The other f-word

Feminism, I mean.

Nineteen female painters are showing works together at Centro Cultural Borges, but it’s not what you think. The paintings are vibrant, energetic, and largely apolitical. This is an exhibition of strong recent works by skilled mid-career painters. Without the show’s title, the fact that they are all women painters would’ve seemed little more than coincidental to me. CC Borges has not had to make drastic exceptions in quality to increase the number of female artists represented on their walls, which is probably how the proverbial angry feminist would have it anyways.

Detail of "Santa Ana" by Catalina Leon. 2009. 245 x 370 cm. Photo by Andy Donohoe.

I am still wary of exhibitions that showcase artists from a historically disadvantaged group. Too often, this type of show shouts something along the lines of, “You’re not half bad, for a girl!” Things can get patronizing fast. Then there’s the risk of pigeonholing an entire subpopulation if the artwork presented has a lot in common aesthetically. By seeking visual continuity, curators open the door for sweeping generalizations.

Detail of "Holograma del Libros de las Excepciones" by Silvia Gurfein. 2011. Polyptic in twenty-seven pieces. Photo by Andy Donohoe.

Fortunately, organizers Paola Vega and Adriana Minoliti avoided cliché by inviting a group of painters who share little else beyond their XX chromosomes. Any trends in the body of work felt simply reflective of trends in contemporary painting, not women painters. A concise, potent sampling of works from each artist helped me familiarize myself with artists new to me. By abandoning the common one-painting-per-painter format, the show felt thorough. Ample space at CC Borges meant I could think about each artist without conflicting artworks in my periphery.

Detail of "Simetria No. 21" by Veronica di Toro. 2009. 180 x 180 cm. Photo by Andy Donohoe.

The range of works was balanced, with enough punch to keep things from feeling overly neutral. The exacting, luminous crosses and exes of Veronica de Toro gleamed in contrast to some of the more tactile and textured paintings. I found the works that pushed painting outside the rectilinear canvas particularly striking. I liked not being able to tell if Catalina León’s sporadically organic edges were created in the studio or at random on the street corner. Leila Tschopp’s geometric painting-cum-installation emerging from the wall quite literally brought an otherwise cool, minimalist work into my personal space.

Looking at "Terrazas" by Leila Tschopp. 2009. 250 x 400 cm. Photo by Andy Donohoe.

Inés Raiteri’s paintings stayed with me all weekend. For me, she was the one artist whose gender shifted how I viewed the work. Her geometric paintings are pattern based. They immediately looked to me to be inspired by textiles, but no wall text confirmed or denied this inference. After the show, I found myself asking whether I would have assumed a male painter was sourcing his inspiration from textiles and fabrics, traditionally feminine craftwork. Would I have just called the male painter obsessive over symmetry and repetition? Raiteri pointed out my own biases, subtly but effectively.

My biggest qualm with the show was a lack of any painters with a street art aesthetic. This show claims to be a small but representative slice of Argentine painting in the past twenty years. The one muralled work was probably the weakest in the show, a pair of huge but unengaging blob-like tulips by Paola Vega. In my opinion, it is embarrassing that that space was not given to a legitimate female street artist. Particularly in Buenos Aires, accepting graffiti as a legitimate form of painting is not taboo, even in gallery settings. This omission gave the show a mature, High Art feel. Incorporating even one or two more rebellious, controversial artists would probably have exposed all of the works in the show to a wider audience.

Detail of work by Graciela Hasper. Photo by Andy Donohoe.

PintorAs is a solid contemporary painting group show. The installation and curating is museum quality. Some of the artists did not appeal to me whatsoever, as is always the case with group shows, but some others I loved. The caliber of the paintings is, on average, high enough that to isolate the women painters almost seems old-fashioned to me. But, most of these painters have been painting for several decades now. It certainly wasn’t always this easy for them to have such a dignified exhibition. PintorAs will please anyone who knows what it is like to overcome prejudice. It will also please anyone who just likes good painting.

 

PintorAs

Through June 13th

Centro Cultural Borges
Viamonte 525, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 9 PM
Sunday, 12 PM – 9 PM

 

9 thoughts on “The other f-word

  1. They are very beautiful paintings and thank you for bringing them to my attention. I understand your closing statement about younger “street” painters not being included.

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  2. It is refreshing as a woman to read a review of an all female show that does not belittle our sex. As a woman in the 21 century, although sexism is still a harsh reality, it is encouraging to read a review which allows gender to be a nonfactor.

    That said, I wonder how much the show
    itself allows for women to be seen as legitimate artists despite their biology. The author of the review is keen in her assessment that a crucial part of Argentinian art is missing, street art. I am forced to ponder if there is some connection between wanting the women’s art to be seen as “serious art” and the lack of the street art. One hopes that this is not case, and that like the author, the curators value the quality of the work by the artists’ talent not because it was made by a woman.

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  3. @Anna207 Excellent point. The organizers of this show are not really a part of the same generation as a lot of the street artists here. I am surprised they made little effort to embrace this serious component of BA art and youth culture, but maybe they are just not on the street art bandwagon yet.

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  4. As an American who knows nothing about the Buenos Aires art culture, I wonder how much of the typical gender-mixed gallery spaces are occupied by women and have been historically? Of course there is nothing wrong with holding a distinct show presenting women, I simply wonder what the context of this really is. I think its very telling that the quality did not suffer as a result of that selection pressure. This means that there is a large enough group who have had at least enough success in the past to continue working and improving for more than 10 years.

    It seems like a lot to expect of a population if they haven’t had a fertile environment for cultivation of skill, so I would imagine BA has witnessed a good degree of integration of women into galleries–otherwise how could there be so many with sustained experience. This will probably only encourage future female artists. Thank you for the excellent article.

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  5. @Jdiamonds In terms of gender balance, I don’t feel like BA is terribly distinct from the US/European art world. In both hemispheres, you can’t totally ignore an artist’s perspective. In that sense, the white heterosexual male always seems to get to be “the neutral.” But, when the art isn’t trying to be political, it isn’t all that fair to force politics onto someone’s artwork.

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  6. hola!

    gracias por la nota! me parece que tiene muchas reflexiones que me dan felicidad

    creo que conecta con muchas cosas que pensamos y en el sentido de

    no puedo evitar responder a ciertas cuestiones:

    ante todo si tu conclusion al ver la muestra es que no hay diferencia entre las biologias: la muestra fue un exito: esa era la moraleja que dio vida al proyecto.

    hasta la opcion sexual es una desicion y no se delimita por la biologia

    cuando la muestra estuvo en rosario: la critica fue que no poniamos “pintura de genero”

    imaginate! por esto nos parecia importante insistir sobre el tema, aunque por desgracia es algo viejo, pero que no se termina. como proyecto, creo que pintoras es necesario para el panorama de las artes porque la discriminacion sigue pasando en el mundo entero

    no buscamos los cliches de generos, y el arte callejero no estaba incluido en las listas de pintoras como no esta includo el arte textil propiamente dicho, el arte infantil o todas las demas etiquetas.

    el trabajo de paola no puede ser comparado con arte callejero por ser pintura mural: no tiene nada que ver con todas las substancias del grafiti.

    el arte callejero argentino (si estamos hablando de grafitis) tiene mas relacion al diseño y urbanismo que con la historia de la pintura argentina: eso es un hecho y no estoy marcando ningun tipo de valoración.

    nosotras pensamos en historia de la pintura reciente, por lo que el recorte que planteamos (caprichoso como cualquier recorte) no era coherente con esa eleccion por etiquetas, sino por nuestra vivencia como artistas en esas decadas. hubiera sido forzado y, reitero, yo no hago distinción entre alto y bajo arte: hago centros de mesa como pinto!

    la idea de arte serio me parece un chiste!

    aclaro, por las dudas!besos

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  7. Hola Kristen Moreau,

    Realmente te agradezco la deferencia de escribir una nota sobre la muestra. Me alegra que se reflexionen sobre muchos temas que me interesa que estén sobre “el tapete”

    Lamento que la lectura acerca de mi trabajo sea tan pobre, ya que el mismo se desprende justamente de una serie que vengo realizando desde fines del año 2009. Por ende, hay una investigación que lo sustenta, y un trabajo correspondiente que lo avala paso a paso. La pintura que realicé, nada tiene que ver con el graffiti (tema que no abordo desde ninguna de mis obras). He utilizado la pared como soporte en obras anteriores, en el mismo Centro Cultural Borges y en el Fondo Nacional de las Artes, de esos trabajos se desprende Chi Chi, al cual hacés referencia, el mismo justamente buscaba no tener nada que ver con lo que se entiende tradicionalmente como mural, buscaba una síntesis importante en cuanto a imagen, colores, y el modo de trabajarlos.

    A mí me resulta vergonzoso (retomando la palabra que leo en el artículo) la escritura de una reseña acerca de una muestra de arte sin haber realizado ningún tipo de investigación previa o posterior para poder fundamentar con sustento las palabras que se escriben.

    Al principio de tu nota planteás que afortunadamente, las organizadoras no hemos caído en el cliché típico de muestras de género y fuimos más allá de los cromosomas que compartimos. Ese es uno de los fundamentos del proyecto PintorAs.

    Nosotras realizamos un recorte acerca de la producción pictórica realizada por mujeres en los últimos años, y como todo recorte, es caprichoso, y nos hacemos cargo de ello. Podría fundamentar artista por artista el por qué de su inclusión. Y entonces, aclaro, que no incorporamos artistas callejeros (entiendo que seguís haciendo referencia la graffiti) porque no consideramos que sean parte de la Historia de la Pintura en nuestro país entre 1990-2010. No porque creamos que es un “arte bajo”, distinción, que a esta altura de la Historia del Arte Contemporáneo, me suena bastante graciosa! Y quería aclarar que sí invitamos a pintoras que trabajan en la calle pero no participaron del proyecto por razones personales.

    Saludos!!!

    Paola

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