The Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires announces Liliana Maresca: El ojo avizor.
The Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, governed by the Ministry of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires, presents the exhibition: Liliana Maresca: El ojo avizor. Obras 1982 – 1994 [Liliana Maresca: The Keen Eye. Artworks 1982 – 1994].
This major retrospective of Liliana Maresca’s work covers twelve years of artistic production: from 1982 to 1994, the year of her death. Curated by the Museum’s Senior Curator, Javier Villa, the exhibition was set in train four years ago by a research project, in which the Moderno set out to rescue and pay tribute to the power of an artist so vital to an understanding of the present, and keep her relevance and accessibility alive for all.
Victoria Noorthoorn, Director of the Museum, explains the significance of this exhibition in the accompanying exhibition catalog: “Today, when the social role of the artist has been so devalued, it is of particular importance for the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires to draw attention to a watershed figure in the history of Argentine art, whose practices still directly challenge our society in an œuvre that is at once sincere and unashamedly provocative and defiant.”
Liliana Maresca was an emblematic figure for the Argentinian visual arts scene of the ’80s and ’90s, and one of the most active builders of the interdisciplinary artistic community that took shape toward the end of Argentina’s last military dictatorship. She was an artist whose work tackled problems central to society from a critical standpoint, like the political state of Argentina in the ’90s or HIV/AIDS, which affected her personally. In the words of Javier Villa, “Maresca placed her body centre stage and expanded out from that intimate realm onto the art scene and from there into society as whole. Like a powerful antenna, she was able to pick up and broadcast everything that was key and critical during turbulent times.”
Through this exhibition and its preliminary researches, the Moderno seeks to deepen the important work carried out for the first retrospective of Liliana Maresca, Transmutaciones [Transmutations], in 2008 at the Museo Castagnino+macro in Rosario and at the Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires. On this occasion, five installations have been reconstructed for the first time to bring the artist’s practices closer to the public.
Liliana Maresca was born in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires Province, in 1951. She began producing sculptures in the early 1980s, assemblages of junk she scavenged on the streets, including works like Torso (1982), No camina [Don’t Walk] (1982), or Madre con niño [Mother and Child] (1984). These pieces are reflections on the torture suffered a few years earlier by a whole generation, on women’s bodies, sexuality, and the artist’s role in society. This can be seen in the photo series “Liliana Maresca con su obra” [Liliana Maresca with her Work] (1983) in collaboration with Marcos López. The artist would produce three other series with the same photographer: “Liliana Maresca frente al Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes” [Liliana Maresca in front of the National Museum of Fine Arts] (1984), “Liliana Maresca frente a la Casa de Gobierno” [Liliana Maresca in front of the Government House] (1984) and “Liliana Maresca en el edificio Marconetti” [Liliana Maresca in the Marconetti Building] (1984). In all of them, she displays a liberated body offered up in confrontation of artistic and political institutions, or in communion with spaces of the underground community, in which she was highly active. As Villa puts it, “Maresca’s body could never be confined or disciplined, just as the objects she produced during these years were never static or autonomous. She used her body to defy her context in a vital, forthright way; it was always present but forever changing, just like society, the art scene and her objects.”
Maresca extended the range of her output in this period, which marks a shift in her thinking, from the individual to the social body. She spearheaded a series of collective projects intended to “put the body into democracy” and reconnect art with society and society with itself. These projects were: Una bufanda para la ciudad [A Scarf for the City] (1985), at the Galería Adriana Indik; Lavarte [Laundromart] (1985), organized in a laundromat in the Monserrat district of Buenos Aires; and La Kermesse [The Bazaar] (1986), an incursion by underground artists in the highly visible public space of the Centro Cultural Recoleta. In each of these projects, Maresca opted for a collective system of work and authorship, while prioritizing spectator participation.
In 1987, Maresca was told she was HIV positive. Although the news slowed her output for two years, her return to the scene in 1989 was energetic. Projects like No todo lo que brilla es oro [Not All that Glitters is Gold], La cochambre. Lo que el viento se llevó [Cochambre: Gone with the Wind], and Recolecta [Recolecting], marked a material turn in her œuvre, after which she worked with organic materials like tree branches or more traditional materials like bronze. In these and subsequent projects, her search became more refined compared to the visceral quality of her work in the ’80s, and alluded more precisely and directly to the material and symbolic violence associated with the advent of a new political context in Argentina. Rampant neoliberalism and HIV/AIDS were the backdrop for several of her projects in this period (though Maresca never referred outright to the disease). She began to develop archetypal images like the sphere and the cube (respectively linked to the celestial and the terrestrial), but also began incorporating the color gold, linked as both alchemy and spiritual transcendence, and to money and capitalist violence, a reference that encompassed everything from growing poverty in Argentina (Recolecta [Recolecting]) or the oil war in the Persian Gulf (Wotan – Vulcano [Wodin-Vulcan]) to aboriginal genocides for colonial gold (El Dorado). This last work was installed in the exhibition La Conquista [The Conquest] (1991), organized and curated by Maresca herself, Elba Bairon, and Marcia Schvartz, in a major new collective drive, aimed at bringing together historic artists of the ’80s and ’90s scenes.
In her last three projects, the offering up of her body reappeared forcefully in connection to communication with the others. These works range from the most intimate emotional attachment—Ella y yo [She and I] (1994)—to relationships with strangers through an ad placed in an erotic magazine inviting people to phone the artist and discuss her work—Maresca se entrega a todo destino [Maresca Delivers Herself Up For All Purposes] (1993). The use of her own body may also allude to the artist’s role in the cultural scene and society at large: an attempt to establish a relationship with her colleagues and the wider art community, as in Espacio disponible [Space Available] (1992), or to include her naked form as another public figure in a collage of politicians, military men, sports personalities, and show business characters, as in Imagen pública – Altas esferas [Public Image—High Spheres] (1993).
In the last years of her life, Maresca drew Mascaritas [Little Masks], which could be read as a symbolic reconstruction of the community that accompanied her throughout her career and her illness. These works crystallized out of the tenaciousness and fragility of a tired body: drawings made with simple lightweight easy-to-handle materials, executed in quick linear strokes and loud colors. Taken together, the ultimate end of these faces is to form a crowd.
As Javier Villa points out about the figure of Maresca: “Maresca’s legacy is a way of working that involves adopting a stance toward art, life, and other people, toward her times and her context, both political and personal. […] As an artist she was aware of the importance of her role in society and committed herself to it, denouncing indifference, selfishness and arrogance. Her art lives on in objects and documents that reflect her power and determination to change the world.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a monograph entitled Liliana Maresca, with texts by Javier Villa and María Gainza, and a biographical chronology by Laura Hakel. The publication was designed by Gastón Pérsico and Cecilia Szalkowicz, and includes all the material displayed in the Museum, in addition to unpublished works such as photographs by Alejandro Kuropatwa.
In the second half of the year, the Moderno will also be staging exhibitions by Sergio Avello and Elba Bairon, designed to discuss the problems embodied in these artists’ practices and the art scenes of the ’80s and ’90s, as well as their political and cultural contexts. The cycles El cine es otra cosa and Escuchar [sonidos visuales] take a programmatic look at the exhibitions and their contexts through film and experimental music. One of the central axes of this block is the Buenos Aires underground of the ’80s and ’90s, both as a natural habitat for artists and as a medium for the renewal and regeneration of social bonds.