In his first exhibition at the Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Guillermo Kuitca (born 1961, lives and works in Buenos Aires) is showing new paintings revolving around the subject of the conveyor belt.
Kuitca entered Argentina’s art scene with a first exhibition at the age of thirteen and subsequently soon outgrew the role of child prodigy. Today, his work is represented in some of the most distinguished collections on three continents. The international public has come to know him through his 1991 “Projects” show at the Museum of Modern Art and his participation in the documenta IX in Kassel (1992). His status as Argentina’s most renowned artist has further been confirmed by his shows at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London and the Center for Fine Arts in Miami (both 1994), at the Arts Club of Chicago (1999) and at the Fondation Cartier in Paris last year.
His elegantly and dreamily painted road and city maps, genealogical charts, theatre stages and apartment floor plans represent a world of places located between here and there, of spaces and events between reality and fiction and biographies between home and exile. One map has only places called San Juan de la Cruz – nowhere is everywhere. A street map has all the streets replaced by bones. The walls of the apartment plans are crying. Beds with maps painted on them combine the private and the public sides of the human condition.
While Kuitca’s earlier works have figures entering the stage sets, his paintings since the nineties have become increasingly depersonalised. The only human traces to be found are the pieces of luggage circulating on the conveyor belts as in Untitled (Unclaimed luggage) (2000). On a red background, we make out the shapes of luggage carousels. They are depicted from a bird’s eye view like in construction drawings. The pencilled lines are so thin, almost scratched into the red paint, that they very nearly seem to fade forever. The dynamically arranged bright rectangles of the suitcases travelling on the belts provide some relief in the endless circulation of the luggage carousels.
In Trauerspiel (2001), the narrative element is reduced to the title, the German word for tragedy, literally a “mourning play”. The object depicted is a conveyor belt whose schematic representation is broken up by a realistic treatment of the curtain fabric and the metal belt, which creates an ambivalent relationship of closeness and distance. The empty conveyor belt testifies to an absence, and the viewer cannot help the feeling that this is a lasting emptiness. At the same time, the monumental quality of the painting indicates a promise that cannot or does not want to be fulfilled. It is up to the viewers to fill this stage with their own longings and ideas.
Trauerspiel is equally striking in terms of style, as is Terminal, made the previous year. While in earlier works the gaze kept withdrawing from the object, as if seen through a zoom lens, here the object is brought near again. This double movement of extreme distance – until the objects can only be seen as thin lines and hardly recognisable shapes from a bird’s eye view – and extreme closeness, with the curve of the conveyor belts dramatically foreshortened as if on a theatrical stage, embodies the consistency of Kuitca’s work: the persistent search for pictorial forms that describe human existence.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue:
The catalogue text takes up an ongoing dialogue between the artist and Lynne Cooke (Curator, DIA Center for the Arts, New York) that was begun in 1994 and resumed in 1999. This written exchange has been continued for this show at the Galerie Hauser & Wirth, offering fascinating and highly personal insights into the artist’s work.
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About the artist
Born in 1961 in Buenos Aires, where he continues to live and work, Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca’s distinctive cubistoid style masterfully reconciles abstraction with an illusionist form of figuration. Informed by the worlds of architecture, music, theater and cartography, Kuitca’s paintings seek…Learn more