Critics’ Picks

Fernando Ortega, N. Clavipes meets S. Erard. Mov. 1, 2008, color photograph, 20 x 14”.

Fernando Ortega, N. Clavipes meets S. Erard. Mov. 1, 2008, color photograph, 20 x 14”.


De frente al sol

Galerie Martin Janda
Eschenbachgasse 11
September 18–October 30, 2010

“What is that great territorial region we know as Latin America?” This question serves as the point of departure for Mexican curator Patrick Charpenel’s exhibition “Del frente al sol” (Toward the Sun), which includes eighteen artists from eight countries. Among the participants are the duo Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain, who designed an alphabet out of the futuristic architecture of Brasilia and deployed it to write about the failures of utopian movements. Minerva Cuevas’s work alters Wilhelm Busch’s 1862 slide showThe Elephant’s Revenge by dispensing with the captions and changing its original order; these small tweaks exaggerate the colonialist and racist content of Busch’s illustrated story. The small puddle of water on the floor of the gallery by Wilfredo Prieto, Holy Water, 2009, is a silently beautiful work rife with allusions. Prieto seems to ask, Where does faith begin? Similarly emblematic, the spiderweb spun in a harp without strings depicted in Fernando Ortega’s photograph references a silent concert—but also seems to symbolize what the artist considers the common South American practice of playfully appropriating and refunctionalizing objects. Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla have filled two plastic containers—one with water and the other with motor oil—and exhibit them together here with a photograph of bright, iridescent varnish, in a work laconically titled On the Nature of Conflict, 2004. Again and again, the artists in this exhibition address the everyday with an emphatic simplicity, avoiding exoticism but nonetheless leading viewers to reflect on cultural differences and the consequences of colonization. The exhibition seems to suggest that in contrast to their North American and European counterparts, Latin American Conceptual artists get along without didactic gesture, instead uniting wonderfully poetic, subtle elements to make connections to other regions, cultures, and times.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.