Few things have stimulated the human imagination as much as heaven. Moons, comets, planets, novae and supernovae, black holes, UFOs and many other celestial objects inspired, since time immemorial, mythological legends, predictive readings, esoteric knowledge, scientific measurements, philosophical speculations, poems, novels, movies. Also, of course, a large number of works of visual art owe their inspiration to these phenomena. At 18 minutos del sol, the exhibition curated by Javier Villa and Marcos Krämer for the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, revolves around space, and brings together a vast set of pieces belonging to 95 Argentine artists of all times.
The exhibition covers two large rooms on the first floor of the building and displays, in the words of the museum's director, Victoria Noorthoorn, "a galactic range on Argentine art, its ambitions and its roots." With the celestial space as the protagonist, the exhibition participates in Art, that endless river, the general program of exhibitions that this year will display in the museum a total of ten exhibitions, all dedicated, in one way or another, to thinking about the territory.
A 18 minutos del sol owes its title to the self-titled album that Luis Alberto Spinetta presented in 1977. "Sunlight," explains Villa, "takes eight minutes thirty to reach our planet, but Spinetta moved that distance ten minutes more, taking it to a point between Mars and Jupiter. That ambiguity already began to like me: was it indirectly alluding to the darkness and cold of those times of dictatorship in Argentina? Or was it a way to get out, in a complex moment, of the reality of this world to float suspended elsewhere?" Proposing the cosmos as a common territory, a space of agreement capable of stimulating new ways of thinking about life on the planet, the exhibition brings together dissimilar pieces. From paintings and sculptures to satellites, in the room there is room for works that participate – parodying it or not – of scientific language, but also for those that make the cosmos a propitious place for symbols, utopias and meditations. In this way, pieces from the heritage are put in dialogue with others donated especially by public and private collections, and also by the artists themselves.
Set of tapestries by Carlos Luis García Bes from Salta, in the first room. Photo: Luciano Thieberger.
"We all look at the sky. Something fundamental for us was to retrace stories, to start thinking about a more unified world," says Villa. The same sky that allowed the Spaniards, following the map of the stars, to reach America, is the one that told the native cultures how and when to cultivate the land in order to live in a sustainable way. The exhibition is a beautiful excuse, then, to bring together artists from indigenous communities with others from Western cultures; contemporary with those who worked in the early twentieth century."
Broadly speaking, the exhibition is structured from two large spaces that, without confronting each other, oppose and complement each other. Dark, silent and mysterious, the first room is organized from a large concave mirror located in the center of the space. Installed on the ground, that circle reflects a set of astronomical images from the Córdoba Observatory (the first open in Argentina) that hang from the ceiling, just above. "We started from the water mirror," explains Villa, "because it was the natural observatory of various communities installed throughout the American continent. It was the technology they had to study the sky: they looked at the earth to study the sky, just as they looked at the sky to understand the cycles of the earth. That is the spirit of the exhibition: to look at the sky to be able to think about what we are doing here on Earth, and what we are going to do in the future."
The artist Silvia Gurfein in front of her work, "Deleuze", 2013. Oil on canvas.
The exhibition then begins its journey inviting us to see the sky lowering our gaze to find, in the depth of the reflection, those first images of the moon, Halley's comet, nebulae and galaxies in the deep sky dating back more than a hundred years. "Images whose intention was not only poetic or scientific, but also geopolitical," clarifies the curator. Founded by Sarmiento, the observatory also aimed, through its images, to collaborate in a mapping of the Argentine territory that helps in the various campaigns of colonization and conquest.
With the water mirror as the center, the first room is divided into four corners, each corresponding to a geographical region of our country and with a certain worldview. While Patagonia is represented by the celestial images drawn by the Mapuche peoples and by the photographic records, already quite revisited, of the last fuegian rituals of the Selk Nam in relation to the cycle of the sun and the moon, for the cosmogonies of the lowlands of the mountain the beautiful textiles made by the Thañí collective are offered. . Organized as a cooperative and integrated by a group of embroiderers from the Wichi community, the collective made, especially for the exhibition, the delicate cloths embroidered in chaguar fiber in which part of the myth of passage to adulthood typical of that culture is told, and that has heaven as the protagonist.
Inspired by the space race. A metallic panel exhibits pieces by Diego Gravinese, Grete Stern, Raquel Forner and Benito Laren.
Encouraged by the gloom of the room, which invites an intimate approach to the works, it is worth stopping and approaching the delicate inks and tempera of Ogwa Flores Balbuena. In his small images the artist intermingled mythological episodes typical of the Ishir community to which he belonged, with the gunpowder and smoke that hit the coastal landscape during the War of the Triple Alliance. In a similar sense, the nebulae, super novae and galaxies of Mauricio Cervellera, made with coal and ashes can also be interpreted to allude to the forest fires that the mountain area (and not only mountain) has been suffering for years.
A universal cosmological language
Articulating classics such as Xul Solar, Emilio Petorutti and Raquel Forner with young people such as Ad Minoliti, Erik Arazzi and Christian Román, the second room concentrates utopian ideas, spiritual energies and scientific questions about the sky. Abstraction occupies a prominent place, whether in the hands of works by pioneers such as Juan Melé or Martha Boto, or contemporaries such as Silvia Gurfein or Alicia Herrero. The room also dedicates an entire wall to cosmological paintings and sketches by Víctor Magariños. Reverberant, powerful and intuitive, this artist's works seem to appropriate the cosmos as a meditative trigger. Both its small symbols gravitating in the space of the leaf, and its diaphanous colored suns find, in the sample, a perfect occasion for homage.
Guillermo Faivovich and Alicia Herrero, in front of the work "Movement to dehechizar un paisaje (I)".
There is also no lack of all those works that collaborated in the configuration of an idea of space, over time, from the sixties to the present. There the hydrospatial cities of Gyula Kosice are installed, which both from their materiality and from their idea are paradigmatic of the fantasies around the cosmos of an entire generation (the 50s and 60s of the twentieth century); also, the collages that Antonio Berni made in those years, with the imminent moon landing as the agenda of the day; the woman standing on the moon in Grete Stern's photomontage; the covers of the magazines 2001 and Más allá, or the albums of Suéter, Pappos Blues, Miguel Cantilo and Fabio Zerpa; the strips of El Eternauta by Héctor Oesterheld and the rockets made by Axel Straschnoy in cardboard and balsa wood.
Without directly alluding to the sky, but drinking in a visuality of undeniable cosmic reverberations, the works of Rubén Santantonín, Alicia Penalba, Víctor Grippo, Liliana Maresca, Rogelio Polesello, Miguel Harte, Noemí Gerstein and Diego Bianchi are also part of the exhibition, opening a wide spectrum of pieces that oscillate between brilliant disks and amorphous objects such as dark matter.
Victor Magariños. Painting, 1964, acrylic and plaster on canvas.
As a nice paradox, while hundreds of free evocations refer to the cosmos and its wide diversity of phenomena, the only object really produced in the sky present in 18 minutes from the sun will remain hidden from the view of the spectators. It is a meteorite that the duo of artists Faivovich & Goldberg (composed of Nicolás Goldberg and Guillermo Faivovich) tried unsuccessfully to donate to the Argentine Scientific Society. Without losing the ironic gesture that characterizes their work – always around the celestial field – the artists decided, once the donation was rejected by the institution, to enter the meteorite in a time capsule until the year 2105, when it will be offered again to the Society in donation.
Until then it will await the ore housed in its wooden box. Various public and private guardians will have it all that time in their custody. Among so many images and representations of the cosmos, the ostracism of the meteorite hidden in the middle of the museum room is eloquent. It reminds us that the sky remains an infinite, unfathomable and elusive territory, which still manages to escape from our hands (and our eyes). Thank heavens.
18 minutes from the sun - VVAA
Place: Museo Moderno, Av. San Juan 350
Hours: Mon to Fri from 11 to 19; Sat and Sun 11 to 20;
closed sea Date: until December
31 Admission: $50
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