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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Through June 13th
Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 9 PM
Sunday, 12 PM – 9 PM