Buenos Aires

Alejandra Seeber, We Were So Modern, 2000, oil on canvas, 45 5⁄8 × 69 1⁄4".

Alejandra Seeber, We Were So Modern, 2000, oil on canvas, 45 5⁄8 × 69 1⁄4".

Leda Catunda and Alejandra Seeber

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba)

In the wake of lockdowns and other restrictions, “Alejandra Seeber / Leda Catunda: Fuera de serie” (One of a Kind) opened a year late. A highly anticipated project of transnational scope, the joint exhibition by Brazilian Leda Catunda and New York–based Argentinean Alejandra Seeber provided a survey of the work of two leading midcareer artists and presented a female perspective on the region’s developments in painting over the past thirty years. Curated by Francisco Lemus, the show was the inaugural iteration of “Paralelo 1 || 3,” a series that envisions simultaneous displays on the museum’s first and second floors, showcasing paired artists with a dialogical approach. With individual presentations installed separately, the exhibition relied on the viewer’s ability to visualize distant artworks simultaneously, reconstructing their proximity and aesthetic kinship.

Both presentations spanned the 1990s to today, showing nonchronological arrangements of the respective artists’ paintings, works on paper, and archival materials. On the museum’s lower level, Catunda’s “painting-objects,” a combination of soft sculpture and painted fabrics, drooped down and off the walls. One floor above, the memory of these corporeal forms returned in the overlapping textures of Seeber’s domestic interiors, which burst at their seams with splashes of paint. Adamo-Faiden Architects revamped the galleries for the occasion, adding thin floating walls, vitrines and pedestals of confusingly similar appearance, and a running ledge across parts of the perimeter of each room integrating the spatial elements. The resulting layouts enabled a unified reading of Catunda’s and Seeber’s trajectories. Yet the sheer difference in gallery dimensions left Catunda’s work unfairly constrained.

Born in the ’60s, Catunda and Seeber emerged amid the reestablishment of democratic processes in Brazil and Argentina, respectively, following dark years of military dictatorship. Spurred by euphoria, anxiety, and the occasional disappointment, many artists struggled to reinvent their practices in this context. While the international art world celebrated a “return to painting” following its supposed decline in the wake of Conceptual practices—a resurgence eloquently recounted by Lemus and John Yau in their catalogue essays for the show—Seeber and Catunda embraced ambiguity, questioning what painting could be. Driven by a sense of audacity and a desire to explore the limits of their art, they played on the cusp between abstraction and figuration, monumentality and precariousness. Catunda, bridging the gap between high art and “women’s work,” combined the crafts of painting and sewing, engaging the radical legacy of previous generations of Brazilian artists. In a piece such as Lagos e bananeiras II (Lakes and Banana Trees II), 2007, we find references to anthropophagic iconography and Lygia Clark’s obras mole, or “soft works,” as well as to Pop art and traditional landscape painting, all collapsed into a single construction of interwoven limbs. Similarly, Seeber’s interiors contain worlds of overlapping perspectives and simultaneous time frames. In the fluted surface of her canvas We Were So Modern, 2000, completed shortly after the artist relocated to North America, she gazes back at a place of belonging, revealing a distance, both temporal and spatial, that permeates her experience of difference. The work’s retrospective overtone situates Seeber’s unique and contemporary sense of nostalgia. Through the original pairing of these sister aesthetics, the exhibition successfully articulated a parallel between two artists whose careers have expanded and renovated the idea of painting for a new century.