Art history rarely moves in a straight line. Now more than ever, when it comes to a collective notion of Latin American art, there are as many ways to approach it as there are to traversing its nineteen countries and territories. Steering clear of a generalized survey of the region, we choose a more personal path by compiling works from Latin American artists that inspired us throughout our journey over the last decade, bringing to the fore the works, artists, and conversations that we couldn’t possibly forget.
First Day of Good Weather takes as its inspiration and starting point conversations that happened in and around Despacio. While it is true that personal dialogues can result in a filtered perception of reality—the filters as well as the perception being both highly subjective—that same subjectivity seems to be an essential ingredient for a truly independent art space. There are no set guidelines, just a vision that is focused through the discourse of like-minded peers.
The exhibition features artworks by sixteen artists from Central America, the majority of whom have never before shown their work in Germany. Also included are thirteen more Latin American artists who have been at the center of extensive dialogues detailing their profound influence on entire generations of artists, from Mexico’s Rio Grande to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego.
Spanning multiple genres and ranging in tone from political to humorous, the works transcend the immediate allure of the exotic to reveal the contagious spirit of curiosity. The artistic propositions are often balancing acts between everyday life and what it means to be an artist in Latin American society—a society which has a long history of wrestling with local and global political crises, colonial capitalism, abuse of power, and the struggles of subsisting day to day.
Art is critical thinking—building an awareness of the inner workings of the mind. But art is also making sense of the situations we find ourselves in. It helps us to accept that there is not such a thing as a single current reality, but rather a myriad of perceptions that together comprise our collective reality. The sum of all of these works is, therefore, much more like a fluid conceptualization of Latin America and its art than it is a static definition.
First Day of Good Weather takes visitors back to where everything began: the conversations with artists that sent our thoughts flying into space to return in new and unusual configurations that would culminate in more than fifty exhibitions and projects over the last decade. The exhibition is a voyage of discovery through the artistic territory of Latin America, far off the beaten path of exotic fantasies, dealing instead with specific experiences and contexts that exist in constant states of evolution. We wait, ever watchful, after each rainy season for that first day of good weather to begin our explorations all over again.
Thoughts by Sandino Scheidegger
The group exhibition opens on January 13th and runs through March 11th, 2017 at Sies + Höke in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Participating Artists: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Iván Argote, Sol Calero, Javier Calvo, Luis Camnitzer, Benvenuto Chavajay, Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker, Alejandro de la Guerra, Melissa Guevara, Federico Herrero, Walterio Iraheta, Alfredo Jaar, Regina José Galindo, Aníbal López, Teresa Margolles, Adrian Melis, Ronald Morán, Rivane Neuenschwander, Yoshua Okón, Liliana Porter, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Abigail Reyes, Crack Rodríguez, Gabriel Rodríguez, Tercerunquinto, Adán Vallecillo, and Guillermo Vargas Habacuc.
Photo credits and copyright: Images of the art works courtesy of the artist and their respective galleries. Installation views by Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf.
Berlin-based artist Julian Charrière moonlights as a poet scientist in the pursuit of his work, which The Guardian calls, "bracing, beautiful, quick with ideas and driven by a highly adventurous curiosity." Using specimens and photographic evidence collected on his adventures, the internationally-acclaimed artist encourages a confrontation between humanity and the elements, while lending a human element to both the sterility of the empirical world and the wilderness of the natural world.
From a great distance, our planet appears a perfectly spherical blue-green globe suspended in space as if by a string. If we zoom in, topography begins to appear, and upon even closer inspection, as do things like large cities and international borders. At such grand scales, these features, both geological and artificial, seem permanent, but when the scales of time are also stretched, the fragility of these attributes becomes clear. Volcanic eruptions can erase the great trade hub of Pompeii from existence or form whole new archipelagos. In much the same way, human influence can redraw borders and shift identities. As it was with the Partition of India, the largest human migration in history, a person can start their day one nationality and end it another.
It is the ever-interconnecting feedback loop between these kinds of synthetic and ecological forces that informs the art of Julian Charrière. His installation piece We Are All Astronauts, 2013, features antique globes suspended by strings over a table. Using an “international sandpaper”, of his own making, created with mineral samples from all UN-recognized countries, Charrière rubbed away the features of the globes, allowing the debris to settle on the flat surface below, forming something new and uncalculated from the static order that existed before, reflecting the chaos and creation inherent in change.
The work of the young French-Swiss artist includes performance, photographs, and installations, but the pieces serve more as evidence of Charrière’s process or, in many cases, his adventures. One such excursion found him on an ancient Icelandic iceberg, where he spent an entire day in blistering conditions attempting to melt the berg with a blowtorch. Monumental exercise in futility that it was (the small amounts of liquid water he was able to produce refroze almost as soon as it thawed), Charrière’s endeavors speak to the greater impact of humanity en masse, in which melting ice caps, mass extinctions, and rising global temperatures implicate our collective ability to affect geology and ecosystems far older than civilization. Charrière’s impermanent feat is immortalized in The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories, 2013, photographs that capture the lone man and his Promethean flame against the colossal berg.
The pursuit of his work has taken Charrière from the bustling streets of Venice, where he (humanely) painted bold colors into the plumage of live pigeons, to the desolate expanses of a Bolivian desert, where he collected compressed core samples infused with lithium—one of the simplest of elements, yet responsible for fueling our batteries and single-handedly regulating the minds of individuals with bipolar syndrome. This enduring pursuit has left him no stranger to extremes.
Now, Charrière prepares for a new solo show at Despacio in Costa Rica, a country whose tropical jungles boast some of our world’s greatest terrestrial biodiversity. Charrière’s diverse works will seem right at home in this hub of ecotourism. And yet, as if to exemplify by contrast this verdant cornucopia, the work that will be showcased will boast an almost utter lack of life.
Displayed pieces will include the aforementioned We Are All Astronauts, 2013; Tropisme (Helio), 2015, a series of photographs of his flash frozen, stalagmite-like plants; Blue Fossil Entropic Stories, 2013, photography of his Icelandic iceberg adventure; as well as new, never-before-seen video work.
We are all astronauts on this great planetary ship hurtling through space, and Charrière is a worthy navigator.
Thoughts by Schandra Madha
Julian Charrière’s solo show at Despacio in San Jose, Costa Rica opens October 20th and runs through December 17th, 2016.
Photo credits and copyright: Installation views courtesy of Despacio, all other images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Tschudi Zuoz (Switzerland), Sies + Höke Düsseldorf (Germany), Bugada & Cargnel Paris (France), and Dittrich & Schlechtriem Berlin (Germany).