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Is Mar del Plata the Argentine Twin Peaks?
Amadeo Azar’s work unfolds in a series. Recurrent subjects emerge, retreat and return as in the fibers of a weave, in which complexity becomes visible only by examining the complete piece. Failed utopias intertwine with the unfulfilled dreams of the middle class, the idealization from the periphery, the ideological hypocrisy, the anxiety of influence — “Argentine style.” Traces of the everyday and mundane arise now and then, accents that burst in with humour and that attach the work to the reality of the street and common interactions.
The fact that his works often take inspiration in found magazine and postcard images from the ‘50s and ‘60s or in films of the ‘70s is at the same time anecdotal and revealing. Although it’s not important to know the original reference to enter into the still and strange worlds of Azar’s imagery, some of that silent strangeness comes from a sense of the anachronistic, of something that never fulfilled its full purpose.
Here are stories of deflated greatness: devices created to solve great practical problems that nowadays seem absurd or picturesque; heroic architectures, perhaps designed to improve life, that now look oppresive; impressive crashed trucks, cars stalled in water or snow; the California-style cottage from Mar del Plata, his native city, mimesis of the American suburban illusion; the social tourism constructions by the Peronist government in Chapadmalal, forsaken for many decades.
In spite of the obscurity implicit in this subject matter, Azar’s approach avoids critical exaggeration, melancholy or over-dramatization. His gaze is calm, almost clinical. Some months ago, Amadeo declared a moratorium on the use of oil-based paint and he concentrated on watercolor. It was an astute artist’s decision, since the luminosity and transparence of this medium and his precision in its deployment counter the subject, acclimate the works to the atmosphere and lightness of an illustration, fostering the effect through its opposite.
His nearly surreal environments become concrete and real with the appearance of fragments of daily expressions, which Azar claims to “carefully listen to.” From the cable of a high-mountain cable car, the bunting reads “Muy típico de vos” (“Very typical of you”). The landscape painting of a rationalist-style building reads “Rivotril.” An empty interior view displays a series of books and publications about contemporary international art in English, from Taschen, on the floor. They belong to the kind that Argentine artistis look at as information, compass and influence. They are ordered forming the word “Fuck.”
The inclusion of language isn’t capricious — it works as an accumulator of meaning. In this exhibit, a scaled model based on an old photograph of the building of the National Military School built in the ‘30s, spells the word “HELL.” Other frequent intruders in Azar’s sceneries are works by influential international artists that he admires. A painting by Luc Tuymans decorates the impossible space of a motionless and timeless dinner. The work Preis (Price) by Martin Kippenberger becomes available for a pun, a play of words relevant to the psyche of the porteño: The price of being healthy; the frustrated greatness, the game of illusions, ambition and the ghost of failure; melancholy turned into a compassionate or ironic gaze; the ambivalence of desire and the rebelliousness in relation to the peripheral position of Buenos Aires in comparison to the cultural centers of the US or Europe; violence cowering under the surface of the everyday.
Without resorting to obvious and stereotypical imagery, the works of Amadeo Azar echo, in a subtle and disguised way, the issues and the emotional state of local contemporary culture.
Text by Nora Fisch
Through September 25th
Monday – Friday, 2 – 8 PM
Saturday – Sunday, 10 AM – 9 PM