"Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires": The Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin

By Quiles, Daniel | Artforum International, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

"Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires": The Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin


Quiles, Daniel, Artforum International


Frankly, there is little beauty to be found in "Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires," a survey of seventy works by thirteen representatives of one of the first post-dictatorship artistic formations in Argentina. Loosely known as the "Grupo Rojas" for their close association with Galeria Rojas at the Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas in Buenos Aires, these artists were represented in Austin by a selection of sickly sweet colors, glistening surfaces, grotesque dioramas, and garish found objects. With this in mind, the exhibition's lamentable title can only be read as a provocation. What could "beauty" look like, after all, in a country recovering from the "ditty war" and two decades of military dictatorship? Whatever curator Ursula Davila-Villa's intent, the exhibition effectively limns a moment of Argentina's art and cultural history largely ignored in comparison to the Conceptualism of the 1960s and '70s or to the overtly political contemporary practices that have evolved during what art historian Andrea Giunta calls the "post-crisis" period. Yet the '90s were a crucial period of transition during which the art object, and its capacity to signal globalizing markets (however precarious), was prioritized.

Much of the work in "Recovering Beauty' is junk--literally--as Galena Rojas's founding director, Jorge Gumier Maier (whose own highly decorative works are featured in this show) favored two approaches to the commodity form: the incorporation of garbage as art material and the fetishization of cheap new consumer goods such as those that flooded the country following President Carlos Saul Menem's destructive "pegging" of the Argentine peso to the dollar in 1991. The former tendency, as demonstrated by artists Benito Laren, Alfredo Lon-daibere, and Marcelo Pombo, frequently took the form of collage, recalling the work of '60s-era Nueva Figuration artists such as Luis Felipe Noe. However, in the hands of these later artists, such symbols of quintessential Latin American modernism were twisted and stretched. Take, for example, Pombo's Vitreaux de San Francisco Solano (Stained Glass from San Francisco Solano), 1991, in which plastic bags are placed in compartments to form a geometric abstraction, and thereby open an aesthetic mode that had become a well-territorialized academic form. …

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