book of black-and-white Mexican landscape photographs (El insólito paisaje Mexicano [unusual Mexican landscapes], 2010, 13½ by 13 inches), on the other hand, resemble topographical maps—well suited to the book’s subject matter. The book has a baroque design cut into its cover, creating a decorative shadowboxlike frame. This piece was one of the show’s most complex and lyrical.
A series called “Las virgen Buda” from 2009 features the Virgin of Guadalupe in the lotus position. These were executed on blank 13½-by-13-inch books, commissioned for the works, with thick, creamy pages. While lovely, and done with meticulous, laserlike cuts down to the Virgin’s tiny fingernails, they lack the subtle irony and surprise of the found-publication works.
Another 2009 multipart piece is literal but witty. On the face of each of 17 identical copies of Pintura contemporánea, a small paperback handbook on painting—a sort of Cliff’s Notes on Modernism in Spanish—Dylan has carved out tiny collages and abstractions, exposing recognizable bits and pieces from the 20th-century canon. As you study the compositions, each gradually transforms itself into a modernist Rorschach test. Or a haunting fever dream of art history class.
Photo: Arián Dylan: Untitled, 2010, altered magazine, 10 by 7 inches; at Massimo Audiello.