Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    Historia, modernidad y ruina peruana : notas sobre identidad y espacio en la obra de Carlos Runcie Tanaka / Rodrigo Quijano
    Lima, Peru : Ritual de lo Habitual ediciones, 2004
    English; Spanish
    Book/Pamphlet – Essays

    Runcie Tanaka, Carlos, 1958-

Rodrigo Quijano argues that Tiempo detenido—the installation by ceramicist Carlos Runcie Tanaka—does more than illustrate a traumatic event. Since its beginnings, Quijano asserts, the work has been linked to the artist’s search for identity. To that end, it combines elements of Peruvian, Japanese, and English origin. The Peruvian coast was a meaningful place for Runcie Tanaka, and one he began investigating pursuant to a long stay in Japan where he assisted ceramicist Tsukimura Masahiko. In the late eighties, the artist’s production veered from objects to more complex mise-en-scènes in which “the original ritual character” of the objects used is restored. He thus creates a true encounter with a modernism both desired and recognized, though also repressed and buried. In the 1994 show Desplazamientos (Displacements), “the archeological vestige cease[d] to be the point of reference”; the origin of the project was the discovery of a monument to the landing, in 1889, of the first Japanese immigrants in Peru. The many crabs in the installation echo, on a symbolic level, the displacement to which the work’s title makes reference. This led the artist to develop another installation where a delegation of inward-looking ceramic figures with short arms tight against their bodies seems to carry something—“a vague guiltiness”—in their hands. The fate of those works changed after their maker was held hostage at the Japanese Embassy in Lima in 1996. Reworked, they gave rise to the installation Tiempo detenido, which, since 2011, has formed part of the Latin American Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


This text by writer and critic Rodrigo Quijano addresses the work of Peruvian ceramicist Carlos Runcie Tanaka, particularly his installation Tiempo detenido exhibited at the I Ibero-American Biennial in Lima (1997).


Carlos Runcie Tanaka is one of the most well-known contemporary Peruvian ceramicists. After studying philosophy in Peru, he studied ceramics in Brazil, Italy, and Japan, where he worked with master ceramicists Tsukimura Masahiko and Shimaoka Tatsuzo. He has participated in group shows in Peru and abroad, and represented the country at the IV and V Havana Biennial (1991 and 1994, respectively), the XLIX Venice Biennale (2001), the VIII Cuenca Biennial (Ecuador), the V Barro Biennial of the Americas (Caracas), and the XXVI São Paulo Biennial (2004). Solo shows of his work have been held in Latin America, the United States, Japan, and Italy since 1981. In recent years, Runcie Tanaka has been a guest professor at prestigious universities in the United States and Japan. His work is characterized by reflection on personal identity and by an interrogation of the complex political and social events in Peru in recent decades. His art, often in installation format, explores a range of materials and languages.


In addition to producing and analyzing literature, Rodrigo Quijano, the author of this text, has been a critic and curator of contemporary Peruvian art since 1998.


At the end of his text, Quijano indicates that it was written in 1999 “at the request of the artist himself.” In the essay, Quijano bears in mind “themes that permeate local culture, history, and art.” The text’s key points, and the readings it formulates, “are the product of the pressing social and political situation facing the country.” The context for this work is the aftermath of the domestic armed conflict in Peru, primarily between the government and the Shining Path (that conflict lasted from 1980 to 1992, a critical moment in contemporary Peruvian history), and the repressive dictatorship that began in 1992 pursuant to a coup that brought Alberto Fujimori to power. Fujimori’s regime lasted until he was removed from office in the year 2000. 

Gabriela Germaná Roquez
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Biblioteca Museo de Arte de Lima – MALI