Critics’ Picks

View of “Requiem,” 2021.

View of “Requiem,” 2021.

Buenos Aires

Rubén Baldemar

Barro Arte Contemporaneo
Caboto 531, La Boca
February 20–April 23, 2021

Rubén Baldemar turned his back on the establishment of his home city of Rosario, preferring to circulate his work underground, where he exhibited irregularly until his sudden death in 2005 at age forty-seven. A compulsive maker skilled in handiwork and conceptual thinking alike, he left behind a large output of drawings, paintings, and sculptures that has only recently begun to see the light of day. For “Requiem,” curator Joaquín Rodríguez has convened works that underline Baldemar’s Pop tendencies—a late South American Pop that is less cynical and hotter than its North American counterpart—in which the artists inserts canonized European imagery into scenes of everyday life, always spiked with high doses of acerbity, kitsch, and melodrama.

The exhibition’s centerpiece is Las hazañas de Mutt (Mutt’s Exploits), 2001, a series of miniature urinal maquettes on plinths. Here, Duchamp’s readymade fountains evoke, by turns, the restroom of a train station during the last years of the Argentinean military dictatorship, or a cruising ground at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, or an ancient ruin. At one end of the dimly lit gallery hangs the national coat of arms of a banana republic. At the other, a bust of a Roman emperor sits next to a portrait of the artist himself. Over all, this show feels less like a requiem than a jubilant wedding between artifice and authenticity, over whose proceedings hovers an air of exquisite distaste. One latrine contains organic waste made out of resin and plastic. Baldemar called it El Jardin de las Delicias, the garden of delights.

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.