Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires [Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art]

I am hardly a scholar of art history, but I can tell you that modern and contemporary art is hard.  It often doesn’t adhere to a traditional notion of artistic skill, it often doesn’t portray recognizable subjects, it often offends traditional sensibilities.  This art doesn’t lead you to its point; it asks that you meet it there.  Modern art requires the consumer to work.

And that’s not a super easy thing to accept.

IMG_20181127_142014.jpg
….okay.

And it isn’t hard to see why many people are suspicious of modern art; they look at simple, geometric paintings or found-object sculpture and get the sense that they’re being conned.  I have some opinions about certain artists myself, certainly.  Who would want to look at or experience something, ascribe to it a meaning, and then find out it didn’t mean anything?  That would suck.

So modern art requires some faith on the part of the consumer.  It requires some work to understand the artist’s intent.  And it requires considering what art is and what it should do.

IMG_20181127_134127.jpg
….okay.

But that isn’t all there is to it.  The consumer experience matters.  When you look at something, your feelings are your feelings, and it’s useful to examine them.  You don’t have to like what you see, you don’t even have to see what the artist sees.  The artist doesn’t get to dictate your reaction or interpretation.  How it makes you as an individual feel is important.  Modern art places importance on innovation and that emotional evocation.

IMG_20181127_134618.jpg
From the Delia Cancela exhibition; I will photograph anything with a cat on it.

And so today, we look at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, and maybe learn a thing and feel a feel.

IMG_20181127_132808.jpg
The building itself is pretty cool.

Regarding innovation, I will tell you of the two times I met Jackson Pollock’s work in educational settings.  The first time I was a young child on a school trip to an art museum.  The woman leading the tour showed us a large Pollock canvas, and told us maybe we thought we could do that, but that it was deceptively simple–it was the way that he dripped the paint, his method, that made it unique and valuable.  She was an Adult Authority Figure in her Field, so I tried to see the skill in his splatters, despite my reservations.  When I was in college, my art history professor gave an explanation that seemed much clearer to me.  “Maybe you think you could do that,” he said.  “But you didn’t.”  Pollock had innovated, and created something that no one else can now create.

So maybe you see something in a piece like this, motion and depth and shape:

IMG_20181127_140830.jpg
Maybe you’re already rolling your eyes.

I think it’s perfectly fair to look at something that is abstract and decide what you see in it and if you like it.  But I do encourage you to at least take that look.

Now, modern art of course involves more than just painting and sculpture.  There are often multimedia components and even tactile ones.  The exhibition Pulso by Nicolás Mastracchio∼ incorporates photography, found objects, video, and your bare feet.

IMG_20181127_140358.jpg
And optionally your butt, if you sit in front of the screen, but do not bare that.

After removing your shoes, you walk around in very close proximity to the photos and what are described as “fragile mobiles,” such as that dry leave you see there.  You may sit for several minutes for the video portion.

Mastracchio∼ was influenced by meditation and Zen principles, and “exploring the spontaneous and ephemeral configurations of a small cosmos of objects, which is ordered in a few minutes and then photographed, together with the installation of mobiles in movement.”

I might not have come to that conclusion on my own, but I do see it.  The room was smaller and the carpet was soft and dampened the sound, making the exhibition room feel more intimate and quiet than the cavernous galleries.  Walking among things like photos and the small mobile objects gave me a sharp sense of my physical being within the space.  And, although it isn’t mentioned in the exhibition material, I was also disturbed by the non-natural objects floating in the air and the water in the video.  It felt like pollution that I could not remove, and that’s a feeling worth examining, too.

There are lots of Argentine modern artists represented in the Moderno’s collection.  This is Integralismo Bio-cosmos N°1, by Emilio Renart, and all I can tell you I am super glad it does not move.

IMG_20181127_141009.jpg
Bet it could really scamper on those wee legs.

Also in the sculpture realm is this Crucifixión by Norberto Gómez, which is certainly not the most comforting thing I’ve ever seen.

IMG_20181127_141333.jpg
That…that looks painful.

But I wanted to talk about this one for a second.  It is clearly a crucifixion; you can see that from any angle, without reading the title plaque.  Think, or look here if you like, about traditional crucifixion scenes.  At least in my opinion, there is usually a serenity to Jesus, even if his pain is evident.  There’s a sense of structure in the composition.  They are, in a way, comforting.  To my eye, Gómez has reduced the crucifixion to its barest agony.  With a minimal human aspect, it twists and contorts without relief.

And then there’s this guy.

IMG_20181127_141220.jpg
I don’t know, man. Maybe take a vacation.

This is Lengua.  You might recall Alberto Heredia from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  Not everything he did involved terrifying disembodied mouths, but “terrifying” does seem to be a recurring feature, as seen here with the most alarming San Martin I’ve ever laid eyes on.

IMG_20181127_141439.jpg
And I say this as a Zdzisław Beksiński fan, Heredia’s stuff creeps me right the hell out.

Last in the 3D arts that I’m going to note is Claudia Fontes’s Ofelia, which to me recalls Philippe Curtius’s waxwork Sleeping Beauty modeled on Madame du Berry (Curtius is now best known for teaching Madame Tussaud her craft; the Sleeping Beauty is in the London Tussaud location, and there are better images of it out there than the official video).  I won’t go too deep into my thoughts on Ofelia, except to say that while the Sleeping Beauty waxworks (there were several) were created by and for the male gaze, Fontes has removed the female figure entirely, leaving only the gown (a garment that, incidentally, sunk Ophelia to her death).  It does still breathe lightly, however.

Now, you could, for example, tell me that it’s just a dress with a little motor and a total sham, a cynical ploy to profit off being called “art.”  Let’s say for a moment that you’re right.  So what?  Humans ascribe meaning in non-literal ways all the time; it’s a feature, not a bug.  And people find personal meaning in things that were set up to make a profit, like Nicolas Sparks novels, CrossFit, or (let’s face it) any number of religious organizations, all the time.  You, personally, might feel like it’s all bullshit–but the meaning they, personally, find in it is real.  The main difference here is that the Moderno is free on Tuesdays.

I have less to say about these paintings, mainly because I didn’t photograph many abstract paintings, so I think these are easier to connect with.

IMG_20181127_141135.jpg
Desocupados [The Unemployed] by Ricardo Carpani, and Fábrica [Factory] by Juan Manuel Sánchez.  You will find the concerns of the working class frequently in Argentine modern art.
IMG_20181127_141558.jpg
This is a truly terrible photo of Gato y flores by Carlota Reyna.

I took this photo because the title is Cat and Flowers, which I thought was odd because there’s clearly two cats in the painting.

IMG_20181127_141656.jpg
Nicolás García Uriburu, Interior de autobús

I liked this one because as a frequent bus rider, it feels very familiar, even though it’s more than 50 years old.  All of the driver’s personal touches, from the Virgin of Luján to the scrolly letters, the crowds all the way up the full aisle–all still very true to life.  I also liked it because there’s a cat.

So that’s a small sample of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, well worth a visit.  Much, if not all, of the labeling and signage is in English.  It’s located in San Telmo and easy to get to by subway and bus.  The building was recently overhauled, and there’s a cafe and a small bookstore, where you can afford to indulge in a coffee considering the museum’s entry price is 30 pesos (less than US $1, currently).  The museum is closed on Mondays and free on Tuesdays; check the website for current ticket prices and hours.

 

Museo Etnográfico Juan B. Ambrosetti [Juan B. Amorsetti Ethnographic Museum]

Back to the UBA Museum Network! Finally!

The Ethnographic Museum is under the auspices of the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras of the University of Buenos Aires.  It was founded in 1904, and it while it houses collections from other places in the world, it’s focused chiefly on this part of South America.  There is a lot of information available on the English-language website.

IMG_20181002_135129.jpg
I dig museums in old, stately houses.

There are several exhibitions, and I’m not going to talk about all of them, because that would be a lot.  The first one, The Uttermost Part of the Earth, addresses the native populations of Tierra del Fuego, and what happened to them.  It’s not a happy story.

img_20181002_140252-e1538786223307.jpg
“These people, who fascinated the Western world, are here no more. They were massacred in a few decades and not by the 16th century conquistadors, but by our grandparents less than 100 years ago.”

There were two groups that had lived in the area for thousands of years: sea hunters (Kaweshkar and Yamana) and land hunters (Selk’nam).  That went fine for awhile.

knock knock
*sigh*

The hall is set up with the items of the Native peoples on the left, and items that would be used by explorers and colonizers on the right.  A model of a Yamada-style canoe is in the center.  There is a guide at the beginning of the hall that translates all the text into English.

IMG_20181002_140202.jpg
Each side is labeled “utopia,” “occupation,” and “science.”

Let’s take a look at the Native artifacts first.

IMG_20181002_142151.jpgIMG_20181002_142144.jpgIMG_20181002_141556.jpg

Meet Robert Fitzroy, captain of HMS Beagle, the ship that Charles Darwin sailed around South America on:

Robert_Fitzroy

Now meet O’run-del’lico, a Native boy kidnapped by Fitzroy in retaliation for a stolen boat, who was renamed “Jemmy Button” because his family was given a button for him while he was taken back to England for a long time.

img_20181002_140712.jpg
No part of this story is okay.

He and three other kidnapping victims, renamed York Minster, Fuegia Basket and Boat Memory, because no indignity was too small to inflict on them apparently, were supposed to be “civilized,” Christianized, and returned to Tierra del Fuego to serve as missionaries and intermediaries.  Boat Memory died in England.  The other three dropped Europeanism like a hot brick and reintegrated into their tribe immediately on their return.

“Hey,” I can hear you asking, “what other insanely racist things resulted in contact with Natives?”  Hahaha.

IMG_20181002_142813.jpg
Incidentally, the quote on the right side of the wall says, “A curious paradox of the West, that it cannot know without possessing, and it cannot possess without destroying.”
IMG_20181002_142520.jpg
So human zoos were a thing that happened.
IMG_20181002_142559.jpg
And there was stuff to help color-code people.
IMG_20181002_142603.jpg
YEEAAAAAAGH WHY DO THEY ALL HAVE EYELIDS

The Selk’nam didn’t long survive sustained contact with non-Natives, which would come to include actual contract murder. The very last died in the 1970s. I’ll end this part with a song, included in the museum’s English guide and I believe from Anne Chapman’s book The End of a World, of the last shaman, Lola Kiepja (recordings available at that link):

img_20181002_142737.jpg
“Here I am singing, the wind carries me; I am following the steps of those who are gone. I have been allowed to come to the mountain of power, reaching the great mountain range of heaven, the way to the house in heaven. The power of those who are gone comes back to me. I step into the house in the great mountain range of heaven. Those from infinity have spoken to me.”

The next exhibition is “Challenging the Silence: Indigenous People and the Dictatorship,” so the reading isn’t going to get any lighter here.

IMG_20181002_144750.jpg
Main hall/exhibit space.

The last military dictatorship (supported by the US, I might add), as I’m sure you’re aware, is still very much in living memory here.  Visitors are encouraged to leave a Post-It on the wall, which says, “How to challenge the silence?”

IMG_20181002_144106.jpg

It will come as no surprise that Native rights and labor organizers ran afoul of the dictatorship.

IMG_20181002_143642.jpg
On the left, Mapuche politician and activist Abelardo Coifin, died in internal exile. On the right, Mapuche activist Celestino Aigo, disappeared by the military in 1976.
img_20181002_143907.jpg
Marina Vilte, teacher and labor leader, disappeared by the military in 1976.

The exhibition includes information on how the sugar mills (having been the beneficiaries of military muscle keeping workers in check and working for decades) would act as agents of the dictatorship, informing on workers and allow their land to be used for clandestine detention centers.  One company’s own vehicles detained over 400 activists, 30 of which were never seen again.

IMG_20181002_144327.jpg
The company was Ledesma, which is still a major producer today.

The exhibit also examines the museum’s own contribution to the erasure of Native cultures during the dictatorship, which celebrated the “Centenary of the Conquest of the Desert” in 1979, which could more accurately be characterized as the centenary of the genocide of the Native peoples.  So, sure, parade time.

IMG_20181002_144652.jpg
The busts of Native chiefs were displayed, meant to “remind us of the great facts of this epic that concluded with the happy integration of a numerous mass of indigenous peoples into the national life” are actual words that fell out of the museum director’s mouth in 1979.

 

Let’s take a gander at the artifacts that live upstairs, and channel our inner (or outer) textile nerds.

IMG_20181002_145639.jpg

This exhibit covers a lot of ground and A LOT of time, there was an entire class of children occupying a large part of the room (and I never, ever begrudge children their space in learning institutions–I just didn’t get to the more recent artifacts because their activity was taking up a lot of floor space, but they were really engaged and two thumbs way up to the museum for having a hands-on activity for them), and my dinky little minor in anthropology did not equip me for being a great source on pre-Colombian history, so let’s hit this in broad strokes.

Here’s the region we’re looking at:

IMG_20181002_145826.jpg
The English guidebook has got my back.

The exhibit covers about 4000 years of cultural development in the region (following roughly 6000 years of hunter-gatherer societies), beginning with the earliest domestication of crops and animals.

IMG_20181002_150332.jpg
You can still see the colorwork!
IMG_20181002_150312.jpg
How gorgeous are those stitch patterns?!

IMG_20181002_150346.jpg

IMG_20181002_150413.jpg
It would have been very nice to have more information about each object, such as their ages and sources. 

As things settled into the first millennium CE, society got less egalitarian and chiefdoms formed.  Power became hereditary and ancestor worship was socially important.

IMG_20181002_151133.jpgIMG_20181002_151149.jpg

Along with the integration of groups into a large political entity came more defined social stratification and a centralization of power and activity.

IMG_20181002_151323.jpg
Also human sacrifice happened.

IMG_20181002_151732.jpgIMG_20181002_151747.jpg

But nevermind the increasing sophistication of craftsmanship, particularly metalworking, and restricted luxury goods that signified social status, let’s get back to the textiles.

IMG_20181002_151445.jpg
Aw, yeah.

The loom comes into use, and surviving textiles show that weavers developed into specialized master craftspeople, just as the metalworkers and ceramics makers did.

IMG_20181002_151718.jpg

Of course, everything goes to hell when the Europeans arrive, as it does.  That was the area that the school children were working in, so I didn’t get photos over there.

The exhibition room is large, and there are a lot of stairs, but they’ve used the space well.  Old houses present a lot of challenges when they’re used as public institutions, and they’ve done a nice job with this one.  If steps are an issue for you, be aware that there are lots.

There’s more to see at the Ethnographic Museum, which is open Tuesday through Friday from 1pm to 7pm and 3pm to 7pm on weekends (closed Monday).  There’s a small shop if you’d like to support the museum by upping your swag game.  Admission is 40 pesos (about a US dollar currently), and it’s super easy to get to on subway lines D, A, and E and tons of buses.

 

Carne [Beef]: Special exposition of the Museo de la Ciudad

Serendipity. That happiest of things. That great gift.

I was walking down Defensa after class.

IMG_20180828_120956.jpg

…seemed awfully big and fancy for a carniceria.

Ah–oh!

IMG_20180828_115216.jpg

This is not the main location of the Museo de la Ciudad, but the Casa Altos de Elorriaga location, which is currently, magnificently, and tragically temporarily, a museum to Argentine beef.

So what will you find in a glorious exposition dedicated to meat, that most Argentine of culinary indulgences?

HISTORY!

IMG_20180828_120356.jpg
A TIMELINE OF BEEF: The first cows arrive in 1549!
IMG_20180828_120133.jpg
2002: The first Argentine cloned calf is born!
IMG_20180828_120107.jpg
2008: Political machinations affect beef!

HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS!

IMG_20180828_120440.jpg

IMG_20180828_115257.jpg

IMG_20180828_115340.jpg

IMG_20180828_115401.jpg
Including racist marketing!

But that is absolutely not all. No indeed. Got something meat-related in mind? NAME IT, SON.

IMG_20180828_120535.jpg
BOOKS ON BEEF PRODUCTION
IMG_20180828_120017.jpg
GET EDUCATED IN ARGENTINE CUTS
IMG_20180828_120648.jpg
WEIRD OLD CARTOONS

Have you ever wondered if the Argentine relationship with beef can be statistically quantified? WONDER NO LONGER.

IMG_20180828_120501.jpg
The only nation that consumes more beef per person than Argentina is Uruguay. BARELY.

So what do Argentines use all that meat for? The interior patio holds the answers you seek, friend.

IMG_20180828_115712.jpg

IMG_20180828_115525.jpg
Beef is often located in guiso (stew), milanesa, and empanadas.
IMG_20180828_115527.jpg
Beef is also featured in an asado, which is an Argentine barbeque.
IMG_20180828_115802.jpg
Beef can be found in street food. You can tell this cart is another historical artifact because today, 18 pesos will buy you literally nothing.

Are you more interested in “how the sausage is made,” so to speak? It looks something like this:

IMG_20180828_120309.jpg
Moo.
IMG_20180828_120221.jpg
The “dirty zone” is where steak is born.
IMG_20180828_120157.jpg
Someone made a tiny side of beef for this display.

So, meat plays a pretty big role in Argentine culture. But what about Argentine pop culture? Has there ever been a famous sexploitation film in which meat featured heavily alongside a celebrated bombshell and a future father of an Oscar-winning writer?

IMG_20180828_115450.jpg
I mean, why are you even asking?

But maybe your cultural tastes are more highbrow. You appreciate fine art. Painting, sculpture. These media speak to you and inform your experiences. You enjoy seeing beauty rendered immortal by the hand of a master.

You will find your treasure here, too.

IMG_20180828_115910.jpg
MEAT PAINTING.
IMG_20180828_115920.jpg
MEAT AS A CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE
IMG_20180828_115931.jpg
LOOK AT ALL THIS MEAT ART, BUDDY.

All in all, “Carne” is a masterpiece. Obviously. It might be that someone in a position to affect these sorts of things noticed that it is the 50th anniversary of the film “Carne” and just ran with it. If that’s the case, this exhibition is even more superb. It’s open to the public, it’s free, there are promotional postcards–but it closes down on September 30th, so you only have a month to experience “Carne.”