NEGOTIATING POLITICAL CONCEPTUALISM IN BUENOS AIRES DURING THE AIDS CRISIS
Queer Utopia and Gay Denial in Omar Schiliro and Jorge Gumier Maier at the Rojas Gallery
SUBMISSION FOR THE PETER C. MARZIO AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING RESEARCH IN LATIN AMERICAN AND LATINO ART International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Omar Schiliro (b.1962, Buenos Aires; died, Buenos Aires 1994) (See Figure 1) produced art between 1992 and 1994 after learning he was HIV positive at a time when such a diagnosis could probably be a death sentence.(1) He was affiliated to the Rojas Gallery, an exhibition space located within the Universidad de Buenos Aires. In this paper, I suggest that the works produced by him during that period invited the viewer to an embodied aesthetic encounter that stimulates his or her perception in order to become more hospitable to the reality of large numbers of fellow countrymen dying from AIDS in stigmatised invisibility.(2)
In order to bring attention to his experience of anxiety and uncertainty in front of the possibility of a painful death, his work enacted a series of aesthetic ‘errors’ presented as intentional generic infractions that could hardly be ignored or dismissed. Yet, for them to be received as meaningful errors, they had to be played down and not provoke excessive indignation or become an object of censure and so of censorship. Through his work, Schiliro made his traumatic experience present to a viewer who was in denial and who could only engage with that reality if those experiences were absent.
From the point of view of the reception of his work, I suggest that the ability of his art to elusively and uncannily say without saying collided with the towering intellectual influence of Jorge Gumier Maier (b.1953, Buenos Aires) (see Figure 2) who as chief curator of the Rojas Gallery imposed through a series of essays a specific way of seeing the artworks made by the artists that gathered around him in that institution shaping the way they have unanimously been read since then as beautiful allegories of their unflinching determination to celebrate life.(3) Gumier Maier’s viewpoint had as its main target the type of art that since the 1970s had assumed that it could, at a macropolitical level, counter the power of the oppressive state through direct confrontation. As I will explore, in his writings, he also wanted to differentiate the art he preferred from the kind of micropolitical art that during the 1980s minorities used as a vehicle to show the way oppression operated in their daily lives. I suggest that by contrast, for the 1990s, Gumier Maier endorsed a type of art that, in spite of standing as apolitical, enacted a type of negative queer politics that refused to partake in a system perceived as unchangeable. This negativity came from the way gay activists in Argentina and Brazil responded to the liberationist ideas that had emerged from the debates of their European counterparts during the 1970s.(4) I suggest here that the translation of those views into an aesthetic project proved problematic for it demanded disengaging not only from activism but also from queer notions of futurity and utopia. Such rejection of queer relationality ran parallel to an outright refusal to discuss the rationale behind key aesthetic decisions made by the artists of the Rojas Group that were time after time justified as having no particular reason apart from the momentary pleasure they supposedly brought. I claim that the result of such withdrawal both from macropolitical activism and from micropolitical gay micro-revolts against societal oppression culminated in a privatisation of queer experience that had specific consequences for artists suffering from AIDS such as Schiliro. The non-relational negativity of Gumier Maier’s curatorial project was reaffirmed by some of his colleagues at the Rojas who eventually transformed it into an echo chamber for his uncontested ideas. This made Schiliro have to negotiate his place in the institution by endorsing a critical discourse that did not necessarily always match his visual production.
Omar Schiliro: Ventriloquising the Exemplary Subaltern
Schiliro began his professional career as a designer of inexpensive jewellery, a profession he pursued until he was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, at which point he decided to become an artist. Without previous artistic experience or education in a group with highly educated artists, Schiliro was shaped to fit into the theoretical principles set by his life partner, Jorge Gumier Maier who, from the beginning, spoke on his behalf creating the critical context that defined his artistic production.(5) The fact that he came from extreme poverty and from Afro-american descent might have made him intellectually dependent from his white middle class highly educated colleagues. His works were sculptural objects assembled out of inexpensive, mass- produced items he could find in a supermarket, outdoor bazaar or flea market such as buckets, washbasins, bowls and spoons. All these objects were made of cheap plastic which he often decorated with glass balls (the kind used by children for playing marbles), coloured festive light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and all kinds of kitsch ornamentations.
Batato te entiendo [Batato I Understand You] (1993) (See Figure 3) was dedicated to Walter 'Batato' Barea, a famous clown travesti and performance artist from the 1980s underground scene, who died from AIDS in 1991 and who did the opening performance when the Rojas Gallery was inaugurated. Schiliro created an object that, on one hand, commemorated Barea as a haunting absence both through its iridescence, the choice of circus-like colours and its title as connecting his dead friend with his present as an AIDS sufferer; hence, creating kinship through the virus.(6) On the other hand, the piece’s flamboyance and brightness compensated for the invisibility in which many Argentines were dying in public hospitals. The work's arborescent shape was structured along a trunk made of eight fluorescent tubes of different colours supported by a plinth made of two green and one pink plastic washbasins placed on top of each other. Those specific tones of green and pink matched the colour of aprons worn by nurses and cleaning staff in public hospitals in Argentina. Over the assemblage’s trunk, Schiliro put two additional plastic washbasins one against the other forming an ovoid bottom bowl from which the eight arms of a chandelier sprang. Each arm was crowned by two plastic dessert bowls placed against each other alternating blue, yellow, red and green forming balloon-shaped candle cups, each one containing a functioning light bulb. In a domestic setting, this work could have been used as a foot lamp.
By contrast, in Untitled (1992) (Figure 4) contagion is not conveyed through kinship but instead through likeness and equivocation.(7) The assemblage is composed of a pink plastic washbasin that was exhibited hung on the wall of the Rojas and radially decorated with five glass chandelier ‘S’-shaped arms each of them topped with a glass hook that curls in the same direction than the arm. The centrifugal composition brings a sense of movement that turns the arms into tentacles. As said before, the pink of the plastic reminisces public hospitals but also the colour of the skin what makes the assemblage resemble either an organic monstrosity or a prosthetic formation. Its shape also allows visual associations with cellular or bacterial forms. In Mandala (1993) (Figure 5), an orange plastic washbasin centrally placed and surrounded by four rows of plastic spoons radially arranged around the plastic container with a light bulb as epicentre hidden by a transparent glass flower refers both to the virus and to the oriental tool of spiritual guidance.(8) The tone of orange of the two rows closer to the epicentre are lighter while the third one is slightly darker. By contrast, the outer circle of spoons is red. At first sight it is the representation of a flower but the fact that it is made of plastic mimes the structure of an HIV virion cell with lipid membrane and viral envelope included. From this viewpoint, it must also be born in mind that these plastic objects with which these sculptures were assembled were, mainly, cleaning containers where the sick would vomit which also would be used to clean those fluids.
These works have unanimously been seen by critics as the result of a beautification of everyday objects with the therapeutic purpose of keeping the thoughts of death at bay which, ultimately, might lead to delaying physical decay. This self-help type of thinking followed New Thought teachings which according to Gumier Maier, Schiliro adhered to through his readings of Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life for whom: 'Resentment, criticism, guilt and fear cause the major problems in our bodies and in our lives'.(9) I suggest, by contrast,that beauty in Schirilo appears as a locus of infection for indicating his physical and psychological pain. Concurrently, through the use of certain colours and materials, he alluded to the decaying body of AIDS sufferers needed of care. By drawing attention to its amateurish yet painstaking craftmanship, he indicated the reality of human beings, who like him, were in need of ways to cope and also of love and affection. Far from trying to deny his disease, he hijacked beauty to ask the viewer to notice that something was not right and that after the epidemic things would not be the same.
Gumier Maier's Performative Imposition of a Way of Seeing
To date, there has been overwhelming agreement that these works should be understood at face value in the sense that they do not carry any meaning to be decoded by the viewer. This unanimity conceals, however, a web of knotted conceptual strategies which disentanglement might bring light not only for understanding this artist in particular but also the art of the Rojas Group, in general. Jorge Gumier Maier established his claim that these works did not have any further meaning or ‘purpose’ in three essays that soon became considered the only valid way to approach them. In Avatares del Arte (ICAA Record ID: 768333), El Rojas [The Rojas] (ICAA Record ID: 768212), and El Tao del Arte [The 'Tao of Art] (ICAA Record ID: 769509), Gumier Maier's curatorial ideas were presented as a reaction and in opposition to the declamatory political art prevalent in Argentina since the 1960's.12 At times, the establishment of his ‘core aesthetic proposals’ became part of a series of performative interventions that took the form of public talks such as the one hosted by the art journal Ramona in 2000 between the neo-conceptualist artist Jorge Macchi and Marcelo Pombo, an artist who was also affiliated to the Rojas Gallery and who participated with Gumier Maier in the gay activism of the early 1980s at the Grupo de Acción Gay (G.A.G.) [Group of Gay Action] (1984- 1985). G.A.G's dominant view was that political change could not be the outcome of an arm struggle against the State but of a redefinition of the place of desire both in individuals and in societal structures. These views were highly influenced by the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari filtered through Nestor Perlongher’s essays where those notions were applied to the particularices of gay life in Argentina and Brazil. 13 Maier and Pombo tried to translate those theoretical principles into an aesthetic project. According to them, art should withdraw from activism because political hope fails queers for not having originally been made for them but instead for a society motivated by reproductive futurity. Imposing such negative notion of politics onto art demanded a programme of exhibitions curated according to those principles and a series of writings where those views were incorporated to the logic of thought in a non-explicit way. In other words, it demanded a performance where the audience was composed by those within the artworld who could help make their position legitimate. The abovementioned encounter between Pombo and Macchi was one of those occasions. The main topic of discussion was the latter’s controversial participation at a conference series titled Al margen de toda duda? [Beside all doubt] convened by artists Diulio Pierri, Felipe Pino and Marcia Schvarz at the Rojas Center from May 14 to June 2, 1993. In their meeting, Macchi told Pombo of his shock when at the Al margen de toda duda? conference he 'started receving a string of abuse and insults' from the people standing in the back of the room after he asked Schiliro whether the materials he used for his assemblages carried any meaning. Unsympathetic to this, Pombo replied insultingly: ‘It seems odd to me asking someone why he uses certain materials. That’s stupid. It is like asking someone why he dresdes in a certain way´.14
Macchi's unanswered question to Schiliro pointed at the counterintuitive intention of creating 'beautiful' objects with materials such as unexpensive plastic containers that, in themselves, were not beautiful. With this, Macchi tried to shift the attention from the discourse constructed at the Rojas (according to which those works were supposed to be taken ‘at face value’) to the actual visual evidence. I claim, however, that there is a performative quality to Pombo’s attempt to deflect the attention from any diversion from the authorised reading. In the same conference, he contradicted himself, sometimes within the same sentence, saying, for example, that talking (about art) was 'pointless' in spite of the fact that he had agreed to attend that conference to talk about his practice.15 His claim that art was 'dead' while still making art, and that the discourse on art could only be 'half serious' were surely meant to be perceived as absurd. In the end, for him ¨words are useful to disguise.16 As we shall now see, his goal was to consolidase the Rojas´ aesthetic project as an applied versión of Deleuzian political philosophy.
The influence of Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus (1972) can be detected in Pombo's performative reaction to Macchi's conceptualism. In their book, the French authors counter the Oedipical psychoanalytic frameworks that, according to them, fosters a man who wants to live the neurotic dream of a tranquilized and conflict-free existence at the cost of his freedom. Their'schizoanalytical' theory countered psychoanalysis by opposing the latter's measuring everything against neurosis and castration to the former's favouring the schizo, his breakdowns and breakthroughs.17. It is from this perspectiva that Pombo´s absurdity in front of Macchi should be understood as a ‘schizoanalytic’ attempt to draw attention to Macchi’s un-queer Oedipically-coded neurosis typical of the heteronormative middle classes.
This enactment of Deleuzian ‘deterritorialisation’ is linked to Perlongher’s attempt to translate the philosophical ideas of these French authors into an aesthetic framework applicable to the Southern Cone. According to him the Neo-Baroque is the artistic form that the margins deploy in order to subvert the colonising attempts of the centre. For him the baroque ‘likes the messy kitsch that is detested by classical art and which is not a detour or an error but something constitutive of certain textual inversions that affect Latin-American textures’. According to him: ‘The baroque machine throws its iridescent bijouteries against meaning to destroy the official meaning of things’.18 In his mistrust of words ‘as useful to disguise’, Pombo’s Neo-Baroque attitude with Macchi can only come accross as performative. 19
The Deleuzian influence is also evident in an article written by Gumier Maier in 1993 titled ‘AIDS and Art’ which brings about Perlongherian Neo-Baroque notions such as ‘fuga’ [‘withdrawal/flight’], ‘splendour’, ‘iridescence’ and ‘glow’. Its reading allows a more nuanced understanding of how his views might have not only influenced the way Schiliro’s art was meant to be understood but also the limitations that he might have found when trying to make sense of his own work in such sealed intelectual environment. His art works were the result of a negotiation of his own place within the restrictive curatorial framework of the Rojas, a situation that might have been even more difficult bearing in mind his relationship with the curator.20 Although this might have demanded from him a ahigh degree of sela-control at the level of what was performatively said, his works allow to say without saying in a way that haunts the viewer with something that does not seem to be right. Macchi not only sensed that, but he also perceived that by being overprotected by his colleagues, Schirilo was being ‘underestimated’. Placed in the position of the subaltern, he became the embodiment of those intellectual ideas that were handed down to him by his partner which he, probably, did not fully grasp.
According to Gumier Maier: ‘Contrary to others (such as Alejandro Kuropatwa and Liliana Maresca), in Schiliro there is not a poetry of devastation. Everything is bright. Polished. There is no purpose nor any wish of thematising pain, complaining nor documenting his own wounds. In times of disenchantment, Schiliro was sensible and wise enough to create his own enchanted world’. 21 His transubstantiation of the frightfull experience of AIDS into art is paraphrased by Gumier Maier as a blatant refusal to acknowledge the reality of the disease, although Schiliro’s words indicate otherwise: ‘I made work that I see as an explosion of worries and depressions that suddenly blossom like springtime. All that was linked to my symptoms: spots on my skin, blisters. All that was turned into flowers’.22 Flowers have a redemptive power but they are also the objects that human beings send each other to conmmorate their deaths. In both Gumier Maier’s text and Pombo’s previously discussed interview with Jorge Macchi, Omar Schiliro’s emerges as unable to reflect about his own art because of his lack of education. According to the former: ‘Schiliro comes from a poor and marginal family. He did not have any studies and his knowledge of art was null’. From this point of view, not only the discourse built around his art but also his artistic persona comes across as a performative enactment of a Neo-Baroque transubstantiation of marginality into art. According to this view, critical discourse and the construction of meaning, in general, fall on the side of oppression. This is, however, a simplification of Deleuze’s idea that society represses (in his words ‘encodes’) the free flow of desire which makes humans desire servitude. For Gumier Maier and Pombo, Schiliro as a person embodied the kind of (Deleuzian) marginal ‘deterritorialisation’ which ‘uncoded’ the flows of desire, which for Perlongher, happened at the point where poverty and minorities intersect. Being poor, half-afro descendant, lacking any formal education and HIV positive allowed him to escape the ‘coding’ of the socius albeit at the cost of his own life. Gumier Maier’s reading of Perlongher’s political anthropology and Deleuze’s political philosophy effectively moves the focus from homosexuality to poverty.23 The fact that such teoretical discourse was passed to Schiliro through his boyfriend made it even more difficult for him to reject because it was charged with affect.
The reasons for the insults that Macchi received from the back of the room when trying to ask Schiliro about the meaning of the materials he used, might be that he dared to interact with him from outside the performative bubble of denial created by his circle of friends. Even worse, such denial represented Schiliro’s only hope against the almost certain advance of the disease if it is born in mind that he had refused medical treatment (AZT) and that, in his view, a combination of self-help spiritual affirmations and a healthy lifestyle would be enough to reverse the degenerative process. At the Rojas, words seemed to have very different meaning depending on who said them. As communicative tools they were perceived as deceitful (according to Pombo ‘words to me are useful to disguise’) while as spiritual self-affirmations they were redemptive because of their truth (used as alternative therapies by Schiliro). I suggest that Gumier Maier’s used kitsch to bridge this gap between the social dimension of the cultural experience and the individual. In his own terms: ‘Having devaluated the idea of emotion and even more of juissance, a reference to kitsch soon emerged. 24
Stagnant Nomadism: Jorge Gumier Maier's 'Flight' to the Margins
In this section I suggest that by making a distinction between Gumier Maier’s interventions as curator (through the analysis of his writings) and as an artist (through the visual evidence of his artistic production) the problems inherent to his translation of the homosexual debates of the 1970s in Brazil and Argentina into an aesthetic programme for the 1990s become evident. The result was a privatised notion of what suffering AIDS meant in Buenos Aires and a disembodied view of how a dying body could configurate its own dissappearance through art.
In his Avatars of Art, The Rojas and The Tao of Art, Gumier Maier’s ideas were presented as a reaction and in opposition to the declamatory political art prevalent in Argentina since the 1960's.25 He envisioned the gallery as a nurturing platform for the exhibition of works that, in his view, proposed new and original values countering those set by recent Argentine art tendencies, as well as by the growing international trend of Neo-Expressionism and Neo-Conceptualism.26 His view of political engagement was also different from their declamatory type. Art, according to him, should not be conceived as the result of expressive ‘ugly’ gestures intended to have a high impact on the viewer's mind but instead as a series of kitsch objects where beauty was flaunted as camp to emotionally engage the viewer. I suggest that by rejecting political activism’s optimistic embrace of the future and by putting art at the service of individuation instead of identity formation, he adhered to an ideology of failure and no future. This, according to him, was an alternative form of politics: a queer one. In his essay Avatars of Art (1989), he proposed six tenets that would become the foundation of the Rojas Gallery mission. At the same time, he attacked what he saw as the weaknesses of an art community that promoted an aesthetic based on previously articulated ideas or positions, one in which:
The work, as such, aims to sustain itself through a proposal of some sort. Works are appreciated not on face value, but for whatever makes their proposal interesting. The work is only judged as a failed or succesful illustration of an intention. Originalities are hatched under the shelter of this law. 27
In his essay The Rojas he states:
From a distance, both the derivations of the Trans-Avant-Garde/Neo-Expressionist boom, as well as the furor surrounding those works created with certain discarded materials share the same conceit and purpose. A key term in the discourses of the day was "proposals". Works were understood -that is, conceived- as propositions.
According to formal logic, these works were relegated to the status of mere illustrations of intentions. [...] I think we can agree that this was a rather frivolous vision of art, a repertoire of easily digested narrative clichés disguised as spontaneous and successful at convincing its conservative public -which, by this point, included artists- with the allusion that something important had been communicated to them.28
By contrast he proposed ‘a displacement of the artistic imagination [...] A practice that is understood to be (creative) work, more a saturation of ideas than an obsessive passion, closer to craft than to creation, closer to ingenuity than subjectivised expression’.29 According to him, political art was ‘stomachist’ for it ‘socks us in the stomach when we lay eyes on it. They tend to depict or evoke social and marginal scenes, which lead them to be graphic and material. They are messy, rebellious and they dare to deal in ugliness. In these efforts everything is aimed at some kind of high impact.30 From the point of view of how responsive an artist should be to his sociopolitical context, Gumier Maier said: 'They believe, for example, that when something like La Tablada occurs [...] they ought to respond to that kind of event with their art, as if anyone cared. For this class of people, the other class of people are either fast asleep or complete idiots, and the idea is to shake them enough so that they might wake up to the life and consciousness that they enjoy'.31
Gumier Maier was against conceptual, political, expressive and/or self-validating art that presumed of waking up those 'people who are either fast asleep or complete idiots'. This withdrawal from an art that makes statements in the public sphere to 'wake up' the audience counters my understanding of Schiliro's art as political when revealing his own experience of death to others. Gumier Maier’s selfproclaimed flight from the public sphere and his identification with kitsch instead of with high art made art critic Jorge Lopez Anaya, in 1992, characterise the production of the artists of the Rojas as arte light. In the Rojas, Gumier Maier explicitly challenged such generalising view based on style for instead conceiving kitsch as a modus operandi that allowed for an individuated approach:
Although words like kitsch and light have been tossed around [...] this change in the collective image of the visual artists is forcing us to redefine the meaning of kitsch in our time. On the other hand, any work with kitsch implies an intellectual operation. [...] As far as the term ‘light’ is concerned, perhaps it might be more useful to replace it with the word ‘bright’ -that is, brilliant, wide-awake. [...] For this reason it would make sense to stop talking already about what the artists have in common and begin to see them one by one, as individual pieces.33
By suggesting that the artists of the Rojas were 'wide awake' in order to cultivate 'individuality', Gumier Maier did not consider these terms as oppositional but contiguous, which opened the aesthetic experience to the political. In this same text, he defines kitsch as the conflation of two things. On one hand, as a stylistic trope that stands for an artificially constructed form of optimism which is a cover for a blatant rejection of any optimistic embrace of the future. On the other hand, as an ‘intellectual operation’ which brings him close to Susan Sontag’s definition of camp as ‘a love of the unnatural: of artifice, of exaggeration, and double entendre’. For her, ‘it is good because it’s awful,’ a sensibility and a manner of looking at things that turns on artifice and irony; ‘camp sees everything in quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman”´. 34 Although Sontag´s essay is foundational analysis of this cultural phenomenon, some have critiqued her essay as having desexualised and literalised camp diminishing its power. From that point of view, this negative quality that Sontag brings to camp is similar to the veiled negativity that Gumier Maier injects into kitsch.35
In spite of his performative rejection of meaning, there is at least one time when he came close to admit that this kind of art had, after all, a purpose. In an interview with Hernán Amejeiras, in 1993, he asked: ‘For those who invented the notions of "arte rosa" [pink art], "arte light" or if you dare to say it, "arte puto" [faggot art], they should explain what that art is and if they believe it has been queerising homosexual art it did so at the cost of futuruty. In 2005, Lee Edelman´s no future.37 In her The Queer Art of Failure (2011), Judith Halberstram’s attempt to link queerness to an aesthetic project organised around the logic of failure conversed with Edelman’s effort to detach queerness from the optimistic activity of making meaning.38 The queer subject, Edelman argues, has been bound epistemologically to negativity, to nonsense, to antiproduction, and to unintelligibility, and instead of fighting this characterization by dragging queerness into recognition, he proposes that we embrace the negativity that we anyway structurally represent. Edelman’s polemic about futurity ascribes to queerness the functions of the limit; while the heteronormative political imagination propels itself forward in time and space through the indisputably positive image of the child, and while it projects itself back on the past through the dignified image of the parent, the queer subject stands between heterosexual optimism and actual realisation. Like Gumier Maier, Edelman tends to cast material political concerns as crude and pedestrian, as already a part of the conjuring of futurity that his project must foreclose. Both of them strive to exert a kind of obsessive control over the reception of their own discourse. Twisting and turning back on themselves, reveling in the power of inversion, their syntax itself closes down the anarchy of signification. They shut down critique and withhold from the reader and viewer, respectively, the future and fantasies of it. Theirs is a self-enclosed world of cleverness and chiasmus that opens the door to a ferocious articulation of negativy. The difference between Edelman and Gumier, however, is that the latter hides this ferocity behind a façade of kitsch optimism.
The Politics of Kitsch
The Rojas was an artist-run gallery and Gumier Maier in spite of being mainly known as its curator was primarily an artist.39 His art entailed a conceptual queerisation of abstract and geometric art from the 1940s known in Argentina as ‘Concrete’ and ‘Madí’.40 Through kitsch he appropriated original artworks and re-styled them as if putting them in drag. Referring to the geometric art of the 1940’s, the artist Rhod Rothfuss had suggested in an article published in the Argentine art journal Arturo in 1944, that abandoning the traditional rectangular frame would expand the definition of a work of art, as it did in works like Juan Melé's Marco recortado No.2 [Cut-out Frame no.2] (1946) (Figure 6).41 Gumier Maier recapitulated Rothfuss' ideas decades later, using curvilinear frames that he built himself to mount canvases dominated by rectilinear designs. At times, his experiments with the shape of the frames made those works sculptural as in Untitled, n.d. (Figure 7).42 While the careful geometry of his compositions recalls Concrete aesthetics, his preference for juxtaposing pastels with saturated hues evokes the palette used in mid-century home interiors and automobiles. He was drawn to the colours he had experienced as a child in 1950's Mar del Plata, a tourist city on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires where modernist architecture was set against a backdrop of beach and ocean. Among the materials that defined his youth were formica countertops, plastic booth covers, and the tiled surfaces he saw in his uncle's pizzería. Describing his aunt Esther's beauty parlor, he said: 'I was fascinated by the blow-dryers, the small feet of the furniture, the curtains. It was amazing: it was the most modern [thing that] had arrived before television’. 43 As formal interventions on the history of Argentine abstraction, his works replaced the rational grid of Concrete Art and Grupo Madí by a type of pattern that was reminescent of the tablecloth or upholstery ubiquitous in the urban middle class households of his childhood. By replacing the angular frames of the Grupo Madí with pseudo-baroque enroulements (roccoco because of their asymmetrical distribution), his paintings flaunt their decorative qualities reclaiming for camp an inversion of the hierarchy established by American modernism after Clement Greenberg decreed that all art dealing with daily life fell into the category of kitsch.44
This repositioning of kitsch points at the private and public traumas of the artist’s childhood. In spite of his rejection of declamative politics, both the art that he decided to appropriate and the choice of kitsch as the style of that appropriation were charged with political meaning. During the first two governments of Juan Doming Perón (1945-1955), the authorities of the Ministry of Education were explicit in their rejection of geometric and abstract art which they perceived as aestheticising, formalist, elitist, and socially unconcerned.45 The official empathy towards geometric art would end in 1955 when after a period of political turmoil that started on June 16, 1955, Navy and Air Force aircrafts bombed the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires’s main square, killing over 300 civilians and wounding hundreds more. The attack remains the largest aerial bombing ever executed on the Argentine mainland and aimed at deposing President Juan Perón. With the backing of the C.G.T (General Confederation of Labour) which called the workers to defend the regime, the Presidente Juan D. Perón could resist until September 16 when a new uprising led by General Eduardo Leonardi, General Pedro E. Aramburu and Admiral Isaac Rojas deposed him establishing a provisional government. President Leonardi designated Jorge Romero Brest as the new director of the National Museum of Fine Arts who was a firm supporter of modernist abstraction. So when on March 13th, 1961, the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy launched the Alianza para el Progreso [Alliance for Progress], a programme of economic, social and cultural assistance aimed at minimising the Soviet influence in the continent, Romero Brest found widespread support among national, international, private and public institutions for his project of promotion of Argentine art in the Global North. At first, he endorsed abstraction and later, the local developments of Pop art and the Neo-Avant-Garde through which a change from a contemplative to a participative spectatorship became evident.
When in August of 1961 the governments of Latin America and the United States gathered in Punta del Este to transform the Organización de Estados Americanos [Organisation of American States], the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (Interamerican Development Bank) and the CEPAL (the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean) into the main vehicles of financial cooperation; the conditions for aperturism and internationalisation were established. The implications of these desarrollista [development oriented] policies for Argentine art were twofold. Firstly, artists started apeing the art of the North and secondly, a series of international awards were created as platforms where reknown international art critics could acknowledge the internationalist adequacy of local art.46 Therefore, the kind of art that Gumier Maier decided to queerise was symbolically charged with the concerted and at times, traumatising efforts of the Argentine bourgeoisie to open the economy to the United States against the dictates of Peronism and the Unions. Such efforts intermitently led to political violence and the emergence of a political art that ended up rejecting the art of the hegemonic North as colonialist.
Kitsch as a Tool for Disembodying the Voluptuous Neo-Baroque
The historical backdrop of Gumier Maier’s recontextualisation of kitsch was probably unknown to the poorly educated Schiliro who, at least in one ocassion, expressed his disliking of his boyfriend’s art: 'I don't like what Jorge (Gumier Maier) does. Eventhough I like his materials, I dislike what he does with them. I don't know if he has an issue with logic but what his works communicate, at least to me, are square shapes bound to their frame charged with anyyhing but colour. Far too many straight lines´. Although his disliking is, at first, formal; it has to do with the work´s emocional detachment. Schiliro senses that Gumier Maier´s art illustrates an established set of ideas which goes against one of the main tenets of his own manifesto that art should never function as an illustration of an intention.48
Although, in time, Gumier Maier’s artworks became increasingly sculptural, their meaning was not extracted phenomenologically but optically through a process of decodification. By replacing the rigorous original grids of Concrete abstraction by kitsch decorative patterns and by framing those patterns with asymmetric roccoco curvilinear shapes his works functioned as visual illustrations of what Nestor Perlongher defined as Neo-barroso [a play of words that sounds like Neo-Baroque but actually means Neo-Muddy] which, again, derived from Gilles Deleuze’s politico-philosophical take on aesthetics. For Cecilia Palmeiro, Perlongher’s main goal is to articulate the expressive aspects of the work of art with a bodily experience: ‘It is an effect of reading: the way sounds add up and are iterated creating the feeling of bodily flows.49 This embodied engagement is what Schiliro, in conversation with Moreno, perceived as missing in the work of Gumier Maier. In spite of what he stated in the third tenet of his manifesto Avatars of Art, Gumier Maier's artworks demanded to be 'judged as failed or succesfulillustrationsofanintention.'50 Hence,his theoretical rejection of conceptual, political and self-validating art did not materialise in his art works.
Refocussing Political Conceptualism in Buenos Aires
Gumier Maier’s use of kitsch to bridge the gap between art and politics happens in the midst of a refocussing of political conceptualism taking place in Latin America during the 1990s. This reconfiguration aimed at overcoming the binarist opposition between formalism (afterClement Greenberg’s medium-centered analyses) and a type of political art unconcerned with aesthetics that, since the 1960s, had embraced, what, from a formalist perspective, Greenberg had considered as kitsch. After the dematerialised conceptualist interventions on the public sphere enacted in the 1960s and early 1970s by left-wing artistic collectives such as Tucumán Arde, in Argentina, Grupo Pentágono in Mexico or CADA in Chile; the military regimes reacted with unusual brutality and, in Argentina orchestrated a series of performances of terror which, according to Diana Taylor, made citizens indifferent to what was happening around them.51 When, during the 1980s, the military regime disintegrated and democracy returned,new artistic forms such as performance and body art became vehicles for a much needed release that happened outside the boundaries of traditional art institutions. Hence, the decision of some of the artists of the Rojas to abandon dematerialisation to go back to an object-based art that embraced kitsch. Gumier Maier's art works did not aim at phenomenologically altering the viewer’s perception but instead presented allegorical constructions aimed at being semiotically decoded by a contemplative viewer. Hence, in spite of their unconfessed political conceptualism, their works reverted to more traditional forms of spectatorship. By contrast to Gumier Maier and against prevalent notions of conceptualism as only able to communicate a political message, Schiliro produced a type of art that conveyed the viewers’ potential to properly mourn both the loss of their sensorial capacities to understand the world and their lack of empathy for those who were dying around them in the midst of the AIDS crisis.
1 In the United States, a series of drugs called protease inhibitors, first approved in 1995, were about to revolutionise the treatment of patients infected with the AIDS virus. These drugs were usually taken with two other drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors. The combined drug ‘cocktail’ has helped change AIDS since 1995 to 2000 from an almost certain death sentence to a chronic manageable disease. Mitzi Baker, "Three drug combination found most effective in treating HIV infection", Stanford Report (Jan.14, 2004), 2. 2 As late as September 1987, La Nación newspaper’s Sunday supplement headlined ‘Children with AIDS. A desperate battle: overcoming the limitations of science and prejudice’ [‘Niños con SIDA. La lucha desesperada: superar los límites de la ciencia y el muro de los prejuicios’] and reported cases in the United States without mentioning a single case in Argentina. According to María Laura Rosa this blindness was current in the media coverage of the time. María Laura Rosa, "Fuera de discurso. El arte feminista de la segunda ola en Buenos Aires" (PhD dissertation, Madrid: UNED, 2011), 330.
3 Marta Dillon, Vivir con virus: relatos de la vida cotidiana (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Norma, 2004), 20. 4 The most powerful influence on the French gay movement arguably was the antipsychiatry movement shaped throughout the 1960s by such clinicians and philosophers as R.D. Laing, David Cooper and Michel Foucault. This liberationist movement reappraised schizophrenia and madness, denouncing institutionalised psychiatry as an agent of coercion. Guy Hocquenghem, a radical gay activist, intellectual, filmmaker, and prolific novelist, published his first book Homosexual Desire, four years after French workers, activists and students joined forces in May 1968 to transform society and sexual politics. His book drew from the energy and inspiration of the May uprisings and was strongly indebted to both the antipsychiatry movement in France and the formation, in 1971, of the Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire (FHAR) a predominantly lesbian liberation group. Hocquenghem used psychoanalytic concepts to advance a radical gay critique of the nuclear family and the capitalist state. In Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, published the same year as Hocquenghem’s study and translated in 1977, Félix Guattari and philosopher Gilles Deleuze argue that classical psychoanalysis was complicit in formulating the Oedipus complex as a way to regulate desire. Hocquenghem contends that the family creates homosexuality as a category designed to contain its fear of an unsublimated desire. In making this claim, he rejected the liberal civil rights model adopted in the United States by stipulating that any exclusive homosexual characterisation of desire is a fallacy of the imaginary. Therefore, like Deleuze and Guattari, he advocated various forms of protest against the Oedipal system including impersonal sex, that would release desire from all existing frameworks. Hocquenghem’s polemic strongly influenced Italian gay liberation theorist Mario Mieli whose Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique appeared in 1977 is an analogous attempt to liberate desire from the nuclear family. These ideas were developed in Argentina by essayist, poet and activist Nestor Perlongher while participating at the Frente de Liberación Homosexual (FLH) and in Brazil at the Group SOMOS. Guy Hocquenghem, Homosexual Desire (London: Allison and Busby, 1972); Mario Mieli, Towards a Gay Communism (London: Pluto Press, 2018); Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (London: Continuum, 2004); Nestor Perlongher, Prosa Plebeya (Buenos aires: Ediciones Colihue, 2016). More on the European debate in Tim Dean (ed), Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) and in Nestor Perlongher’s activism and poetry in Cecilia Palmeiro, Desbunde y Felicidad: De la Cartonera a Perlongher, (Buenos Aires: Título, 2013).
5 Cerviño provides factual information that confirms Omar Schiliro and Jorge Gumier Maier’s relationship. Mariana Cerviño, "El arte como salvación" en Ahora voy a brillar. Omar Schiliro (exhibition catalogue), Paola Vega and Cristina Schiavi (Buenos Aires: Fundación Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, 2018), 77.
6 Omar Schiliro, Batato te entiendo [Batato I Understand You], 1993, plastic and glass elements with light, 190 x 60 cm, Private Collection. 7 Omar Schiliro, Untitled, 1992, plastic and glass elements with light, 113 x 110 x 23 cm, Collection Ignacio Liprandi. 8 Omar Schiliro, Mandala, 1993, plastic and glass elements with light, 85 x 20 cm, private collection.
9 Jorge Gumier Maier interviewed by Francisco Lemus in February, 2016 quoted in Francisco Lemus, "Omar Schiliro: artesano de la alegria", El Banquete de los Dioses: Revista de Filosofía y Teoría Política Contemporánea, Vol.5 Number 7 (2016) p. 11 and Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life. (London: Hay House, 1984). 6-7. 10 Hernán Amejeiras, "Un debate sobre las características del supuesto 'arte light'", La Maga (June 9th, 1993), 15; Roberto Amigo, "80/90/80", Ramona 87 (December 2008), 8-14; Carlos Basualdo, The Rational Twist (New York: Apex Art, 1996); Laura Batkis, "The Language of Parody", Lápiz: Revista Internacional de Arte 158/159 (December-January 1999/2000), 109-114; Ana María Battistozzi, "La Puerta que abrió el Rojas", Clarín (May 31, 1997); Silvana Curti, "Jorge Gumier Maier y Omar Schiliro", Espacio del Arte 1, No2 (1993), 18-21; Jorge Gumier Maier, "Avatares del Arte", La Hoja del Rojas, Year II Number 11 (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas (1989) ICAA Record ID 768333; Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Rojas", in 5 años en el Rojas (Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1994) ICAA Record ID 768212; Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Tao del Arte" in the catalogue of the exhibition El Tao del Arte (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Recoleta, 1997) ICAA Record ID 769509; Inés Katzenstein, "Acá Lejos: Arte en Buenos Aires durante los 90", Ramona 37 (Buenos Aires, December 2003), 4-15; Fabián Lebenglik, "La Galería de El Rojas: El Tao del Arte", Página 12 (May 1997); Francisco Lemus, "Omar Schiliro: artesano de la alegría", El Banquete de los Dioses: Revista de Filosofia y Teoria Política Contemporáneas, Vol. 5 Number 7, (2016), 11; Francisco Lemus, "Omar Schiliro: el bijoutier del Italpark", Libro de Actas del III Coloquio Internacional ‘Saberes contemporáneos desde la diversidad sexual: teoría, crítica, praxis’, Rosario (2016), 2; Jorge Lopez Anaya, "El absurdo y la ficción en una notable muestra", La Nación, (1992); Patricia Rizzo (ed.), Artistas Argentinos de los 90s (translated by Ed Shaw), (Buenos Aires: Fondo Nacional de las Arte, (1999); Andrea Alejandra Trotta, "La estética del Rojas. Construcción y legitimación de un espacio de artes plásticas en la Argentina de los Noventas". MA Dissertation. Buenos Aires: IUNA, 2004.
11 Jorge Gumier Maier, "Avatares del Arte", La Hoja del Rojas, Year II Number 11 (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas (1989), ICAA Record ID 768333. 12 During the 1980s, Argentine art saw a return to painting characterised as neo-Expressionism. Some of the artists who participated in this artistic movement were: Grupo Babel (Nora Dobarro, Juan Lecuona, Gustavo Lopez Armentía and others), Grupo Loc-son (Guillermo Conte, Rafael Bueno and Máximo Okner), Alfredo Prior, and Gullermo Kuitca, among others. though many of these artists were clearly influenced by the 1960's New-Figuration artists like Jorge de la Vega, Luis Felipe Noé, Ernesto Deira, and Romulo Macció- their art was informed by the complex political and social atmosphere of the 1980s, which witnessed the end of the military regime, the Falklands War with the UK, and the transition into democracy. Jorge Gumier Maier, "Avatares del Arte", La Hoja del Rojas, Year II Number 11 (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas (1989) ICAA Record ID 768333; Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Rojas", in 5 años en el Rojas (Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1994) ICAA Record ID 768212; Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Tao del Arte" in the catalogue of the exhibition El Tao del Arte (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Recoleta, 1997) ICAA Record ID 769509. 13 Francisco Lemus, "Derivas y resistencias en torno al arte argentine frente a la crisis del SIDA", en Caiana #6 (2015), 2.
14 Jorge Macchi and Marcelo Pombo, in conversation, "Dos conceptualistas de distintas vertientes: J.Macchi y M.Pombo", Ramona Revista de Artes Visuales (Agosto del 2000), 18. In the original in Spanish: ‘Qué se yo, a mí me parece raro preguntarle a alguien por qué se viste de tal manera’. The translation is mine.
15 Pombo says: `It is important to talk about art... I don’t know. Like when I told you on the phone: “If art is dead why are we going to talk about art?”. I said it half seriously. I don’t know’. Macchi’s response was: ‘If you said that art is dead. Why were you painting earlier today?’. The original In Spanish. Pombo” ‘No sé, qué sé yo... Cuando te dije por teléfono: “Si el arte murió, para qué vamos a ponernos a hablar de arte? Macchi: ‘Si vos decís que: “el arte murió”, por qué estabas pintando esta tarde?’. The translation is mine. Jorge Macchi and Marcelo Pombo, in conversation, ‘Dos conceptualistas’ (2000), 18. 16 Idem. 17 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (London: Continuum, 2004), xix.
18 Nestor Perlongher, Prosa Plebeya: Ensayos 1980-1992 (Buenos Aires: Colihue, 2016), 95-6. Spanish original: ‘Cierta disposición al disparate, un gusto por el enmarañamiento quesuena kitsch o detestable para las pasarelas de las modas clásicas, no es un error o un desvío, sino que parece algo constitutivo, de cierta intervención textual que afecta las texturas latinoamericanas. Then: ‘Saturación, en fin, del lenguaje “comunicativo”. El lenguaje, podría decirse, “abandona” (o relega) su función de comunicación, para desplegarse como pura superficie, espesa e irisada, que “brilla en sí”. Finally: ‘La máquina barroca lanza el ataque estridente de sus bisuterías irisadas en el plano de la significación, apuntando al nódulo del sentido oficial de las cosas’. The translation is mine. 19 Jorge Macchi and Marcelo Pombo, in conversation, ‘Dos conceptualistas’ (2000), 18. The original in Spanish: ‘Bueno: basta de hablar! ... y, al mismo tiempo, me gusta hablar así, pero con un sentido más banal. No, el tema es en serio. A mí las palabras me parece que sirven para disfrazar, no sé... Algo que me complace es no preocuparme de nada: no reflexionar de nada...’. 20 Mariana Cerviño,, ‘El arte como salvación’, en Ahora voy a brillar. Omar Schiliro (exhibition catalogue) (Buenos Aires: Fundación Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, 2018), 77-91.
21 The original reads: ‘A diferencia de Kuropatwa y Maresca, no hay en Schiliro una poética de lo seco y devastado. Todo es brillante, Pulido. Ningún propósito, menos aún, de comentar el desgarro, de enarbolar la queja o documentar sus llagas. En tiempos de desencanto, Schiliro tuvo la sensatez, la sabiduría de crear un mundo encantado, idílico’. Jorge Gumier Maier, "Tres Artistas con SIDA", Segunda Época (Diciembre 2019), 5-7. The quote is in page 5. 22 The original reads: ‘Schiliro fue alguien que al enterarse que era HIV positivo, decide “brillar”, y a los quince días realizar su primer obra -un deslumbrante arreglo floral- para una muestra colectiva, BIENVENIDA PRIMAVERA (1991). “Hice una obra que veo como una explosion de angustias, depresiones, que se tornaron primaverales. Esto lo relaciono con síntomas míos, llagas, manchas en al piel; todo se transformó en eso...’.Jorge Gumier Maier, "Tres Artistas con SIDA", Segunda Época (Diciembre 2019), 5-7. The quote is in page 5.
23 From this point of view, Marcelo Pombo came from a working class background but his racial and educational credentials excluded him from that allegedly extreme definition of marginality.
24 Jorge Gumier Maier, "Tres Artistas con SIDA", Segunda Época (Diciembre 2019), 5-7. The quote is in p. 5. 25 During the 1980s, Argentine art saw a return to painting characterised as neo-Expressionism. Some of the artists who participated in this artistic movement were: Grupo Babel (Nora Dobarro, Juan Lecuona, Gustavo Lopez Armentía and others), Grupo Loc-son (Guillermo Conte, Rafael Bueno and Máximo Okner), Alfredo Prior, and Gullermo Kuitca, among others. Although many of these artists were clearly influenced by the 1960's New-Figuration movement and artists such as Jorge de la Vega, Luis Felipe Noé, Ernesto Deira, and Rómulo Macció, their art was informed by the complex political and social atmosphere of the 1980s, which witnessed the end of the military regime, the Falklands’ War with the UK, and the transition into democracy. The documents mentioned are: Jorge Gumier Maier, "Avatares del Arte", La Hoja del Rojas, Year II Number 11 (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas (1989) ICAA Record ID 768333; Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Rojas", in 5 años en el Rojas (Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1994) ICAA Record ID 768212; Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Tao del Arte" in the catalogue of the exhibition El Tao del Arte (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Recoleta, 1997) ICAA Record ID 769509
28 Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Rojas", in 5 años en el Rojas (Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1994) ICAA Record ID 768212. The ellipsis is mine. Translated by Kristina Cordero in Ursula Davila-Villa, Recovering Beauty, catalogue of the exhibition Recovering Beauty (2011), 150. 29 Idem. 30 Idem. 31 On January 23, 1989, fortytwo operatives of the Movimiento Todos por la Patria (MTP) revolutionary group staged an attack on the General Belgrano Mechanised Infantry Regimen No. 3 at La Tablada, Buenos Aires province. In the ensuing fight, thirtynine insurgents and soldiers were killed. The leader of the MTP, Enrique Gorriarán Merlo, had led the Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), one of the most effective armed insurgencies of the 1970's. His explosive reappearance on the national political scene was not the only chilling anachronism of that day, the assault was eerily reminiscent of dozens of similar attacks on military and non- military targets by leftists revolutionaries during the 1970's that had contributed to massive political destabilisation in Argentina in the lead up to the 1976 military coup d'état. The ostensible motive for the attack was the MTP's fear of a new military takeover of the civilan government. Some found the reasoning delusional. However, only six weeks before La Tablada, Colonel Mohamed Ali Seineldín had launched a failed coup attempt at the Villa Martelli military base, one in a squence of such risings after the return of democracy in 1983. J. Lofredo, "Herejes y alquimistas: Grupos radicalizados en la Argentina", in Nueva Sociedad, Nr.146, 48- 56. Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Rojas", in 5 años en el Rojas (Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1994) ICAA Record ID 768212. The ellipsis is mine. Translated by Kristina Cordero in Ursula Davila-Villa, Recovering Beauty, catalogue of the exhibition Recovering Beauty (2011), 150. 32 It should be born in mind that before becoming a critic, Jorge Lopez Anaya was an informalist painter that showed at the Lirolay Gallery in 1961 in a show that is considered as seminal in the history of Argentine art as one of the first occasions in which an anti-art type of art was exhibited. His ‘destroyed’ works and also his previous informalist paintings fit into the category that Gumier Maier considers as ‘stomachist’ for they were ‘messy, rebellious and dared to deal in ugliness’. The fact that in 1992 as an art critic he automatically associated kitsch with ‘light’ (as opposed to ‘serious’) shows how anachronistic his point of view was if it is born in mind that such association was derived from Clement Greenberg’s binarist opposition between (high) ‘Art’ and ‘kitsch’ understood as popular culture in his "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" published at the Partisan Review (Autumn 1939): 34-49. Jorge Lopez Anaya, "El absurdo y la ficción en una notable muestra" in La Nación (August 1, 1992). 33 Jorge Gumier Maier, The Rojas, prefatory essay of the book 5 años en el Rojas published by the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1994. The ellipsis is mine. The ellipsis is mine. Translated by Kristina Cordero in Ursula Davila-Villa, Recovering Beauty, catalogue of the exhibition Recovering Beauty (2011), 150.
34 Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp" in Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject, A Reader, ed. Fabio Cleto (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 53. 35 Elizabeth Otto, Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics (Cambridge, Massachussetts: the MIT Press), 147. 36 The translation is mine. The original in Spanish says: 'Para los inventaron este termino arte rosa, light, o arte puto si no se animan a decirlo, que expliquen qué es ese arte y que digan si creen que el arte se ha putizado'. Hernán Amejeiras, :"Un debate sobre las características del supuesto 'arte light'", La Maga (June 9th, 1993), 15.
37 Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press 2005). 38 Judith Halberstram, The Queer Art of Failure (Durhan: Duke University Press, 2011).
39 Gumier Maier was born in 1953 and dropped out in the third year of studying art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano in 1968. During the dictorship he became an art critic and a writer for the magazine El expreso imaginario [The imaginary express], he founded a drawing and painting workshop for young artists, and chronicled, during the transition to democracy in 1983, the burgeoning local gay scene for the magazine El Porteño. In 1989, he was appointed as director of the Rojas Gallery. 40 The Concrete art movement dominated Argentine and much of South American art during the first half of the twentieth century. The Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención [Association of Concrete-Invention Art] was founded in November 1945 with an exhibition that took place at the studio of abstract artist Tomás Maldonado (born in Buenos Aires in 1922 and died in Milan in 2018) who in March 1946 with Edgar Bayley, Alfredo Hlito, Enio Iommi, Manuel Espinosa, Claudio Girola, Raúl Lozza, Juan Alberto Molenberg, Lidy Prati, Antonio Caraduje, Simón Contreras, Primaldo Mónaco, Oscar Núñez y Jorge Sousa signed the Manifiesto Invencionista [Invencionist Manifesto]. In that document, they proclaimed that ‘the time of fictional representation is over. Scientific aesthetics will replace the old idealist one as well as the nefarious vermin of romanticism and existentialism’. According to them, their art would allow men to engage ‘with things directly instead of through their fictional side’. Theirs was ‘a precise technique and aesthetics to counter the idea of “good taste”’. They called this ‘the white function of art: neither to search nor to find. Just to create’. This notion of ‘white function’ was derived from Kazimir Malevich’s White on White (1918) which had been associated to Latin American art in a 1929 article written by Dutch artist Theo Van Doesburg dedicated to the work of Uruguayan artists Joaquín Torres García where he links it to the way engines had replaced horse: ‘the dark paintings of the Renaissance had been firstly overcome by blue paintings of the luminous period. Today, the future of painting are white paintings’. Edgar Bayley, Alfredo Hlito, Enio Iommi, Manuel Espinosa, Claudio Girola, Raúl Lozza, Juan Alberto Molenberg, Lidy Prati, Antonio Caraduje, Simón Contreras, Primaldo Mónaco, Oscar Núñez y Jorge Sousa, ‘Manifiesto Invencionista’, Revista Arte Concreto Invención, N° 1, Buenos Aires (agosto de 1946), p. 8. Théo Van Doesburg, "Le planisme de Torres-García" (written in Paris, 13th May, 1929) quoted in Marie-Aline Prat, "La temporada parisiens", in Hommage a Torres-García. Œuvres de 1928 à 1948 (Paris: Galerie Marwan Hoss, 1990), 35. The translation is mine. 41 Juan Melé's Marco recortado No.2 [Cut-out Frame no.2], 1946, oil on hardboard, Collection Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, promised gift to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 42 Jorge Gumier Maier, Untitled, n.d., acrylic on wood, 149 x 160 cm, Collection Gustavo Bruzzone.
43 Jorge Gumier Maier, "Jorge Gumier Maier" in Victoria Verlichak (ed.), El ojo del que mira, Artistas de los noventa. 1st ed. (Buenos Aires: Fundación PROA, 1998), 26. Original in Spanish: 'Me fascinaba ver los secadores, las patitas de los muebles, las cortinas. Era bárbaro, era lo más moderno hasta que llegó la televisión'. The translation is mine. 44 Clement Greenberg, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch", Partisan Review (Autumn 1939), 34-49.
45 Andrea Giunta, Vanguardia, internacionalismo y política. Arte argentino en los años sesenta (Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidós, 2001), 66.
46 Two of those international awards were the one at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (sponsored by a local industrialist with strong links with American capital) and the one given by the Biennials in Córdoba (sponsored by American companies already operating in Argentina). Andrea Giunta, Vanguardia, internacionalismo y política. Arte argentino en los años sesenta (Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidós, 2001), Chapter 6. 47 María Moreno, 'Estrella Fugaz", Página 12 (29 de abril, 2018), 11. Original: 'A mí no me gusta lo que hace Jorge. Me gusta el material pero no lo que hace con ese material. Yo no se si tiene un rollo con la lógica pero lo que a mí me transmite es una cosa cuadrada con un limite que no tiene otra carga que el color. Muchas rectas'. The translation is mine.
48 Jorge Gumier Maier, "El Rojas", in 5 años en el Rojas (Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1994) ICAA Record ID 768212. The ellipsis is mine. Translated by Kristina Cordero in Ursula Davila-Villa, Recovering Beauty, catalogue of the exhibition Recovering Beauty (2011), 150. 49 Cecilia Palmeiro, Desbunde y Felicidad. De la Cartonera a Perlongher (Buenos Aires: Título, 2013), 120. The original in Spanish: ‘Y este es un efecto de lectura: por la acumulación e iteración de sonidos que producen la sensación de los flujos corporales’. The translation is mine. 50 Jorge Gumier Maier, "Avatares del Arte", La Hoja del Rojas, Year II Number 11 (Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas (1989) ICAA Record ID 768333
51 Ana Longoni and Mariano Mestman, Del Di Tella a ‘Tucumán Arde’: Vanguardia artística y política en el 68 argentino (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 2013), Andrea Giunta, Vanguardia, internacionalismo y política. Arte argentino en los años sesenta (Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidós, 2001) and Luis Camnitzer, Didáctica de la liberación: Arte conceptualista Latinoamericano (Murcia: HUM/CCE-CCEBA, 2008).