Buenos Aires

Algunos Artistas

Centro Cultural Recoleta

For the majority of the 15 artists included in the exhibition “Algunos Artistas” (Some artists)—curated by the painters Jorge Gumier Maier and Magdalena Jitrik—the “body” of contemporary art is less a part of daily experience than a question of fixed and distant images. Without stable links to the international art scene, without access to information, without the possibility of mounting exhibitions and participating in discussions, isolated from their own country’s artistic tradition as a result of years of dictatorship and repression, the work of the majority of these young Argentinians stems from a fragmentary contact with photographic reproductions of art works published in magazines and catalogues. These images, separated from the constellation of problems that give them life, taken out of context, acquire—in their vacant, unappealing rigidity—an enormous similarity to the ambiguous and imposing presence of a cadaver. The link between the obsessive and morose fascination that image and cadaver provoke has been carefully established by Maurice Blanchot in his essay “The Two Versions of the Imaginary,” 1955. “The fixed image,” writes Blanchot, “has no repose, above all because it poses nothing, establishes nothing. Its fixity, like that of the corpse, is the position of what stays with us because it has no place.” Faced with the image/cadaver, ambiguously corporeal remains, absurd but imposing, only two types of relationships are possible: mimesis or consumption. Either the copy is imitated, its mortuary appearance reproduced, and one surrenders without resistance to the rigid severity of that lifeless body, or that cadaver is incorporated into the work, causing the work to turn against itself, to reveal as illusory both its presumptuous self-categorization as “work” and the possibility of thinking of the work as “body.”

Works of both types coexist in “Algunos Artistas,” which is a notable example of a process of artistic consumption and assimilation of such remains/images. Untitled, 1990, by Miguel Harte is a delirious abstraction composed of egg shells deposited in a disorderly fashion on a cracked stand made of plastic. Two out-of-proportion eyes/eggs seem to divest themselves of this surface, driven toward the spectator in a movement which combines anxiety and unruliness. Omar Schiliro’s baroque lamps are in reality a collection of junk and discarded materials. His decadent opulence is the result of the meticulous accumulation of cut-up hoses, and cheap plastic buckets and washbowls, illuminated by colored electric light bulbs. An old record-player decorated in an obsessive manner with figures cut out of children’s magazines and newspapers, Marcelo Pombo’s Winco, 1986, is painted in screaming colors which recall the broken painted sets that can be found in any amusement park. Feliciano Centurion’s painted blankets and the threatening dreamworlds encapsulated in Sebastian Gordin’s small boxes reflect the same disquieting bewilderment. The apparent stylistic precision of these works—less manifestations of a presence than ironic proofs of its impossibility—is nothing more than the mark of a paradox: it is like the embellishments and makeup with which the cadaver is prepared before the funeral. Thus it is a question of objects produced through such violent and radical processes of decontextualization that, in their critical violence, they manage to take the context from which they were separated with them. Against the rigid fascination of the cadaver, the contagious ritual of cannibalism emerges as a last resort.

Carlos Basualdo

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin