Distancia de una figura
Fotogalería del Teatro San Martín
27.06.19 | 29.09.19

The Teatro San Martín’s Fotogalería under curators Ariel Authier, Bruno Dubner, and Lara Marmor is the first contemporary art venue to exhibit a selection of a signs, sketches, and photographic documentation related to the works Fototrama produced in Buenos Aires (they currently form part of the archive of the Investigación en Diseño Argentino (Fundación−I−D−A).

Fototrama is the name of the design studio that Fanny Fingermann (Buenos Aires, 1938) and Eduardo Joselevich (Buenos Aires, 1933-2012) opened in 1963. It is also the name of a modular system for the composition of images invented by the couple to make large-scale signs. The mechanism is based on the combination and fitting of reusable plastic square units, some of them in a solid color and others with a circle in the middle. The units are pressure mounted into metallic structures. This was a binary system prior to the invention of the digital pixel; “with two re-combinable elements, images are assembled and disassembled,” the curatorial text explains. The system was developed after the couple made a tile mural in the Boedo section of Buenos Aires in 1962. “The method” was a “novel way to construct images. Information was reduced to be expanded, rendered on giant scale, and circulated in places where, at that time, photography had only dreamed of reaching.”

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Fototrama, Prueba Fototrama, (Fototrama Proof), undated, gelatin silver bromide print, 13.4 x 22.7 cm

In 1964, Fingermann and Joselevich were awarded the Premio Koppers granted by the Centro de Investigación de Diseño Industrial. The following year, they made their first sign, installed at the intersection of Libertador Avenue and General Paz. It was an advertisement for the Ambassador 990 car (a vintage photograph is on exhibit in the Fotogalería). Soon, the studio’s major clients included Industrias Kaiser, Olivetti, and Ferrocarriles Argentinos. They produced some two thousands signs for YPF—one of them on display in the Teatro San Martín’s lobby. They did the signage for two banks, Banco Nación and Banco Ciudad, and designed lobbies for Clarín newspaper, Modern Saloon bar at the intersection of Cabildo and Echeverría, and Eros beauty parlor in Recoleta (two of the signs are included in the show, as are photographs of the three interiors taken by Humberto Rivas in 1968). The exhibition shows how the signs formed images “to be seen from afar, at an angle” thus “reconfiguring the unconscious relationship between our vision and the urban space.” It is not surprising, then, that Fototrama chose as logo a drawing of an eye rendered, as the curators put it, from “a black-and-white puzzle of circles and squares that looks straight back at us.”

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Fototrama, advertisment for the Ambassador 990. Industrias Kaiser Argentina, 1964, gelatin silver bromide print, 24 x 17.9 cm

The system’s success meant that it was exported to cities around the world (in Japan, Spain, and Mexico, for instance). The show, though, focuses on how Fototrama modified the Buenos Aires urban landscape. “Fototrama joins a Pop sensibility and design at the service of advertising in a country now bankrupt, but at that time—in the sixties—in the throes of industrial development. Fingermann and Joselevich created a revolutionary image-construction method in a landscape changing by the day. The strictly utilitarian photographs show a city unrecognized by the local canon obsessed with repeating regurgitated modernities that, even in the sixties, were suffocating. These photos reveal a city as novel as the visual communication system that registers it.”

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Fototrama, Eros beauty parlor. Interior, 1968, c-print, 22 x 17 cm. Ph: Humberto Rivas

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Fototrama, Signage for the main branch of the Banco Municipal de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Interior, 1969, c-print, 28.5 x 22.5 cm

Content produced by arteBA. Annual Report on contemporary Argentine art