Month: September 2015

A vibrant city in motion: Horacio Coppola’s Buenos Aires

Argentine Modernism is under the spotlight in a new retrospective at New York’s MoMa focusing on the works of Horacio Coppola and Grete Stern. Coppola, an Argentine of Italian descent, and Stern, a German Jew, met at the Bauhaus, the experimental German art school, in the 1930s. With the rise of the Nazi regime and the subsequent closure of the Bauhaus, they moved to Buenos Aires in 1936, via London, where they got married. With the knowledge and training they had received in Germany, they soon established themselves as pioneers of Modernism in Argentina, combining a sharp eye for abstraction and design with local themes and subject matters. One obvious approach to examining their work has been to consider the axis of influence between Germany and Argentina. However, another interesting and novel comparison is between Buenos Aires and Paris, as the Argentine capital has often been considered ‘the Paris of South America’. In a post-colonial context, such a claim is deceptive. It implies that Buenos Aires is simply an imitation of the Parisian capital, with …

Conflict remembered: Jo Ractliffe’s photos of Angola and South Africa

African photography is under the spotlight at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a moving exhibition of work produced in the last decade by the South African photographer Jo Ractliffe. South African photographer Jo Ractliffe (born 1961) explores the themes of conflict, history, memory and displacement with her camera. She has described her work as an attempt to “retrieve a place for memory.” Ractliffe was born in 1961 in Cape Town and currently lives in Johannesburg. She completed her BAFA and MFA degrees at the University of Cape Town. Three recent series of photographs are featured in this show, focusing on recent conflict in her native South Africa and neighbouring Angola. Her earliest series Terreno Ocupado (2007–8) was produced around five years after the end of the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), during Ractliffe’s first visit to the capital, Luanda. Her images of shantytowns speak of struggle and land occupation, highlighting the vulnerability of the city’s infrastructure post civil war. Her photographs highlight the imprint that the Portuguese colonial occupation of Angola had on Luanda. …

Rogelio Polesello: the Argentine ‘industrial artisan’

The bright colours and bold shapes of Argentine artist Rogelio Polesello fast-forwarded Latin American art into the 20th Century. A year after his death, he is remembered in a comprehensive retrospective at the MALBA in Buenos Aires. Possessing a basic knowledge about the career of Argentine artist, Rogelio Polesello, already tells us a great deal about this artist’s work. Born in Buenos Aires in 1939, Polesello spent his formative years working as a graphic designer in the advertising industry. The art that he would later develop bears a strong resemblance to the forms of commercial advertising he would have been working on day-to-day. His experience of commercial work is also evident in his openness to interdisciplinary creative work, pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally considered ‘art.’ His work at times verges on architectural form and design, as well as public art interventions. Polesello graduated in 1958 from the Prilidiano Pueyrredón Fine Art School. A year later, he would have his first solo exhibition at the Peuser Gallery. He began to experiment with optic art, taking …

Reinventing the Renaissance: South Africa’s Wim Botha

South African artist Wim Botha’s expressive new series of sketches, More’s the pity, depict Michelangelo’s iconic Renaissance statue, Pietà. These 119 sketches, in oil on canvas and ink on paper, are based on a mirror image of the classic frontal view of the famous marble statue, which is found in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Botha experiments with colour and line through the repetition of the same modified image, which is seen as abstract in some instances, and figurative in others. In this way, these works disrupt the historical and conceptual meanings of the original piece, and revitalize the work in a contemporary way. Carry on reading about Wim Botha, and see more images of his work, in the latest issue of The Kurios. Photo: Wim Botha. More’s the pity (series of 119 sketches). Photo courtesy of Stevenson Gallery.

Domestic friction: Mexican artist Pia Camil’s ‘homely’ Modernism

Mexican artist Pia Camil draws inspiration for her objects, seen in the following pages, from contemporary consumerism, incorporating signs and objects from everyday life. The artist, born in Mexico City in 1980, also reclaims abandoned structures from highways, driven by her belief in the failure of capitalism. Her wide-ranging practice, which takes in hand dyed wall hangings, ponchos and ceramic vases, often ends with the presentation of multiple objects in the same room. She also undertakes live performances that experiment with notions of domestic space. Her work appears to create a friction between domestic comfort – indicated by the ‘homely’ crafted feel of many of her ceramics and textiles – and a more hard-edged Modernism. Carry on reading about Pia Camil, and see more images of her work, in the latest issue of The Kurios. Photo: installation view: Pia Camil. Pangaea II. Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London (c) Justin Piperger, 2015

The Belgian engineer who captured the lives of Chile’s remote Mapuche

The Belgian engineer Gustave Verniory (1865-1949) arrived in Chile at the end of the 19th Century to build a railway in the remote region of Araucanía, in the mid-south of the country. The region, occupied by indigeneous Mapuche tribes, had not become part of Chile until the 1880s. Verniory came to know a group of Mapuche people, and he began to photograph them, in their everyday attire. He also captured images of the railway’s construction and other viaducts and bridges that had been built as the Chilean government drove modernization of Chile’s remoter regions. His photos document an interesting time in the history of the province when industrialization was rapidly changing the lives of the Mapuche. The government had occupied Araucania in the 1880s to end the resistance of Mapuche tribes. Subsequently European and Chileans settled in the area, with the population of Araucania growing considerably in the early 20th Century. A region of mountains and lakes and fertile agricultural land, it came to be known as the “granary of Chile.” Around one third of …

Bringing abstraction to India: Nasreen Mohamedi

Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990) distanced herself from traditional Indian art practices in the early 20th Century, going on to become one of the first Indian abstract artists. Her non-figurative works were highly unusual at a time when Indian art schools were dominated by academic realism and an anthropomorphous aesthetic left over from the colonial period. Mohamedi’s art is now the subject of a retrospective at Madrid’s Reina Sofia that explores the intersections between the artist’s life and work. The exhibition features drawings, paintings, photographs and collages and focuses on the artist’s production from the 1970s. The artist’s career was defined by “the rigours of self-discipline and self-control,” the curators said. Her art leads us towards a “personal vision articulated around a frugal aesthetic and the use of simple mediums, where the mathematical, the metaphysical, the mystical were adopted in her search for a subjective and immaterial world,” they added. Nasreen Mohamedi, Waiting is a part of intense living, is on at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, until 11th January 2016. Photo: Nasreen Mohamedi, …