In April 2014, Israeli artist Roi Kuper began working on a series of panoramic photographs intending to capture the city of Gaza from the direction of the four winds. Shot from six different locations, including Kibbutzes surrounding the Gaza Strip, one of which the artist was born on, the resulting series “Gaza Dream,” 2014, manifests Kuper’s signature style, with each panorama as a bisected horizontal landscape. In the lower half of the photographs are fields, dunes, or hills, and in the upper half there’s a clear blue sky, making for a serene view. The images’ foregrounds are Israeli territories—detailed and focused—while out in the distance is Gaza, blurry and gray. The city appears as a sort of mirage, possibly a metaphor for the limited view Israelis have of their neighbors.
Last summer, Israel initiated Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip with an aim to destroy the Palestinian underground tunnel system—which penetrated beneath the Israeli fields and Kibbutzes pictured here—used for making cross-border raids. As the conflict settled, Kuper returned to the same locations to finalize his series. In Ein HaShlosha, 2014, Gaza appears just below the horizon, still distant and obscure. The Israeli fields in the foreground are dry and the vegetation burnt, yet the land is newly plowed as if to conceal and move on from what has recently occurred above and below ground.
Gustavo Pérez Monzón is a somewhat mythic figure among Cuban artists. He officially stopped making art in the late 1980s before leaving Cuba for Mexico in the 1990s, opting to dedicate himself to teaching. This current retrospective in Havana thus brings meat to the myth, showcasing an extraordinarily prolific career to a new generation. The bulk of the works on display, dated between 1979 and 1980, were executed on cardboard and are weighted down by the heaviness of the materials applied to them. Silver is the recurring hue, though there is great variation throughout Pérez Monzón’s abstract designs, suggesting a marriage—or dual rejection—of the formerly warring genres of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism.
Of course, the most attention-grabbing works in the show are the largest in scale. One such, Tramas, 1989/2015, is a wall drawing comprising black lines that form a landscape of mountainous shards. Another wall piece, Threads, 1984/2015, is rendered in thread and tape. Vilos, 1981/2015, takes the artist’s love affair with lines into the three-dimensional by way of a dense web of wire and elastic thread held in place by stones. In the same room, one finds the best drawings in the exhibition—the untitled, simple, yet refined meditations of a poet with pen in hand.
The past twenty-five years in Argentine art cannot be fully understood without taking into account the Centro Cultural Rojas: a makeshift art space that, though a part of the Universidad de Buenos Aires, remained proudly marginal. Marcelo Pombo was an important player in the group that emerged there and turned its back on the figure of the socially committed Latin American intellectual, concentrating instead on the intimate, decorative, and superficial. No one took that précieux extravagance as far as Pombo, whose cheap materials and handicraft gave shape to ordinary, excessive, and hard-to-categorize beauty. Early debate over whether his work was camp, queer, neo-baroque, or rococo trash today makes little difference. What stands out in his first retrospective, curated by Inés Katzenstein, is the love and devotion that still drives his creation.
With Pombo, feeling takes precedence. His appropriation of a soap box, for instance, in Skip ultra intelligent, 1996, in no way partakes of the cynicism of the Warholian readymade. The strident packaging only begins conversation between the artist’s immediate environment, with its stickers and fake jewels, and his obsessive—and disarmingly charming—use of pointillism. Similarly, in Noche estrellada con casas en las montañas (Starry Night with Houses in the Mountains), 2012, everyday objects—in this case, small purses—seem to parade across a nighttime landscape on a wooden panel as if in a beauty contest under the starry sky. Pombo’s lyricism elevates viewers to a utopian state where taste is democratized and pleasure lies in what is at hand—ultimately, a resoundingly political stance.
Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.
Books fly through the air and enormous bookcases twist around overhead in Laura Lima’s exhibit of her 2008 work El mago va desnudo (The Naked Magician). At first visitors might think they’re in one of those installations that make use of so many objects taken from daily life that the space is hypersaturated with bric-a-brac—nothing new there. But a magician—actually, four performers working in shifts throughout the show’s run—lives in this hodgepodge of old junk, along with clothes, makeshift beds, remains of food, and flies that hover in the stale air. The performers don’t talk with the audience much, busying themselves instead with idle tasks. They might approach you , though, if they think you’ve crossed a line. While these magicians are generally easygoing, that does not mean they aren’t territorial.
This piece goes beyond installation and performance and becomes a kind of ecology. While the staging of this work partakes in fiction, as would be the case in all museum spaces, it is still a presentation of humanity. During the course of this exhibition, Lima’s film Cinema Shadows Segundo, 2012, is also on display at the nearby Teatro Margarita Xirgu. The video running up to 100 hours long, viewers can walk in on the screening after it has begun and decide for themselves when to get up from their seats and leave the theater. In both these works, the artist creates a universe, a determined yet ungraspable set of things working in relationship with one another—something we can experience but that will most certainly continue without us.
Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.