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Synopsis

The question asked by French art critic Pierre Restany in this article is this: how is the political and general cultural context of the 1990s, characterized by the double presidential mandate of Carlos Saúl Menem, related to artistic productions? In this sense, he first describes briefly some of the policies implemented by the president and characterizes the “Menem Style” (represented by the way of life of his politicians and followers) as “guarango” [loutish], “kitch,” and “ordinary,” among other adjectives. Later, he analyzes the work of the artists whom Restany considers representative of that period: Jorge Gumier-Maier, Omar Schiliro, Marcelo Pombo, Miguel Harte, Fabio Kacero, Pablo Siquier, Nicolás Guagnini, Rosana Fuertes, Fabián Burgos, Ernesto Ballesterosm and Eduardo Álvarez. He then finds that the aesthetic of the 1990s is defined by the referential binomial pop/constructive. Restany also mentions as participants in this modality Sebastián Gordín, Benito Laren, Elisabeth Sánchez, Ariadna Pastorini, Nuna Magiante, and Sergio Vila. However, in addition to this aesthetic character, what joins these young artists, the author says, “is an essential life attitude made of pragmatism, humor, and vitality: a simple joy of living, lacking ideological sophistication, that approaches the immediate issues of the ‘guarango’ Menem followers.” This last term is the one that Restany will underscore throughout the whole article in order to affirm the existence of synchronicity between the young art and Menem’s Argentina. 

 

There are errors in the article: where it says “María Minujín” it should be “Marta Minujín,” and where it says “Gumer Maier” it should be “Gumier-Maier.”

Annotations

This article is relevant because it presents the opinion of a prestigious foreign art critic—Pierre Restany, who cultivated a seminal relationship with Argentinean art since the early 1970s—in a foreign journal and regards the characteristics of the 1990s local art. It’s even relevant that the artists selected for the article are almost exclusively those gathered by the Galería del Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas between 1989 (its inauguration) and the first years of the next decade.

The Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas, founded in 1984, is a cultural extension of the Universidad de Buenos Aires in which various activities, such as courses, conferences, film series, and the like., were developed.

 

A few years after it opened, the Galería del Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas was created in the entrance hall to the university campus and was directed by artist and art critic Jorge Gumier-Maier. Shortly thereafter, Magdalena Jitrik was included as an assistant.

 

A fringe space at first within the Buenos Aires art milieu, it began to acquire significant visibility between 1991 and 1992. The artists from “El Rojas” (Fabián Burgos, Graciela Hasper, Feliciano Centurión, Martín Di Girolamo, Alberto Goldestein, Sebastián Gordín, Miguel Harte, Agustín Inchausti, Luis Lindner, Nuna Magiante, EmilianoMiliyo, Esteban Pagés, Ariadna Pastorini, Marcelo Pombo, Cristina Schiavi, Enrique Marmora, Sergio Vila, Benito Laren, Omar Schiliro, Liliana Maresca, and Alfredo Londaibere, among many others) began to be included in the agendas of key exhibition spaces, such as the ICI (Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana), the Centro Cultural de España and the Galería Ruth Benzacar.

 

As shown in this article, the reference to poetics of the past, like Pop, Minimalism, Concrete art (under very personal reformulations), in addition to kitsch elements, have served to characterize the expressive resources behind these artists.

 

The category “arte guarango” [vulgar art] (elaborated here by Pierre Restany) as well as “arte light,” the coinage by Jorge López Anaya (please see, “El absurdo y la ficción en una notable muestra” [The absurd and the fiction in an outstanding exhibition], La Nación, Buenos Aires, August 1, 1992) refer to the 1990s Argentinean art, and had great repercussions within the artistic milieu, because they generated intense arguments as did the bright category proposed by Gumier-Maier, as opposed to light.

Researcher
Natalia Pineau.
Team
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Location
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina.