supported program: “Beginning with a Bang”

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The haudenschild Garage supported the exhibition Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy: Argentine Contemporary Artists 1960-2007 on view at the Americas Society, New York from September 28 – January 5, 2008.

Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy, curated by Victoria Noorthoorn, was an exhibition that mapped the historical scenario of specific breakthroughs in contemporary art in 1960s . It included documents by Eduardo Costa, Raúl Escari, Alberto Greco, Roberto Jacoby, Oscar Masotta, Marta Minujín, and Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos, among others; as well as works by contemporary artists: Marina De Caro, Ana Gallardo, Graciela Hasper, Roberto Jacoby and Syd Krochmalny, Fabio Kacero (in collaboration with Union Gaucha), Fernanda Laguna, Patricio Larrambebere, Eduardo Navarro, Leandro Tartaglia and Judi Werthein. Exhibition catalogue is available through Harvard University Press.

Exhibition Opening
Beginning with a Bang! proposes a movement between two artistic scenarios and is organized into two distinct sections. The first, a selection of action-based projects by artists working in Buenos Aires; the second, a documentary section exploring the rich historical foundations that link these projects to the 1960s and 1970s.

The historical section is organized as a timeline from 1956 to 1976 that focuses on immediate actions and performing gestures of destruction and dematerialization that sought to confront and transform the art system during this time. In the timeline, the viewers will be able to access information on specific gestures and projects by Alberto Greco, Marta Minujín, Roberto Jacoby, the mass media art group (Eduardo Costa and Roberto Jacoby, Raúl Escari, and Juan Risuleo), Pablo Suárez, and Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos among many others.

The contemporary section presents installations, performance projects and films that together propose a “politics of intimacy,” by: Marina De Caro; Ana Gallardo; Graciela Hasper; Roberto Jacoby, in collaboration with Syd Krochmalny; Fabio Kacero; Fernanda Laguna; Patricio Larrambebere; Eduardo Navarro; Leandro Tartaglia; and Judi Werthein.

Curatorial Dialogue
Artists Roberto Jacoby, Marta Minujín, Judi Werthein, and Marina De Caro will discuss issues related to the curatorial thread conceived by Victoria Noorthoorn. Moderated by Daniel Quiles.

Argentine Literature, Culture and Society
(With Spanish and English presentations)
Essayist Jorge Monteleone and literary critic Gabriela Nouzeilles (Princeton University), both contributors to Review 75 (Fall 2007, Argentine writing/arts), will engage in a discussion reflecting on the construction of Argentina’s complex identity through its culture, history, landscape, and other signifiers. Moderated by scholar Raúl Antelo (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil), Guest Academic Editor of Review 75. Question-and-answer period will follow.

Artist’s Talk
Wednesday, October 10, 2007  6 PM
Buenos Aires-based artist Roberto Jacoby will discuss his many and varied projects and collaborations over the course of his career. The Artist’s Talk will be introduced by New York-based artist and critic Nicolás Guagnini.

Vis-à-Vis: Dialogues between Artists and Curators from the Western Hemisphere
Thursday, October 25, 2007 6:30 PM
Artist Analia Segal, recent Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, converses with Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, El Museo del Barrio. This program is co-organized with El Museo del Barrio.

Panel Discussion: Destruction in Argentine Art from the 1960s and 1970s
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 6 PM
Alexander Alberro and Ana Longoni will discuss the concept of destruction in Argentine experimental art in the 1960s and 1970s.

Roars of Argentina’s Past, Murmurs of Its Present
By Ken Johnson
Published: December 14, 2007 // New York Times

The man in the photograph attacks a giant egg with a pickaxe. He is the sculptor Frederico Manuel Peralta Ramos, and he is destroying his own creation in a 1965 museum exhibition on the cover of the catalog for “Beginning With a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy,” an exhibition about contemporary Argentine art at the Americas Society.

The idea that you have to destroy art to save it is in the DNA of Modernism, but it flares up in its most extreme forms only occasionally. The ’60s were such an occasion, a time when flouting traditional notions of what a work of art ought to be, do or look like seemed necessary to many ambitious artists — not only in Europe and North America but also everywhere Conceptualism had reached in its viruslike global spread.

Organized by Victoria Noorthoorn, an independent curator based in Buenos Aires, the show starts with a wraparound time-line telling the story of Argentina’s extremist rebels in the ’60s and ’70s. It includes wall texts, photographs, manifestoes, newspaper and magazine articles, letters and other documentary materials, but no original works from the period.

This does not make for a rich artistic experience, but it is illuminating. Parts are funny. See, for example, Mr. Peralta Ramos’s 1971 letter to the Guggenheim Foundation explaining what he did with his fellowship money. He gave a dinner party, had three new suits made, paid off some debts and bought paintings for his mother, his father and himself. Not amused, the foundation demanded its money back; Mr. Peralta Ramos refused as a matter of artistic principle.

No one familiar with avant-garde activities in New York, France, Italy and Japan will be totally surprised by Argentine radicalism. Destroying your sculpture in a museum show just seems to be something to which the logic of avant-gardism naturally leads, like the self-destroying machines of Jean Tinguely. So, too, for other anti-traditional actions by artists like Alberto Greco, Marta Minujín and Roberto Jacoby described in the timeline section.

Still, the sense of revolutionary euphoria conveyed by this part of the show is impressive. Far from cynical, what some have called anti-art is the most idealistic of modern genres. In its determination to overturn, deconstruct, dematerialize, explode and otherwise undo the traditional art object, anti-art wants not really to destroy art but to liberate its freedom-loving spirit from the suffocating grip of conservative forms, ideas and values.

Remarkably, that feeling of militant utopianism is almost completely absent from the second half of the show, which offers recent video, sound and Conceptual works by nine individuals and one two-person team. This section proposes that today’s artists are finding creative freedom and new social models not through bold, public challenges to institutional authority but in the construction and exploration of private sociopolitical microclimates.

It’s not a completely persuasive claim. A video by Ana Gallardo, in which her 83-year-old father reads aloud an old newspaper clipping that describes his and his wife’s arrival in Argentina from Spain many years ago, is extraordinarily moving, but it is not revolutionary in any sense of the word.

The trouble is partly that many of the new works are just not very good. In a project documented in the gallery in which she has had literary and historical texts cast into the concrete of public sidewalks, Graciela Hasper veers toward a generic civic didacticism. Marina De Caro achieves only a strained whimsy in a video and photographs representing the mimelike antics of a person wearing a bulbous, stuffed orange stocking mask connected by a long neck to a second, balloon-filled head.

A video collaboration by Mr. Jacoby, the ’60s firebrand, and the much younger performance artist and Conceptualist Syd Krochmalny is annoyingly portentous. The camera follows the two artists as they dreamily stroll through and lay about in an Edenic garden while engaging in overwrought philosophical and poetic repartee about art, life, sex, chastity and friendship.

More amusingly sly is a work in progress by Eduardo Navarro, a video documenting his infiltration of a dopey New Age group of street performers. But a grainy film by Fabio Kacero, in which he pretends to be dead in various public locations, would barely pass muster in an undergraduate performance art class.

In her catalog essay Ms. Noorthoorn attributes the turn away from ’60s-style defiance to the period of severely repressive dictatorship in Argentina, lasting from 1976 to 1983. Threatened by arrest, imprisonment and worse, dissident artists retreated to less-attention-attracting forms of art making.

It’s worth noting, however, that avant-garde art in North America and Europe did not need brutal political abuses to be tamed. Throughout the international art world, the increasingly polished gestures of anti-art became standard commercial and academic fare. The contemporary works here have the look and feel of university-nurtured art.

Whether that is a sign of Conceptualism’s success in the worldwide marketplace of ideas or of its defeat through co-optation is debatable. In any case, a more complete title for the show would be “Beginning With a Bang! Ending With a Sigh.”