Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Laura Davis
Consorcio Del Arte
June 2-15, 2009

Remolinos are about Nature, and the wind inside; about transmutation, laughter, and changes. 
Nature calls us again to the same place, now a totally different place - Remolinos are what swept away everything; and what from the very beginning put everything in motion. There are so many transmutations taking place that cannot be noticed, cannot be seen, because of the way they appear to us. Yet finally we feel the very strong wind that took everything, that took all that was not really desired.

From an artist who is constantly in motion come the Remolinos (Whirlwinds), a series of bracing and fascinating drawings about how the confluence of mind and environment-both moving at great speed-changes all, transforms all, and is transformed; for that which enacts the transformation is also that which is transformed, the whirlwind being just as certainly, us.
One might ask: what's left after the disappearance of the ephemeral?  What is revealed in these drawings is not just the whirlwind, but the space beneath, stripped of illusion.  A potent emptiness, a revealing of self that is beyond all doubt, the more dramatic for its look: charged, fuzzy, multiplicitous; a silence made visible.
 We see action at the point of being, a seemingly quiet vista; pulled along a foreign circuit towards that which does not know definition, where beauty is definitely not on the surface; where the basic questions sink into one answer: the moment.  There is raw joy here, the kind we do not "own," but can only be.

Nick Thabit

BsAs June 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

MATINÉ Liliana Porter

Liliana Porter
Ruth Benzacar Galeria De Arte
May 13 to June 19, 2009

Internationally known artist Liliana Porter's extraordinary new exhibition MATINÉ explores powerlessness in all its dimensions, discerning our lack of authorship of our own lives, destinies, beings, and identities. The centerpiece is MATINÉ, a 20 minute video in titled segments, most a minute long and employing toy props, which evokes emotions and sympathies we might rather ignore; at turns excruciatingly, yet disarmingly sentimental (Ver Rojo, Three Of Them), shockingly arbitrary, comic, elegiac, or dishearteningly fatalistic (Convoy, Souvenir De Cuba). Then there´s Choros - melancholy, sentimentally/cosmically nostalgic (it's hard to find words; but the feeling is aspowerful as it is undecipherable). This work obviously comes out of longstanding, deeply held philosophies, and I am amazed at the richness of her imagistic invention. The music by Sylvia Meyer works perfectly, never overstating; like the images, the simplicity only focuses the message.

The still photos, drawings, and assemblages are mostly quite strong. To Go Up is a finely wrought drawing/assemblage depicting a man with ladder problems; To Bring Back, a drawing, mirrors the arduous complexity of our modern world. The assemblages, seen from a distance, reveal their gestural intimations, and up close their narrative detail, mostly regarding a pioneer's bad luck. The photo diptych (from Three Of Them) of the porcelain Chinese woman being covered in poured black paint suggests gender, as well as cosmic, subjugation, in subtle, insistent ways. The pedestal assemblage seems uniquely plaintive: a toy man stands staring up at us, surrounded by a wildly flung splash of black paint. From a distance, his demeanor suggests a stoic acceptance of life´s disasters; close up, his dismay is revealed as universal. We may take comfort, I suppose, in knowing we’re not alone.

Of the DISGUISES, a series of photos displayed downstairs of busts and dolls wearing ambiguous vestements/masks/etc., “Conguro Mono” really stood out for me as a reflection of our desire to project a face to others that we are not. “Marinero/Sombrero” reminds us of the extra weight we carry when we are not “ourselves.” Put yourself into each one of these photos and notice how we aggrandize, distort, or diminish ourselves in so many ways; it’s worth the effort.

Liliana Porter is a master at what she does, which is upending the human claim on destiny and self. I think the veiled indignation of this show will resonate with your own, and the sigh of resignation may afford some relief to your mind. At the very least, the disguises will put a smile on your face.

Nick Thabit
BsAs June 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009


Mercedes Pinto Arte Contemporáneo
April 7-29, 2009

Ricardo Roux presents us with very interesting material here, paintings formed of silkscreened playing cards on canvas paper (about 80 x 50 cm) with mysterious overlays of abstract brushstrokes, suggesting an image of self submerged in nature, dream, life. The idea of self is furthered by the slightly disorienting convention of two faces for each king (or queen), one right-side-up and one up-side-down, which suggests division, conflict, ambiguity. There is also what I assume is a self portrait, sans silkscreen, primarily in fauvist red, blue, and green which is (although it's easy to see precedents in Picasso, tribal art, or perhaps Hundertwasser) pleasantly shocking in its intensity.

Trump cards for me were the Queen of Diamonds, whose muddy greens and indigos suggested a strongly urban, washed-out feel, as if this queen had inhabited a decaying industrial section of the city for too long; and the Queen of Spades, dealt a better deal: slashes of deep yellow, light grey-greens, browns, reds, which read as the queen ensconced in, and molting into, the hillside in a bucolic pastoral scene, in perhaps late autumn.

Some of these have an exquisite feel, a depth that is entrancing in and of itself, with coarse, enigmatic brushwork invoking a sort of modern sfumato. There is an abstracted feel of life overtaking and entangling these figures, a sense of cyclic, mandalic energy if you will, which for me calls to mind the stolid figures of Jacob Lawrence's kinetic scenes moved along by forces they cannot encompass, but always somehow contained within an invisible design.

These Kings and Queens are us; our aggrandized, unintegrated selves an eternal conundrum, facing an onslaught of nature, circumstance and chance. Roux's notion of the static versus the dynamic is playful, if melancholic; he allows these hierarchic, archetypal, figures to merge with the ground of their environment. Roux, presenting the inevitable decay of inherently divided selves, sees an eventual organic reintegration; cycles, finally, are doing everything. If there's a veiled comment on mortality here, it's within a comforting philosophical stance.

Ricardo Roux's long and varied career is only furthered by the impact and conciseness of this show. It was good to see the power and creativity of his past work focused on these smaller, quasi-conceptual works. In the same way that a good jazz concert satisfies, one can certainly appreciate Roux delivering the goods, as only a seasoned artist can.

Nick Thabit
Bs.As. April 2009


Centro Cultural Recoleta
March 13-April 19, 2009

res' retrospective show at CCR evidences a strongly conceptual humanism, very much welcome after all the hypertheoretical (hypothetical?) photographic work now in fashion. Consistently, res packs a powerful punch in a crushed velvet glove, from series to series. The delayed impact of these works stems from our formal expectations and res' measured, thoughtful approach. His photographic acumen allows him to weave a subtle, uneasy spell over us. The photos confront in different ways; some hazy and oblique, others strike at the heart; still others are curiously unbearable; we feel an inner itch, a slight dizziness or malaise. Always, the powerful emotional resonance of these pictures is momentarily subsumed into res' inestimable aesthetic qualities.

Conatus, res' latest, reanimates several art-historical narratives, only within contemporary signifiers, thereby drawing both elements into alien spaces; these are lonely figures, cut off from the centuries that gave them birth, or modern lives trapped within sociopolitical repressions of the past -although they are of course not yet past. The larger-than-life Crista depicts a comely young woman languishing on the cross in place of the traditionally male representation of Jesus. This image challenges our preconceptions about spirituality on so many levels I don't know where to begin. The scale of the piece is daunting, but effective in wedding intellect to gut-level emotion. Another life-sized piece shows a young woman in a wedding dress in a barren, snow-covered landscape with a dynamite vest on and two more sticks in her hand. I read this as about the ineluctability of self, i.e. if it isn't expressed one way, it will emerge in another, more destructive way. While the signifiers are political, I see this as gender-based; although it's not clear if this is an Arabic woman, this could be an interesting tweak of suicide-bomber theories, in that this female suicide bomber may be [unconsciously] protesting against the social constraints of Islamic (or other) societies upon women, as well as oppression by the Western world.

In the series Donde Estan?, obviously deeply felt sentiments are conveyed by res' imagistic and conceptual sophistication. In contrast to the shocking photographs of the aftermath of the military dictatorships in Argentina, res opts for photos of the living, or of a tapir foetus in a jar of alcohol; this image, so disarming in its vulnerability and scale (the actual foetus is about 5cm high) is a stand-in for the victims of the military. It reoccurs in different ways, an icon of the disappeared that won't disappear. Nighttime is another icon, revealing ghostlike images of people under uncompleted highways holding photos, a picture of a youth, suspended among buildings, haunting remnants of times past in obscure, unclear vistas; which speak to our interior lanscapes too.

It's this sensitivity that allows him to retrace the steps of historic Argentine military campaigns against the Indios (NECAH/1879) and record the shabby, mediocre results of that conquest (in a series of then/now photos of the same sites as were photographed by Antonio Pozzo in 1879) without straying into the stridently political; this is a human issue, the pictures seem to say, and the loss is our loss - as well as "theirs." In Cementerio de Choele Choel, an almost unwilling elegiac quality slips out from the image of barren ground with regularly spaced burial mounds and a solitary, workmanlike cross at the edge, commemorating the unmarked graves. It could be viewed as an abstract composition, but it's just that considered remove that draws you back to the emotional content. Again, res shows his talent.

The final section of NECAH/1879 consists of individual cutout letters photographed while suspended in front of the Argentine landscapes conquered by Gen. Roca, the letters (in the course of 24 framed photos) spell out the words, "No entregar Carhue al Huinca," or in English, "Don't surrender Carhue to the white men." The photos are amazing for their temporal qualities, for their suggestion of an almost alien future superimposed on time-worn, sunbaked fields and roads, the overall effect one of timelessness-the very timelessness that allows Calfucura even now to speak through res.

There is something quite plaintive and unguarded about the people portrayed in Intervalos Intermitentes, in marked contrast to contemporary art photography in North America and Europe, where the theory is that blank expressionless faces reveal the most truth (?). In contrast, res wishes to find the more engaged and vulnerable part of people; in fact the people often seem to be looking at us quizzically, wondering who we are, why we're there, what we think about them. They are photographed at two points in time, in some cases before and after a defining event: for a boxer, a match; for a surgeon, an operation. The surgeon looks more alive, more aware, after the operation; the boxer too, after his fight. In fact all the subjects look more alive, engaged, with the passage of time, not less. Life, as arduous as it may be, enlivens them, enriches and challenges them in essential ways; we see the inexpressible, time, made flesh.

The same magic attaches to the diptych El Aborto... un Sacramento, with the graffiti-splattered Catedral De Bs. As. on the left, and an arrangement of abstracted strips of color from the photo, on the right: an artistic prayer or visualization over an unyielding institution, for a more humane, more permeable, plastic version; and a more joyous, pacific revolution. Or we simply switch our membership to a new church, the church of sight. res might say that we transform our world by sight, that when everyone sees things differently, they change. And of couse, he wouldn't be the first.

It becomes sublime with Yo-Cactus: to be confronted with res' images of himself (or un-self) morphing into a cactus plant is to witness an almost blissful, surrendered at-one-ment with nature. This is an artist at the peak of his powers, secure enough to find strength within utter simplicity.

From the visual opulence of Planta Vestida to the plangent fun of Plastiquitos, or the curious update on Richter there is plenty more to see and to talk about, but I will leave that to you, with the assurance that res is one of the finest young artists working in South America, more surprising given that he is a photographer; it's difficult to find such good work in photography, especially now. res' work deserves a look, and you deserve to see it.

Nick Thabit
Bs.As. April 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MUDO Mauro Koliva

Mauro Koliva
Proyecto: la linea piensa
Centro Cultural Borges
March 5 to March 29, 2009

Mauro Koliva's latest exhibition at Centro Cultural Borges, consisting of about thirty drawings in colored ballpoint pen on paper, is a revelation of sorts; a revelation of the ordinary, the overlooked, the seemingly meaningless - but not of the obvious. The drawings in these three series, el objeto mudo, el objeto salvaje, and el objeto irresponsable(s), look like sculptures, objects made of wood, twine, fur, also leftover mattresses, couches, boxes, assorted odds and ends. Initally, Native American or Indio imagery comes to mind; but in that case the objects are supremely utile. All the same there is a warmth, a veracity, an organic connection to our illogical world, perhaps a mirroring of it. These objects really are thoughts, ways of looking at the world, ways that are silly, that are necessary, that emanate from the spirit (as artists keep the spirit alive, it's become their job). Exuding a similar strangeness in the ordinary that the musical group DEVO once uncovered, the works resonate with the inner reality, so often completely at odds with the outer reality: a collection of things with meaning added. The world the artist inherits makes no sense to him, so he needs to create things, to disarrange things; he makes a "real" world to suit his inner reality.

Each of the series fulfills a subtly different function for the artist and the viewer. Mudos: that which can't be put into words but which yearns to speak. The repressed or inexpressible active, as opposed to the "passive" Irresponsables; an astonishing way station between being and doing. Salvajes: that which doesn't want to be put into words, existing quite happily (or angrily, in some cases) beyond our boundaries; energies destined to live on in their own manner. Irresponsables: age-old superior objects of "spiritual use" (though inutil or irresponsable for most purposes), most effective in their way as simple declarations of munificent being.

Mr. Koliva has an extraordinary talent, beyond his precocious ability to draw: he makes everything look old using only lines (and a few dots) on a white backround. There are dark clots of color where the lines collect, aiding the "old photograph" quality of the drawings; but there is a palpable, almost supernal "glow" here, absent from photographs, present in memory. These are “drawings” in both senses of the word because the objects acquire significance from us as we look, accrue or grow meaning, drawing out from us our own interior mythologies and histories. You have to see this for yourself to understand it. We can invest our whole selves into this work, which just might be the defining quality of fine art.

Without going into details of specific images, I can say that if you want your senses refreshed, and your curiosity stimulated, you should take advantage of the chance to see this show. One of the better shows of drawings I've seen (another was Juan Martin Juares at Braga Menendez) and very enjoyable even if you generally "don't like art." As if. Make your way there and come back amazed, and renewed; you'll forget all about the heat, the crowds, and the Subte.

Nick Thabit
Bs As 3/2009

Monday, March 16, 2009


Nora Iniesta
Mercedes Pinto Galeria de Arte
13-27 February 2009 - extended

In this latest exhibiton, Iniesta celebrates Love, Love, Love. Or so it would seem, from these (at first glance) naive looking constructions, collages, and readymades. But look again, and a virulently discerning intelligence is in full evidence, laying bare the constructs of the collective sur-consciousness. The addictive depravity of our populist amelioration of love into a heartsick sugar-sirupy toothache is highlighted by the act of repetition: one fuzzy bear with a pillow bearing the words, 'te amo' we can internalize, but two? never mind.

There are two corazones, one for our hero, a singer of popular songs, and one for Her, our favorite actress, living the love we all want. These corazones promise perfect people, a good life, travel, fame, added saintliness, and love, love, love: all the things we want. Hook up with the right person and it´s all yours, they seem to say. But can we find that person? That´s the game; that´s the story of...
It´s intersting to note the surface naivety of these works, and my sense of dread (not knowing who Iniesta was) at approaching the window and seeing “another housewive´s fancies...” By reflecting those fancies with awareness, and I think, compassion she throws light on the hopelessness of our celebrity worship, yet without destroying the sheer magnificence of those public lives.

Then there are the altered dinner place settings, three laterally, the central one a "tropical" nightmare of love, love, love, all lushly colored beads, baubles, and games of chance; the two at the side more pristine, white, "pure." But that's the trap: they draw you into the center, the heart of darkness where the jungle reigns supreme, the fever dream rules all, and engorgement leads to utter moral turbidity and chaos. Yet one wonders if it is inevitable after all.

Although not directly related to Saint Valentine, the horizontal collages included are again an attempt to make sense of the chaotic multiple levels of perception/reception we are bombarded with daily. Our sense of self and reality is so compressed and mediated by outside commercialized content that we can at times wonder what to feel, and if what we do feel is authentic. Iniesta dares to confront the babble of voices and identities by mirroring it, accepting both the outside and inside cacophany of internalized wish, received opinion, ersatz fact. The densely packed melange of comic strip and hand-drawn advertisement faces make for a trip to the lucha libre of the inner world, actually an enjoyable sort of frenzy of cognition, mentation, and self-ideation; but that's the nature of realization: know the truth and it will set you free.

Within limited means, Iniesta says much about our contemporary faces, and makes her point with elan. There is a somewhat timeless quality about these works even though they engage the late 20th and early 21st century, a sense that we know all this already and only need to be reminded gently, humorously, and pointedly. Iniesta's surreallity can make you feel better for all the right reasons.

Nick Thabit
Bs As, Marzo 2009

NOEsis o NOEmas? Luis Felipe Noe

NOEsis o NOEmas?
Luis Felipe Noe
Galeria Rubbers Internacional
November 12-31, 2008

NOEsis o NOEmas?, the latest solo exhibition by Luis Felipe Noe, is a persistent confrontation, no matter how rapturous the experience. Comprised of works on canvas and paper that obscure the boundaries between drawing and painting, Noe willfully pushes us away from our received "sanity" to make us recognize the images in our mind, images that we don't control, that we don't want to see; images that speak the truth as it appears to us. He urges us to feel, feel, feel, where we would prefer to think; to pass out with our mouths open, blabbering about what we know not. Despite the opulent beauty of some works, we are urged to go inside, not to fetishize, to ornament our life with his art.
This is the work of a man with a mission.

From the first look, the bold color and strong line which attract us are precisely the means by which we are repelled; these are almost anti-paintings, and are meant to guide us to our own internal "paintings." "Paisage en el Limite" uses violet in a most unusual way, almost as an anticolor; the landscape may be seen as our own interior terrain and is situated at the limit of our rationality, the beginning of our mystery.

I have to steel myself not to be swayed, entirely seduced by the luxurious color in "Crimen de la Noche Suburbana," and by the form, the slipstream (sleepstream) of night and light. But in the end I am helpless, I give in to this formless picture to experience its joys and its grave repentance. "Menage A Trois' " spirit lines against a dark ground foster investigation into the limits of our personal histories' importance. And "La Investigacion" propels us forward into the future of mass immunity, trial (and punishment?) by television.

There are too many important works to go into them all here, yet Noe consistently manages to pull it off without drawing too much attention to his impeccable technique. He is confident enough to leave us with suggestion and inference where other artists would push us into detail and color. We can lose ourselves in these pictures if we desire, without thinking of the author; enough said. Of course, I can't neglect to mention here the masterpiece, "El Tiempo Vuela," a large format mixed-media that looks like a multi-dimensional blueprint for a mysterious city, a city that vanishes in the light of morning. This deeply engaging picture displays the many possibilities of "art" in the hands of a truly committed professional; suggesting both ephemerality yet attachment; impermanence, illusion yet fascination (and much more).

Argentina is fortunate to have such an artist working at full strength contemporaneously with younger artists, providing inspiration, guidance, and most importantly, a strong example of all the qualities and exertions necessary for the full realization of art.

Nick Thabit
Bs As Noviembre 2008