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Services on Demand Journal. How to cite this article. His sense of freedom, his profound humor do not make demands. As some of his characters seem to run toward each other whereas others seem to flee, his images expect the spectator to bring to them his own portion of meaning, his own dream.
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How many trees does it take to make a forest? And how many people to make a crowd? He is thus in action, this marionette that Monsieur Teste seems to have killed, the critical image of man, our image. For the painter, the issue is to express —and to express again but always in a different way — this alienation which separates the individual from all that belongs to him to reduce him to his social behavior alone, to a model image. It is significant that it was neither the pop artists who had just come into prominence Lichtenstein, Warhol, Wesselmann.
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On the periphery at that time, he avoided being drawn into a group, leaving the door open to inquiry, imagination--this freedom which in his world is called the pleasure of painting. But beyond their plastic function—to suggest a space without determining itthese boxes are also cages, figures of enclosure, confinement and alienation. At one time, however, the determination of a space within the image through a network of geometrical lines as an enclosure may appear, as the work of Bacon has proved in its repetition, a rather tiresome formula, if not an artifice.
In this implicit closed universe that the four sides of the painting demarcate, movement seems suspended, fixed. Presenting itself with the greatest simplicity, marked by a lightness that its obvious humor seems to confirm, it first appears as an elegiac image, a distant, ironic comment on the world when it is in fact a moral reflection, a lesson in seeing. If striding figures construct the rhythm and the structure of the canvases, it is the figure of the legless person in his soap-box on wheels which is insidiously recurrent in his paintings.
Whether they obviously look us in the eye or purposely ignore us, turning their backs, they all remind us that only a thin film of paint separates their world from the one in which we in move about in every direction inside the bowl. One can speak, in talking about this grouping of sculptures, of a race of giants, because they fill the space around us, obviously, but also any space that we could evoke or imagine.
The uniformity of their size, between twenty and forty centimeters, persuades us that these people are liberating themselves in all directions, taking us along with them. This way of drawing upward, not toward an illusory ideal, but toward the region of the improbable, well above the contradictions which block us here below.
These people are perpetually moving about, as if their bodies do not stop panting in their surroundings. Some day it would be good to carefully study this gesture, the stride, ho! This sort of farandole, which is not the silly exaltation of happiness, but a dizzying transport, knotted together in one fixed point.
Head down, creeping-vine limbs, feet that have become stumps, stubborn one-legged people, tomb-visit, wind-breaker silhouettes, clay which hardens, this crowd ceaselessly questioning its movement. I like to think that what it tells us in this way is that we do not cease to live or meditate in the unpredictable disorder of the world; that our place, this place from which we emit our words and organize our gestures, is irreplaceable, but that it makes sense only when it is engaged with all the possible alternatives.
And so, it is good to spend a long time with one of these people, one of these giants which so forcefully exceeds his uniform, measured dimension, in order to reach an understanding of their throng.
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Giants, because they condense within them something infinite. Not in the way Bonsais do, these unfortunate trees forced to be small, but like Elves who know that their real world is that of the unapproachable and unlimited.
These bodies which pant for air are pointing us the way to dizzying heights. He nevertheless remains profoundly linked to Latin American culture. Even within the immense diversity of this culture, Argentina is a special case. Never the seat of a great Indian civilisation, and neglected by Spain, it only became a Spanish vice-royalty as late as Less than fifty years later it achieved independence from the Spanish royal government.
At the beginning of the 20th century there was an immense influx of European immigrants, the majority Italian.
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Most arrived in the very short period between and Not surprisingly in these circumstances, Argentinean culture never felt nostalgia for the great Pre-Columbian empires the Spanish conquistadors displaced - something that has been such a powerful factor in the modern artistic development of both Mexico and Peru. Nor was it ethnically mixed, with powerful indigenous elements, as was and is the case in Brazil. The hero figure in Argentina was not the proud Inca or Aztec, but the free-spirited Gaucho or cowboy roaming the immense Argentinean grasslands.
It is a gaucho who is the hero of the national epic, the poem Martin Fierro, published in two parts, in and This poem gave its name to the avant-garde review of the same title, which first appeared in and served as a rallying point for the first generation of Argentinean Modernists. This generation was, however, urban, not rural, and its main impulses came from Europe, not from the Argentinean hinterland.
In the visual arts the figurehead of this generation was the painter Emilio Pettoruti Pettoruti travelled to Italy on a scholarship awarded by the government of the state of Buenos Aires, and fell in with the group of Italian futurists who gathered round the magazine named Lacerba. Finally he went to Paris and met the great Spanish painter Juan Gris. Gris had a decisive influence over him. Pettoruti returned to his native country as a committed Cubist. Xul Solar was also affected by Cubism, but his work, which is always on a small scale, shows many other influences as well.
He travelled widely in Europe between and , and seems to have had some knowledge of the Berlin Dada of the immediately post-war period, and in particular of the drawings of George Grosz. His drawings, like those of Grosz, often make use of lettering and graphic signs. Another influence seems to have been the work of Paul Klee. Another ancestor, speaking in a more general sense, is a slightly younger Argentinean artist, Antonio Berni Berni is now chiefly remembered for the work he produced at the end of his career, from the s onwards - two great narrative cycles that combine painting with collage, in which the artist expressed his feelings about the social condition of his country.
He reached this point by a somewhat circuitous route. Berni studied in Paris for five years on a government scholarship, leaving Argentina in and returning in After he returned to Buenos Aires, he was in contact with the Mexican Muralists, working with Siqueiros on a mural in a private house when the latter visited Buenos Aires in What he shares with Berni is an interest in narrative, and a capacity for social observation. In addition, he is fascinated, just as Berni was, by certain typically Argentinean myths, particularly the myth of the tango.
In art, too, this is something that can save us. In France, humour is sarcastic, sometimes cynical. People will say of someone that he's "as useless as an ashtray on a motor-scooter The first of these speaks of the claustrophobic nature of the modern urban environment. The other two paintings, which form a pair, have no buildings, but consist simply, in each case, of a vast crowd of scurrying flgures, covering the whole surface of the canvas.
Some of these figures are nude, but their companions contrive to ignore this, so completely intent are they on the urgency of their own errands. These crowd scenes are reminiscent of what one finds in the Berlin drawings of George Grosz, but the mood is substantially less harsh. When I went with my father and uncles to a foot-ball match, to a reception or on a hunting-party, they all wore very handsome hats, most of all my father, who was a real amateur of headgear The hats are celebrated in another, much earlier, work included in this show, Surtout les Chapeaux This is a combination of painting and sculpture, with cut-out shapes clinging to a rectangular, white-painted pillar.
The present exhibition showcases a number of bronze sculptures, made at the very beginning of the s. The others tackle subjects not generally thought of as suitable for sculpture — for example Secondary Residence La Maison Secondaire lightly satirises the French cult of the holiday home, with the house itself, its puffed up mistress and the tree in her garden all assembled on a little platform. The mood is kindly, but the observation of bourgeois pretentiousness is deliciously acute. These are interesting for a number of different reasons. These paintings, which date from the high point of the Pop era, do nevertheless have an undoubted resemblance to the work made by the Hairy Who, a group of semi-Pop painters working in Chicago, who held their first collective exhibition in Sacando la Lengua is especially close to some paintings of heads made by one of the most prominent members of the group, Jim Nutt b.
However, it is also significant because it signals the fascination felt by a large number of important artists of the post-World War II period with child art and Outsider art. An especially amusing aspect of El Fumador is the figure's checked shirt, which looks like a direct transcription of one of Klee's more abstract compositions. Indeed Gardel himself thought of tango as a kind of nationality in its own right.
He was in fact born in France as Charles Gardes, and was brought to Argen- tina by his mother when he was just over two years old. When he was on a tour of Spain in , a reporter asked him what was his true nationality. Corrientes was the street in Buenos Aires where all the tango bars were located. In the two paintings called Retrado con Codigo , which show a figure — Gardel — from behind, with a free brushstroke above him, he seems to suggest that there is a close analogy between dancing the tango and the act of painting.