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    In this exhibition catalog essay for “Illusive Fragments”, a gallery exhibition at The Bronx Museum of Art from Feb 20 - May 10, 1992, art historian Mari Carmen Ramírez contextualizes much of the history of Porter’s work and also proposes several theoretical parameters for it. Ramírez begins by discussing Porter’s work in terms of French theorist Jean Baudrillard’s notion of the simulacra, but then says that Porter’s works are anti-simulacra because they are full of signification (extra signifying) rather than containing a vacuum of signifying elements. Ramírez also argues that Porter’s objects have an aura, thus introducing German theorist Walter Benjamin’s ideas into the conversation about Porter’s work.

    Then she discusses Porter’s use of the icon on her work. For Porter, icons are a cross-point of individual and collective memory. Like Benjamin’s notion of the fragment, Porter’s icons are a site of “involuntary memory” where “certain contents of the individual past combine with the collective past”. The icons contain codes that ignite both individual and collective memory.

    Then she discusses Porter’s artistic legacy, listing not only American pop artists but also Southern Cone and Argentine artists like Xul Solar and Fernando Maza. Porter’s practice is in line, she says, with other Southern Cone artists who are trying to define their work against and within the history of western modernist art. This is not Porter’s project explicitly, but as an Argentine artist emerging on the New York scene, it was an experience that probably had many parallels with those of her southern peers.

    Ramírez also discusses the trajectory of Porter’s work since the early 60s, including her experimental prints with the New York Graphic Workshop between 1964 and 1975. Ramírez calls this work one of Porter’s first steps in elaborating a “poetics of absence”-- a practice that relied on getting the viewer to recognize the mechanics of representation and their relationship to memory, absence, and (occasionally) loss. She concludes by arguing that the work in this exhibition is a continuation of these engagements with absence-- the trompe l'oeil components of Porter’s work, for instance, or her reliance on line as an optical dividing mechanism, are definitely ways to call forth absent elements and activate them.  


    This essay was written by Mari Carmen Ramírez (b. 1955), the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Ramírez has lectured widely on issues related to Latin American art history and theory, and this essay is considered to be a definitive statement on some of Porter’s theoretical affinities.

    Liliana Porter (born 1941) was born in Buenos Aires, and began studying art at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano [National School of Fine Arts]. In 1958 she and her family moved to Mexico City, where she enrolled at the Universidad Iberoamericana and took classes from the German artist Mathias Goeritz (1915–90), specializing in printmaking with Guillermo Silva Santamaría. Her work during this period was the basis of her earliest exhibitions. She returned to Buenos Aires in 1961 and remained there until 1964, continuing her art training with Fernando López Anaya and Ana María Moncalvo. In 1964 she moved to New York City where she joined forces with Luis Camnitzer and José Guillermo Castillo to found the New York Graphic Workshop (NYGW, 1964–65), a space where classes were held and other artists’ works were printed. It was also a place where artists gathered to discuss printmaking and its role in contemporary society, which led to a variety of group projects. The workshop closed in about 1970.

    In 1975, Porter and Camnitzer, who were married at that time, opened the Studio Camnitzer-Porter in Valdottavo (Lucca). After they separated, the studio became the Studio Camnitzer. In the last 20 years of her career she specialized in these pictures and sculptures that incorporated figurines she found in thrift stores and flea markets, as well as larger installations that incorporated surrounding spaces and sites. Liliana Porter currently lives and works in Rhinebeck, New York state. [For more catalog essays on Porter’s work in the ICAA database, please see: “Illusive Fragments: Liliana Porter's Art of Memory” by Mari Carmen Ram?írez, ( 1180766); “Liliana Porter: Theater of Memory” by María Elena Huizi (doc. no. 1180894); and “Liliana Porter” by the artist herself (doc. no. 1274631)].