Critics’ Picks

Marta Minujín, La Destrucción [The Destruction], Impasse Ronsin, Paris, June 8, 1963. Performance view. Photo: Larsen.

New York

“Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy”

Americas Society
680 Park Avenue
June 13–January 5

“Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy” reflects on the utopian and destructive impulses that marked the rise of Happenings and Conceptual art in Argentina. The exhibition is divided into two distinct sections, one of which contains a detailed timeline of the political and cultural history of Argentina from 1956 to 1976, the other a series of contemporary installations. Installed in vinyl on the wall, the timeline outlines the work of key Argentine artists—Alberto Greco, Luis Felipe Noé, Jorge de la Vega, León Ferrari, Marta Minujín—alongside that of artists from France and North America, like Yves Klein, John Cage, and Allan Kaprow. Highlights include photographic documentation of Minujín’s Destruction, 1963, in which she burned all of the collaborative artwork made for the exhibition in which it was included, and Greco’s Manifiesto Vito Dito, 1962, which touts the conviction that to reunite the experience of art with public life, it must be destroyed. Such destruction of the art object is also seen in the Conceptualism pioneered by Eduardo Costa, Raúl Escari, and Roberto Jacoby.

The timeline ends in 1976, however, when a military coup led to a period of repressive dictatorship during which artists lost institutional support and the freedom to produce work; the exhibition goes on to present a series of contemporary pieces, leaving the viewer to speculate on how artmaking evolved in the intervening years. Although some of the works, like those cited in the timeline, involve actions carried out in public settings, they are more provocative than destructive. Fabio Kacero’s 16-mm film Totloop, 2003, for example, depicts the artist staging his death in public spaces, invoking the curiosity of passersby as he lies alongside street vendors, fountains, and construction sites. In her video and photographs 4Eyes, 2007, Marina de Caro dons a goofy orange socklike costume that bobs around as she strolls through Buenos Aires. Humor is also Patricio Larrambebere’s strategy in The Chosen Instrument, 2007, which parodies Pan Am’s decision to sell one-dollar tickets to the moon in the 1960s by reinventing it in an art context. Other works are more intimate, such as Jacoby and Syd Krochmalny’s sexually charged Chastity, 2007, a video about a year-long collaborative experiment between the two artists, thirty-seven years apart in age, who skirt sexual contact in hushed tones in a lush garden backdrop. Judi Wethein’s Recounting the Work, 2007, which invites the spectator to sit in an armchair and read a poetic rumination on a performance, possesses a playful intimacy that testifies to how the confrontational artwork of the 1960s gave way to the institutionalization of performance in Argentina, translating public actions into personal gestures.