viernes, 4 de febrero de 2011

Gallery on fire

Recibimos la visita de Carla Harms de JUANELE.
The title of its current exhibition Amotinados, which translates as mutinous or riotous, perfectly embodies the concept of the gallery Cortina Abierta. Translated as “open curtain,” the name stems from Cortina, the street where the gallery is located. But the name also refers to the hybrid notion of hogar/gallería, a house that serves not only as an exhibition space, but also a home for Cortina Abierta’s founder and curator Natalia Saenz Valiente and her husband Alejandro Lannizzotto. The innovative way in which the couple organizes their living space reflects the same unconventional manner of thinking used to choose the kinds of work the gallery exhibits and the way it will be exhibited.

Arriving at Cortina Abierta, visitors will find the home/gallery exactly that — open. If you live in Buenos Aires, I need not mention this as being highly unusual. I experienced a very strange sensation upon arriving to find that instead of ringing a buzzer, you simply open the unlocked gate. And after walking through the front garden and arriving at the front door, you can peer inside a long corridor that houses a unique collection of artworks amidst the objects of everyday life used by the couple that lives there. Just entering Cortina Abierta forces you to think about and interact with public and private spaces in a different way. In part, this is what has sparked so much interest in its program.

The exhibition includes the work of 13 artists, each one of them chosen for their own interest in revolting or rioting against traditional boundaries of art. The unusually wide range of mediums encompassed in the show immediately caught my eye. From Soledad Rithner’s anthropomorphic, sequined soft sculptures, which Saenz Valiente invited me to hug as I passed by, to Marina Retamar’s intricately beaded sculpture series inspired by a dark fairy dream (she is currently working on a stop motion film that uses this series), the works surprised me with a mix of materials I don’t commonly see in the same exhibition.

Retamar’s sculptures sit alongside Saenz Valiente’s bed, around which hang works from Argentine artist Marcos Luczkow’s multi-layered French art collage series titled “I burn your little house.” Featured on the invitation for Amotinados, which invited visitors to rise up and riot with the artists, Luckow’s series encapsulates the theme of the show, along with his video of a house burning titled “Home…warm home”, which played in the kitchen the night of the opening.

Other works in the show break down barriers in their own ways. One of the highlights for me was Horacio Cadzco’s toothbrushes with bristles made from his own fingernails and human teeth. Cadzco recently won the Barrio Joven En OBRA prize at Arte BA 2010 for The Destruction of a Suit, a work which centered on him wearing the same suit every day for a year without showering.

Chatting with the artist at the opening, I learned that he continues to explore the notion of distress by combining human body parts with conventional objects. He certainly achieves this with his toothbrush sculptures, which appear disturbing and even a little bit gross, yet I couldn’t quite take my eyes off them.

Cadzco’s sculptures are juxtaposed with one of Ramairas Alvareidas’ fabulous light-up doll sculptures placed on top of their curio cabinet. Investigating themes such as drag, S&M and incorporating pop cultural icons, Alvareidas serves up fetish-like objects that sparkle with the lights of Hollywood.

Trying to keep Cortina on the fringe of the traditional gallery scene, Saenz Valiente says she tries to avoid exhibitions that only contain paintings. Amotinados does include one painting, which in my opinion appears as one of the stars of the show.

Hanging just inside the door on the night of the opening and greeting visitors, Uruguayan artist Rubén Lartigue’s hot pink canvas featured a beautifully rendered male nude with the head of an antelope and an arrow in his chest. Loosely based on Saint Sebastian, the painting explores the notion of sin and desire. At the opening, Lartigue took this exploration further by inviting people to view the painting while kneeling over corn kernels, the unpleasant sensations reminded penitents of their physical bodies. He also placed a metallic red cushion alongside the corn, which opens up to reveal pop-up figurines that, along with the painting, are part of the artist’s series entitled Los Chicos Lartigue.

Getting to Cortina Abierta in far away Villa Luro can prove challenging, but I don’t think visitors will be sorry they made the trip. I certainly wished I had made the trip earlier after arriving late at the Amotinados opening December 11. Sadly, I realized I missed the live performance by performance artist Lorena Avallar in the dining room under a magical blue light installation by SPIN!

Marco Gorgoso made a video of her performance that you can watch on YouTube here. The video gives people a taste of what the mood was like that night, which remains for me as one of the most interesting and inspiring art openings of 2010. Apparently I am not the only fan of the openings. Saenz Valiente tells me that despite the distance from central Buenos Aires, the numbers of attendees at openings continue to grow at the little house on Cortina, reaching 200 at the peak of the Amotinados inauguration. I look forward to seeing what acts of art revolt are in store for the gallery in 2011.

Unless otherwise stated, photographs by Alejandro Ferrer, courtesy of Cortina Abierta

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