Gili received his training at the Instituto Neumann and Prodiseño (Caracas, 1989-1990), the Fine Arts Department of the Universidad de Barcelona (1990-1995), and the Royal College of Art (London, 1996-1998). Critics described his early paintings dating from around 2001 as “images of explosions and broken glass.” Their multiple angular and sharp forms were a result of the juxtaposition of star-like shapes with the sharp ends marginally and gradually displaced. Subsequently in his work, the initial monochromatic aspect of these forms yielded to the inclusion of color. Midway through the decade, the unmistakable color reference to the work of Carlos Cruz-Diez emphasized the previous line of interpretation. His canvases now appeared to represent the detonation of a Physichromie. One of the essential themes in Gili’s work is the tension between modernity and South American societies, precisely the still vivid contrast between the utopia of the modernism and Latin America’s underdevelopment.
In 2006 Gili presented Las tres calaveras, his first solo exhibition in Caracas (Periferico, Caracas), organized in the manner of an installation in which the paintings were displayed unconventionally supported directly on the floor, perpendicular or parallel to the walls. This same idea dominated his exhibition Superstars, presented in New York and London (2007 and 2008). In Coda (Office # 1, Caracas, 2008), he developed an analogy between the installation and Caracas’ automotive traffic. In a mural covering the walls of the gallery that worked as a cartographic guide, he installed small-format paintings depicting areas of the city. The pace set by the repetition of certain forms, sculptures built in the shape of traffic signs, the museum’s design, and a sort of visual chaos, forced the public to inspect the exhibition at a slow pace similar to the one experienced when caught in Caracas’ traffic. Historical references were also present. On the one hand the dynamism of the Futurism and Vorticism (which have also been compared to Gili’s work) was inserted into a Latin American city. The work also evoked the numerous urban interventions that artists who wee exponents of geometric abstraction had made in Caracas decades ago
For the exhibition Everything is Borrowed (Alejandra von Hartz, Miami, 2009), Gili painted a mural on the walls of the gallery—a motif that would become habitual in subsequent exhibitions—and hung paintings on the walls with an aesthetic twist. Their forms, although geometric, had lost the impeccable perfection previously expressed in his works. The contours were imprecise, the colors were not applied uniformly, and stains abounded. This tension between geometric rigor and a more gestural process was again evident, both formally and conceptually, in Gili’s next exhibition, Bill at Pittier (Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland, 2009), developed around the concept of an abstract tropical rainforest taking into consideration the ideas of Concrete artist Max Bill and the naturalist Henri Pittier, a student of Venezuelan nature. The tense coexistence between modernity and the tropics was thus successfully raised to a symbolic level. The project Parque del Este, designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx for the city of Caracas (1961), which is one of the masterpieces of modern utopia, has been frequently and unhappily mediated during subsequent decades especially by the incongruous incorporation of full-scale replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria and Francisco de Miranda’s Leander, carried out by various governments. This was the theme of Gili’s exhibition The Lakes (Riflemaker, London, 2011) featuring paintings formally drawing on aerial views of the artificial lakes Burle Marx had planned on his original plans for the park and the sculptures inspired by the replica vessels.
Gili’s latest works have been inspired by the dialectic between the European modern utopianism and South America’s tropical environment. In the composition of some paintings exhibited in Droits de succession (Office # 1, Caracas, 2014) and Ornament and Barricade (Alejandra von Hartz, Miami, 2014), the grid, a key element of modern art that has often been abused or has become inconsequential in postmodernism, plays an important role. In the latter exhibition as well as in Derechos ((bis) Oficina de proyectos, Cali, 2015) he addressed the contrast between the breakneck speed at which social and political events take place today and the slower pace of pictorial creation. The difference between different rhythms was resolved in a series of works with similar formats to those of the Coloritmos and Tablones by Alejandro Otero, arranged in the exhibition space in the manner of barricades, which referred to the riots that have been taking place in many Venezuelan cities.
The artistic modification of architectural and urban spaces has been a frequent topic of reflection and practice for Gili. Among his experiences in this regard it is important to mention the installation of sixteen gas tanks in Fore River (South Portland, Maine, United States, 2008), and the site specific projects at the Bloomberg Centre (London, United Kingdom, 2009) and Diamante de las semillitas (Barrio Jose Felix Rivas, Petare, Caracas, 2009).
Jaime Gili lives and works in London, United Kingdom