Exhibition «Carlos Alonso. Painting and memory »curated by Maria Florencia Galesio and Pablo del Monte at MNBA. April 12 to July 14 2019
This exhibition of the emblematic Argentine artist Carlos Alonso is inaugurated on the occasion of the reopening of the renovated museum on the last April 12.
This is not a minor fact considering that it is the National Museum of Fine Arts, with all that this implies in relation to the construction of stories from an official space.
From the situation of power that the position of Director confers, Andrés Duprat maintains: “The history of the last half-century of Argentina cannot be thought without the work of Carlos Alonso”. It is evident how from this space of official legitimation the history of Argentine art is written and a canon is constructed.
I think it is interesting to introduce at this point the notion of Museum as a ritual, held by Carol Duncan: “it is precisely the complexity of a museum, of its entity as a cultural object loaded with symbolism at the same time as a social, political and ideological object, which It gives the notion of museum as well as ritual so attractive ». Here, and in relation to the question of the reconstruction of lost works, it is interesting to quote Isabel Tejeda Martin to analyze the reconstructed installation «Manos anónimas» that occupies a central place in the curatorial discourse, articulating the route and the script. It was originally made to appear in the exhibition Image of the current man in the MNBA in 1976 but because of the military coup d’état it was suspended. The installation was abandoned in the workshop and deteriorated. It is shown to the public for the first time after 43 years. In the words of Tejeda Martin “the reproductions must be understood despite their lack of authenticity as one more piece of history that is offered to us to live another very different contemporary experience: the ritual of visiting the museum.” Another issue that she points out and that occurs in this exhibition is that the reconstructed installation is endowed with the sacrosanct respect that its original predecessor had even without counting the aura referred to by the German thinker Walter Benjamin. The aura is reversed and this is often not explicit.
It is significant that the exhibition is organized on the basis of two axes: Painting and Tradition, in which the dialogue with masters of Argentine and universal art is shown; and Reality and memory, a strong criticism of power and the excesses that have been committed in politics since Argentina, especially during the last coup d’état. The motif of the meat, animal flesh and human flesh that as victims cross Argentine history appears in this axis. Here the complex question of memory comes into play, and I think it is interesting to ask the question of the extent to which the curators of the exhibition are aware that “the exhibitions are not only related to the history of art but, by intervening in the public sphere is immediately transformed into a position and, therefore, into a political act “as postulated by Florencia Battiti. In this case it is evident that those who delineated the curatorial script understand that Alonso’s work has the power to activate a narrative and emotional memory but it would seem that they consider that the works speak for themselves, forgetting “the powerful instance of interpretative mediation that involves an exhibition of visual arts »as Battiti maintains.
In relation to the memory, an issue that is given a leading role in this exhibition, it is inevitable to make connections with the unavoidable sample “Nymphs, snakes, constellations. The artistic theory of Aby Warburg »that simultaneously appears on the first floor of the museum.
Given the open and non-classical character of the German historian’s theory, characterized by anachronism and transversality, the exhibition is organized according to the themes that Warburg was passionate about. One of them is Distance and memory with its concept of space for reflection (Denkraum), the distance that memory helps us establish between the things of the world and our thinking. It is the memory, condensed in the objects of art, that guarantees the conservation of the Denkraum. Interesting are the resonances of these considerations of Warburg in relation to the work of Alonso and his critical look on Argentine history that appeals to activate memory.
In any case, visiting this exhibition is an experience from which we did not emerge unscathed …