Argentine artist Gerónimo Araquistain premiered his first solo exhibition at the San Martín Cultural Center, a public space of great institutional importance in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When it is of quality, the impact of POP art on the viewer is compelling. It is an artistic movement true to its time, an attribute that not many movements can boast, which reviews and exposes its truths with clear and direct language.
The exhibition “The Era of the plush” by Gerónimo Araquistain confirms this premise with great force by imbuing everyday elements with new conceptual meanings.
As a visitor from another region of the world, seeing the impact of the Spanish conquest in South America is striking, and this is perhaps the main point addressed by this exhibition. Gerónimo Araquistain’s mastery lies in talking to us about these issues based on two pillars: the materiality and everydayness of the represented elements.
In this direction, the artist proposes a second look at the game of Spanish cards and their now unmasked meanings. The chosen material (beautiful teddy bear skin) attracts and invites contemplation of the work for a considerable time, during which the second dimension of the proposal may be revealed: discovering in that everyday object the features of the Spanish conquest present in the cards.
From this discovery, the sword knight card ceases to be a friendly figure to become a ruthless rider whose path would be deadly to interfere with.
Similarly, the gold king card ceases to be a colorful piece of cardboard and becomes a representative of the looting and devastation of the continent.
Against this voracious king, Gerónimo Araquistain juxtaposes what I believe is the most powerful work of the entire exhibition: “The Quinoa Queen”, a masterful way of representing a truly personal and decolonizing letter.
I visited this exhibition several days ago and I am still struck by it. Digging deeper into this strange feeling, I am inclined to think that it was the materiality used by the artist that allowed me to reconnect with that young Claire who, as a child, began to form my first personal images.
Argentina is one of the few places I have visited in the world where, fortunately, the struggles that have been forgotten in other nations remain active and seem to gain strength from generation to generation.
Just as it is very strange for an American to see the amount of references to the Falklands War that Argentina fought against England in 1982, it is also striking how with the full power of pop art, artists like Gerónimo Araquistain also bring colonization, its effects on the present, and its place in national culture to the discussion through their work.
Following the same line of reasoning, the artist remakes a version of the most classic of the Renaissance, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Davinci. In his own version, correctly and thoughtfully called “Sacred Sacrilege”, Gerónimo Araquistain commits the subversion that the very title of the work indicates. From this interpretation, his action is a completely sensible irreverence given the sacred status of the world’s best-known image.
A majestic artistic operation in a truly recommendable solo exhibition.
Artist: Geronimo Damian Araquistain (@geroaraquistain) General Director of the San Marín Cultural Center: Diego Berardo (@diegoberardogc) Curator and Coordinator of Visual Arts: Alejandro Cejas (@alejjcejas) Juries of the call: Patricia Rizzo (@rizzo.perkypat) and Cynthia Cohen (@cynthiacohen1) Institution: San Martín Cultural Center. Sarmiento 1551, CABA, Argentina. (@elculturalsanmartin)