Monday, November 30, 2015

Jorge Tacla’s Human-Made Catastrophes: A Conversation with the Artist

by Jessica Gesund, AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

In recent days, the world has been shaken by the Paris and Beirut bombings and shootings and the downing of a Russian airliner. These attacks were aimed not at military targets but at civilians, some of who were enjoying a Friday evening in a restaurant, a concert hall, a sports stadium; public places not too different from where we all spend leisure time. It is perhaps for this reason that they have hit close to home and raised questions, which are often unasked in societies not regularly afflicted by acts of war. Beginning with the attack on the Palacio de la Moneda in Chile in 1973, Jorge Tacla’s work has been inspired by similar violent events. The artworks featured in his “Hidden Identities” exhibition, displayed at OAS AMA| Art Museum of the Americas for the winter season, are based on events such as the Oklahoma bombings, the violent conflict in Syria, and the 9-11 attacks.  “Hidden Identities” denounces these human-made catastrophes through art that questions societal notions of power and human nature. Through the general themes displayed in his art, Tacla explores issues that have been studied extensively among societies most directly affected by conflict. These issues include: the impact of trauma in memory, collective and individual; the relationships between victims and aggressors; and the ways in which mass media and structures of power shape our views of tragedy.

During AMA’s guided tours of the exhibition, audiences responded with great interest to Tacla’s work and the artist himself. Who is this man who portrays these shocking images? To what degree is he disturbed by these awful occurrences? To begin to answer these questions we’ve interviewed Tacla about “Hidden Identities.” Hearing the artist expound on his work reveals glimpses of Tacla, his background, and his views.

AMA-JG: Your work in “Hidden Identities” deals for the most part with human-made catastrophes and explores their impact on the human victims, as well as the relationships between victims and aggressors; however, most of the pieces depict architectural structures and not people. Why is this?

Jorge: For me it all began with what happened in Chile during 1973; this has been the “tension focus” of my work. When the Palacio de la Moneda was hit on September 11, 1973, it was the first time I realized that man-made constructions could be so fragile. The presidential palace was a symbol of State power and government and after that moment I realized that even those great institutions were immensely fragile.  This experience, which I had at a very young age, is what has led me to focus mostly on architectural structures. 

I depict the structures from multiple perspectives. I go from the more intimate spaces inside the buildings, such as the bedroom, to the lateral views of the buildings and the more global views of the attacked structure.  Once buildings have been struck, they are no longer rigid cement structures, they become more organic and thus they are more similar to the human body.  When the building opens up because of a catastrophe, its internal biology is exposed. Its bursting tubes and poles resemble the human body with its veins, muscles, and bones.

AMA-JG: By depicting these structures in their more organic state do you seek to draw a link with the bodies of the victims inside them?

Jorge: My work always has a denouncing element. The violation of the victims’ human rights is a subject that is present in the majority of my works. The contemplative space of art plays an essential role in society. Once you read the newspaper you throw it into the garbage, but art stays. You have Picasso’ s “Guernica,” for example. Years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, it continues to remind us of those who suffered during the attack of this city.

AMA-JG: Why do you focus on the “perspective of the after,” without providing any type of narrative or information about the moments before the event takes place or the moment when the event takes place? Why is this perspective powerful in your opinion?

Jorge: I depict these human-made structures at their most fragile state, the moment immediately after they have been impacted and the moment right before they fall to the ground and transform into rubbish. I depict the structures when they are still dangling, as if with their last breath, when they are at their most vulnerable state.

When I witnessed the attacks on the Palacio de la Moneda in Chile during September 11, 1973 and I saw the fragility of this institutional site, my vision about human-made structures changed. I realized everything can fall, everything can vanish in the air. The “Perspective of the After” represents that moment when structures lay in their most vulnerable state. After that moment, if the building falls and vanishes, there is no longer a memory of what was there before. That is why the “Perspective of the After”is: the moment just before the building vanishes, just before it is eliminated from memory.

AMA-JG: What role does memory play in your work?

Jorge: In my work, memory and human skin reacts in the same way once it is affected by trauma. If you are punched, your skin bruises, it is marked. Memory develops those sequels as well. The marks on memory are what interest me, because they are also the marks which lead to the unhinging of human beings. For instance, when children are abused in their households, the memories of this abuse lead them to develop internal conflicts. These conflicts can then lead to other larger societal conflicts. How many young people have we seen in recent years who become perpetrators of violent acts in their schools and universities? These children often come from violent households where they developed traumatic memories. These individual and collective elements of memory are what interest me. I am deeply interested in the psychiatric aspects of catastrophes.

The canvases in themselves are meant to resemble human skin. I use oil and cold wax in most of the paintings of this exhibit because cold wax has a constant humidity and a constant movement. It thus has characteristics that are very similar to human skin, it is fragile and traumas affect it greatly.

AMA-JG: It is a tremendous coincidence that you were present during both the attacks of the Palacio de la Moneda in Santiago de Chile during September 11, 1973, as well as during the attacks of the Twin Towers in New York during September 11, 2001. In your opinion, what are the commonalities between these two events and what binds the different pieces which have been inspired by these events in “Hidden Identities”?

Jorge: These events are very different in that they were triggered by different motivations; however, both share universal themes. The Palacio de la Moneda was attacked during the Cold War, an international conflict in which both the United States and Russia were involved. Both of these nations were concerned with Chilean politics at the time. Hence, what happened in Chile was greatly influenced by international politics. The 9-11 attacks were also deeply influenced by international politics. It was not just a bilateral issue between the United States and extremism originated in the Arab world, there were many other countries involved in the ongoing tensions that led to these events. Countries such as France have also been stricken by multiple terrorist attacks. People are often not conscious of this because they have the possibility of distancing themselves from events which take place across the world, such as the war in Syria or the violent conflict in Gaza. They often have the possibility of isolating themselves from these issues of international politics.

What is more, both of these events have left marks on individual and collective memories, which will bring forth other consequences tomorrow. This comes back to our conversation about trauma and memory. Chile has not yet healed from the events that took place in 1973. The pain and suffering from those events are still in the memory of Chileans. This applies to the attacks of 2001 in New York as well. What happened during September 11 is still very present in the city. There are still security officers in many of its train stations. There are daily threats in New York. Every time you cross a bridge or go through a tunnel you are thinking about it. All of these events take particular spaces in memories, which impact many people psychologically. These memories are very hard to delete for people who are attempting to go on living without anxiety or panic.

It can thus be said, that I have adopted a futuristic view. I am aware that just like these past attacks, the current attacks in places like Syria and Gaza will have other repercussions later on.

(Note: The interview with the artist was conducted by Jessica Gesund on October 21st, the day before the opening of “Hidden Identities” at OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Incredible Change | Art After Dark #5

Incredible Change  |

Art After Dark | 8/22/14 | Tickets and info:

What do you get when you combine talents and creativity from several of DC’s best live bands of the last ten years (Ra Ra Rasputin, Last Tide, Lode Runner, just to name a few)? Incredible Change.  Synth-laden electronic dance music influenced by everything from Italian house to early Factory Records, Brock Boss channels Bauhaus vocals over arpeggiators, syncopated rhythms, chorus-drenched guitar, eliciting kinetic vibrations with a cast of musicians including DeenaOh, Rob Hart, Patrick Kigongo, and Ed Porter. Pulling in classic dance elements and pairing them with dark analog sounds and distinct lyrical presentation, Incredible Change filters their influences through a lens that’s all their own. Just have a look and take a listen to their new video for “Ecce Mono”:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Videourbana Winners of the 8th BIAU - Winner 1

By Maria Paz Montero

'Luz nas vielas' or Light in the streets

Luz nas vielas (Light in the Streets) is the name of the project by the Spanish collective BoaMistura, which comes from the Portuguese for "good mixture,” and is one of the winners of the Videourbana Competition, a contest done by the VIII Ibero-American Architecture and Urbanism Design Biennial. The project consists of urban interventions of several walls and alleys in the Brasilândia favela in Sao Paulo, Brazil, during January 2012. For about 15 days the group worked and painted inspirational words on walls covered by cement, brick and rusty pipes. The walls were painted in bold colors with the words "Love," "Beauty," "Sweetness," "Firmness," and "Pride," five attributes that define the charm of Brazil and its humbler corners. As art with a social mission, the involvement and participation of residents in the development of the murals was decisive and had an important impact on the work. The idea that there could be change in an environment of poverty and social inequality comes to be put to the test; there might actually be a change and a transformation.Looking around, the walls are filled with colors, the community is transformed, and the old perspective changes into one that is more positive and enlightening. The objective of this group’s work is to use art as a tool for change and as a medium for inspiration.  


Transforming Cityscapes: Winning Entries of the 8th Ibero-American Architecture and Urban Design Biennial

On View: January 30-March 16, 2014

The OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas, SPAIN arts & culture, and the Permanent Observer Mission of Spain to the OAS present Transforming Cityscapes: Winning Entries of the 8th Ibero-American Architecture and Urban Design Biennial (IAUB).  This exhibition reflects AMA’s mission to promote creative and talented artists and designers of OAS member and observer countries while facilitating and supporting programs and partnerships that strengthen connections among Ibero-American countries and representing the latest in artistic trends.
The IAUB focuses on lifetime achievements, outstanding works of architecture, publications, research projects and ideas presented by architects and architecture students.  Every two years, a jury of representatives from each field selects the best projects, comparing and contrasting various architectural and urban design initiatives in the countries that comprise the Ibero-American community. The exhibition includes architectural and urban planning projects, publications, research, proposals and videos from 2009-11.

Videourbana is the video project component of the biennial.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Edgar Negret | AMA's Permanent Collection Artist Series

El Maiz
Edgar Negret (Colombia, b.1920)
steel and paint
30 ft (h) 9.60 meters x 1 meter
OAS | Art Museum of the Americas Collection
Gift of the artist

Edgar Negret 
(Colombia, b.1920, d.2012) 
More on AMA's Permanent CollectionSearchable Collection Database
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Sculpture is a medium that requires discipline and patience, skills that Edgar Negret has mastered over his career of more than fifty years. One of Latin America’s most prominent sculptors, Negret’s work defies the limits of imagination and of the viewer’s expectations. His work is elegant, detailed, inspired and vibrant. 

Born in 1920, he completed his formal education at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Cali (1938-43) and went on to be an apprentice of Spanish sculptor Jorge Ortega, who introduced him to the works of British sculptor Henry Moore. He continued his education at the Clay Sculpture Center in New York (1948-50) and later travelled to Paris and Spain beginning in the 1950s. Each of these European countries opened a world of possibilities for Negret, the avant-garde centers of activity he visited inspired his own journey towards abstraction.

While in Spain in the early 1950s, Negret was heavily influenced by the architecture of Antonio Gaudí, and was particularly impressed by how Gaudí’s organic forms and its simplicity. 

Another pivotal influence on his artistic creation was his encounter with Pre-Columbian art expressions. In 1980, he traveled to Lima, Perú, and visited Machu-Picchu among other archeological sites. The encounter with the Pre-Columbian offered a new thematic direction, and intellectually it represented a change in that he no longer looked for sources in the abstract origin of nature or the machine but in more specific mythologies, like the one of the Inca people.

Aparato Magico (Magic Gadget)
Edgar Negret (Colombia, b.1920)


polychromed wood and aluminum
19 x 35 x 20"Collection
OAS | Art Museum of the Americas Collection

Aparato Mágico, from 1959, which was on display at the Art Museum of the America’s show Constellations, is an example of Negret’s lifelong fascination with the organic nature of form and his dedication to finding its expression through sculpture. Aparato Mágico is one of a series started in 1957, titled Aparatos Mágicos, that occupies a seminal place in Negret’s overall work. The title means ‘magical device’ and the title is the first indication of the contradictions in Negret’s visual language. This piece evokes the mechanical and the imaginary. The mechanics allude to our rational nature, and the magical evokes a space in our imagination. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Maria Freire | AMA's Permanent Collection

Vibrante (1977) by Maria Freire (Uruguay)
Collection OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Maria Freire 
(Uruguay, born 1917) 
More on AMA's Permanent CollectionSearchable Collection Database
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Maria Freire is one of the most important artists to emerge from South America. Her contributions to the artistic experimentations that led to the period known as geometric abstraction in Latin America are of a daring and restless character. Her formal education took place at the Círculo de Bellas Artes (1938-1943) under the tutelage of José Cuneo and Severino Pose and at the Universidad del Trabajo, under the teachings of Antonio Pose. 

With her husband José Pedro Costigliolo (1902-1985), Freire formed one of the most dynamic artistic teams in Latin American art history. Influenced by a wide range of European artists (Antoine Pevsner and Georges Vantongerloo for example) and other expressions like African art and European non-figurative art, Freire was already by the 1940s working on abstract compositions. What this tells us about Freire is that she was an artist immersed in breaking away from the referential, from the traditional, and that she looked at not only her immediate sources in Latin America for inspiration but to European and African ways of artistic expression. 

This is remarkable for two reasons: she was a woman artist who displayed a strong independent spirit, and because as an artist within the geometric abstraction generation from Latin America she was at the forefront of change. Freire’s influences were not dictated by her fellow contemporary Latin American artists, but by her travels throughout the world and her desire to transform the way we looked at art and life. 

Vibrante, from 1977, on display at the Art Museum of the America’s show ‘Constellations,’ is an example of Freire’s lifelong experimentation with abstraction. The richly colored lines create blocks of shadows and light, which create a narrative of color. Freire is recognized as an artist that challenged contemporary notions of art and set a model of an independent Latin American woman artist.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Joaquin Torres-Garcia | "Constructivist Composition" | Constellations

Sorry for the long wait, check out this Washington Post article to perhaps better understand the delay.

"Constructivist Composition" (1943) by Joaquin Torres-Garcia,
Collection OAS | Art Museum of the Americas, Gift of Nelson Rockefeller

Joaquin Torres-Garcia 

Exhibit: Constellations: Constructivism, Internationalism, and the Inter-American Avant-Garde
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

The Artist
A pioneer of modernism, Torres-Garcia was born in Montevideo of a Catalan father and a Uruguayan mother. His family moved to Spain in 1891, settling in Barcelona. By the end of the decade he had become, along with Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, part of the bohemian milieu of the cafe Els Quatre Gats. Torres-Garcia moved to Paris in 1926 where he me Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian and later founded the group Cercle et Carre with Michel Seuphor. 

While in Paris, he also became interested in prehistoric and primitive art, including pre-Columbian objects. The style of Constructive Universalism he developed at this time retained a gridded structure related to Neo-Plasticism but he invested each compartmentalized rectangle with a schematic motif, emblematic of autobiographical, mathematical, spiritual, or metaphysical concerns. His compositions, often based on the proportions of the Golden Section, were in primary colors or nearly monochromatic. 

Returning to Montevideo in 1934, he founded the Asociacion de Arte Constructivo and in 1943 the Taller Torres-Garcia, an arts-and-crafts workshop devoted to pedagogy and collective work. His landmark theoretical book, “Universalismo Constructivo”, was also published in 1943. Within his fairly well defined repertory of signs and symbols, there are frequent references to the pre-Hispanic world. In many works, the geometric patterning is reminiscent of pre-Columbian textiles or Inca masonry and ceramics. His ideas on the relationship of man to the cosmos also draw on pre-Hispanic sources. He saw the function of the Latin American artist as one of recovering the ancestral dignity of the rich Indo-American tradition in order to create a uniquely South American art.

by Joaquin Torres-Garcia, from the Archives of the Art Museum of the Americas

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anton Cabaleiro | Ñew York

Anton Cabaleiro |

Anton Cabaleiro

Anton Cabaleiro (born 1977 in Spain) received a MFA in Computer Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York; a MS in Landscape Design from Columbia University, and a PhD in Art, Design and Technology at the Complutense University, Madrid. Past exhibitions include the Bronx Museum Biennial, New York; Armory Show, New York; New York University, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Times Square Public Space Projects, New York; Under the Bridge Festival, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art of Vigo, Spain; the Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art, Spain; ARCO International Fair of Contemporary Art, Madrid; The Cervantes Institute, Beijing; Marisa Marimon Gallery; Marlborough Gallery; and the Loop International Fair of Video, Barcelona.

Artist Statement
The Empire State Essays is an animation video series which represents two opposite ideas of New York. 

On the one hand, it’s the idealized New York, a trompe l'oeil product that has been presented and propagated (sometimes like a backdrop and other times like main protagonist) through mass media, such as movies, TV, music and the literature. 

On the other hand, there are scenes taken from daily life, based on experiences in the Big Apple. They show a very personal and intimate daily routine, mostly lonesome, repressed and frustrating, that both contradict and complete the first idea, the one of a shinning New York, full of glamour and opportunities. 

As it's known, New York is the “Empire State” of the US, and it plays a predominant role in the rest of the world. The Empire State’s repercussions vary from the expansion of English as first language throughout the world, to a cityscape made out of mountainous quantities of accumulated garbage and the social and ethic pressures. 

This series follow propagandistic mechanisms. Extremely aesthetic, the essays contain tense messages that contradict their apparent beauty and innocence. They give to the viewer a chance to review a routine that tends to be overlooked due to its repetitive nature, which can be both beautiful and horrifying.