An axis in the seventies
This exhibition was organized as an institutional event on the request of the arteBA Foundation in order to exhibit a representative sample of Argentinean contemporary art in the international scene, at Sotheby’s, New York, parallel to the auction exhibition of Latin American Art at the same gallery in November 2003. In 2004, Fundación Telefónica sponsored a second edition in Espacio Fundación Telefónica, Buenos Aires, this time the exhibition was enhanced with the participation of Juan Carlos Distéfano, Juan Carlos Romero and Horacio Zabala with works of this period and directly related to the topic. To this was added an enlarged edition of the catalogue, which included Oscar Terán, Daniel Link and Silvia Dolinko.
The curatorial proposal was based on a revision of the recent history of art around the main axis of the controversial nineteen seventies. The analysis of such decade is far from being exhausted. The view points on this period have changed constantly and this process of change is still dynamic. The view of devastation, of a decimated generation, of a cultural field (1) fractured by the historical events, has given way to a specific appreciation of the production of some visual artists to the point of raising them as paradigmatic artists of the period and indispensable for a larger historical panorama. Two clear lines emerge from this constant revision and they are: Conceptualism, later Neo-conceptualism, which we call Silence, which emerged in Argentina at the end of the 1960s; and the other line includes those artists who from different standpoints dealt with the Violence theme mainly due to the association of this term with Argentinean history.
Both trends accompany the development of contemporary art after the transition from modernity to contemporaneity had taken place, at the end of the 1950s, during which there burst a new impulse for the renovation of languages, channeled by the neo-avant-gardists and by the loss of the clear specification of the traditional categories of painting and sculpture.
Both trends are two different aesthetic and artistic responses to the same historical and political situation.
The 1970s witnessed, from the beginning, an atmosphere of political flux and turmoil: the return of Juan D. Perón between two military dictatorships, guerrillas, state repression and terrorism. Many Argentinean intellectuals and artists went into exile and other continued working in the country in a kind of silent resistance. It was in this period that, paradoxically enough, the discourses of various artists present in this exhibition became mature. Among these paradigmatic examples are the Analogies of Victor Grippo, 1970/77 and 1972, his construction of an oven for baking bread 1972, his early tables, 1972, 1978, his celebration of the trades, 1976; the labyrinths and systems with live organisms of Luis Benedit, as modes of analyses of social behavior, from 1968 to 1974; the sculptures of Juan Carlos Distéfano, inaugurating a novel technique on polyester resin shaping a human-like figure of consolidated dramatism; the prisons of Horacio Zabala, which show the repressive and authoritarian nature of Latin American society and the marginal isolation of the artists in that context (2); the installation called “Violence” by Juan Carlos Romero, using strategies borrowed from street broadcasting, graphic media and literary circulation to call attention upon the violence present everywhere around; the organic sculptures by Norberto Gómez, who had been expressing, since 1977, a violent calamity; the tongues, the gags, the anti-monuments by Alberto Heredia, with strange human figures made from glued fabric and discarded materials, flaunting extreme irony and criticism; the objects, the gestures, the art of distant communication of Edgardo A. Vigo, which emphasized a change in the social function of art; the early aesthetic gestures of Liliana Porter, minimal only in appearance; the early objects, foundations of the unique, almost magical development of Roberto Elía, from 1969 to 1971. These works are the tip of the iceberg. If we were to link them with imaginary dotted lines there would appear the two trends mentioned above: the Silence, as
a term naming many conceptual practices systematically developed during this period and the Violence, as a line rooted in the historical context, translated into various strategies, expressionist manners, some, denouncing facts of objective reality, others, emerging from the political scenario, etc. Once these lines had been traced it was possible to find antecedents in the recent past, for instance, León Ferrari’s fundamental gestures and artworks, which pressed positively for a return to the early 1970s, and other lines of continuity coming from the 1970s. Oscar Bony always maintained a critical aesthetic position not only in relation to the environment but also to the art forms themselves.
During the 1980s he produced his series of “suicides” as a resounding manifestation. The generational change appeared with Jorge Macchi, by the end of the 1980s, who created a repertoire of displaced signs; Graciela Sacco and Cristina Piffer with developments on the ninety-two thousand, with expressions of violence related to political life and historical facts, with forms which are more extroverted in the former and more self-contained in representations related to concretism, in the latter. These artists, who belong to the intermediate generation, work with the collective memory of a nation that has not yet constructed its identity.
In this way, Silence and Violence, appear as characterizing trends initiated in one period and continuing later as modes of identifying, in a clear way, the groups existing in Argentinean art. In many cases, these trends do not appear in a pure state but mixed.
These artists were able to exercise their freedom in relation to their autonomous creative power even from a marginal situation or from a compulsory silence. Even within the linguistic and syntactic variety there was a constant: an ethical foundation in all of them, as if through their artworks it were possible to restore balance to the collective imaginary facing one of the most violent and bloodiest decades of Argentinean history.
Lic. Mercedes Casanegra