The first week in May was a big week in the world of Argentine urban art, with three exhibitions by some of the country’s most talented and influential artists opening in Palermo.
Elian, Pum Pum and Chu make up the trio exhibiting in ELSI DEL RIO Contemporary Art’s show entitled “Osmosis”, street art stalwart HIC is hosting the second ever solo show “Retroceder Nunca” by the superb El Marian while Ever is taking over Dinamica Galeria with his ambitious interactive piece called “La Cabeza”.
ELSI DEL RIO has united Pum Pum, Elian and Chu under the umbrella of “Osmosis”, a term that, in this instance, speaks about the current position of urban art as something that doesn’t exist exclusively in the streets, but which has transcended traditional barriers and now resides firmly within the remit of the art circuit. These three artists are joined by the urban quality of their work, both on the streets and off, and were chosen to represent a departure from the idea that graffiti is vandalism.
“Osmosis” showcases a shared language learned in the streets which translates here into a diverse collection of works. Chu’s playful sculptures and lacquered wooden compositions echo his geometric explosions on walls. Elian scales down his seemingly free-flowing, yet carefully controlled bursts of colour, that run off pages suspended in framed glass. Pum Pum goes interstellar with a collection of canvases that take her signature figures of cats and girls and send them to space, orbited by planets and wrapped in planetary rings. The range of media present in the show reaffirms that these artists are not bound by the limitations of the perception that urban art should be confined to the exterior.
Mariano Antedominico, or El Marian, is a self-taught visual artist whose relationship with urban art began five years ago. He took a course in muralism and since then has been painting in the streets, dedicating himself to the craft for the past three years.
El Marian’s subject matter ranges from scenes of chaotic protests to tributes to his musical heroes such as the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch and immortalising icons from popular culture like Marty McFly.
Dealing with themes of anarchy, social revolution and injustice, his realistic portraits are often set against a blurred background reminiscent of army camouflage, a technique which is scaled up or down within each of his painterly pieces.
For “Retroceder Nunca” (meaning “Never Retreat”), only his second ever solo show, El Marian reinterprets photographs from all around the world in acrylic, latex, watercolour and ink of civil unrest, child rebels and protesters, to create thought provoking and dynamic pieces. His powerful works convey the physicality and tension of riots, with the surge of the crowd and the rush of adrenaline palpable through the positioning of the drama heavily in the foreground of the canvas.
These pieces contrast with depictions of tender moments between kissing protesters, and subversive pieces showing rioters in rainbow balaclavas. “Retroceder Nunca” is an accomplished show with a definitive activist energy by an artist who is set to become one of the protagonists of the local scene sooner rather than later.
“La Cabeza” is, incredibly, Ever’s (Nicolas Romero Escalada) first solo show on home soil. The artist, whose international profile has been steadily increasing in recent years, has gone bold with this spectacle. Supported by Dinamica Galeria, Ever continues to favour installation over painting in his gallery work with this engaging and imposing installation, which is brought to life by a mesmerising dance performance.
As often seen in Ever’s work, Chairman Mao takes centre stage in this piece. The immense suspended head of the Chinese dictator by sculptor Marcos Berta dominates the space, looming large and yellow above the glass bottomed floor below, and is a conceptual examination of the ideology transmitted through traditional Chinese Communist posters, where Mao’s head is always suspended over his subjects, the people.
Once again Ever uses Communist imagery to explore his fascination with its inherent contradiction, using a backdrop of cascading books superimposed with the symbol of the hammer and sickle to reinforce the aesthetic. “La Cabeza” examines the conflict that arises when it is left to a mere human “body” to relay a system of thought to a population, imbuing the figure with power and creating a false idealisation by the masses. The performance furthers this investigation by exposing the obsession with power.
The act involves 3 dancers, close friends of the artist, and a mask of Mao’s head, which, when worn by each performer, brings about a chilling transformation in the trio; he who wears the head peers eerily through the eyes, slowly surveying his audience, while the other two cower and clutch at his feet, amplifying both their desire and their submission to the Communist figurehead. With “La Cabeza”, Ever shows us the scale of his ambition, and that embracing controversy and risk can result in powerful and captivating work.
“Osmosis” runs until June 10 from Tuesday to Friday 1pm – 7pm and Saturdays from 11pm – 3pm at Humboldt 1510.
“Retroceder Nunca” runs until June 6 from Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm – 9pm, Thames 1885
“La Cabeza” runs until May 27 from Tuesday to Thursday, 8pm – 00pm, Gorriti 5741
(Article by Sorcha O’Higgins)