01 February 2008

“Arte No Es Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000,”

Today in The New York Times is a review by Roberta Smith of an exhibition at El Museo del Barrio. Smith essentially raves about the exhibition and notes that:
"The exhibition contains far more documentation than actual artworks, but this is not such a limitation. Dominated in its early sections by black-and-white photographs and videos, it is foremost an archive, with an archive’s aura of dense, ordered information; mysterious images; and new information and understandings. It delivers on all counts.

Its main message is that while Latin American Conceptual or nonobject artists were heterogeneous, they tended to differ from those in Europe and North America by emphasizing accessibility, audience participation and sociopolitical relevance."
Creating this sort of "archive" is inspiring insofar as it preserves ephemeral works wherein art and politics effectively abut, intermingle, overlap, conjoin, intersect, work in tandem, or whatever. Here are a couple of images from the accompanying slideshow, folllowed by a discussion from the review.

Both photographs © Marta Minujín.
"In December 1983 the Argentine Conceptual artist Marta Minujin and a group of helpers spent 17 days building a full-scale model of the Parthenon in a public park in Buenos Aires. Except for a metal scaffolding, it was made almost entirely of books wrapped in plastic. All the books had been banned by one of the most oppressive juntas in the country’s history, which was just being dismantled after Argentina’s first democratic election in a decade. “The Parthenon of Books/Homage to Democracy,” as Ms. Minujin’s work was titled, stood for about three weeks. Then the public was allowed to disassemble the piece and keep the books.

Even in grainy black-and-white photographs, the temple of books looks awesome, if slightly disheveled. (No matter the distance, books can’t be confused with marble.) It juts above the heads of the crowd gathered around it, as if sitting on its own printed-matter Acropolis. You had to be there for the full effect, I’m sure, but just seeing the photograph, reading the caption and thinking of the previously banned books funneling into circulation are both enlightening and moving."
You can find Marta Minujin's web page here. She created this pretty astonishing work directly following the fall of the Argentinian Junta (1976-83) that brutalized the country by seeking to "disappear" anyone who might display even the slightest independence of thought. This is the second exhibition at El Museo del Barrio that I have posted on ~ here and here. The earlier exhibition, Los Desaparacidos clearly has affinities with at least parts of the current show. Arte No Es Vida is currated by Deborah Cullen who as "the museum’s director of curatorial programs" likely was involved in bringing in the earlier show too. That is great work. Fortunately I get to visit NYC later this spring and definitely will include a trip to El Museo.

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