One of the most independent voices in painting today, Buenos Aires-based Guillermo Kuitca has long operated outside the traditional spheres of the medium, incorporating influences from sculpture, architecture, theater, film, and literature. The exhibition Guillermo Kuitca: EverythingPaintings and Works on Paper, 19802008, on a four-city tour, travels to the Walker Art Center
June 26September 19. This major exhibition, the first comprehensive U.S. survey of Kuitcas work in more than 15 years, examines nearly three decades of his career with some 50 paintings and 25 works on paper from public and private collections throughout the world. Several of the artists most ambitious works will be featured, including a room-size configuration of 20 painted mattresses, and The Ring, a five-paneled piece inspired by Wagners epic opera. Presenting the full scope of Kuitcas production, the exhibition underscores the extensive range of his subject matter, the interdisciplinary nature of his work, and the issues of individual and communal relationships he explores. Celebrating the exhibition are a Walker After Hours Preview Party, Opening-Day Artist Talk, and Opening-Day Concert featuring fellow Argentine singer/songwriter Juana Molina. Guillermo Kuitca: EverythingPaintings and Works on Paper, 19802008 is co-organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and Miami Art Museum, Miami, Florida.
Kuitca was only 19 when he first saw German choreographer Pina Bauschs work in a production of Café Müller staged at the Teatro San Martin in Buenos Aires in 1980. In the years that followed this introduction, Kuitca produced several plays in Argentina and made canvases that drew upon Bausch and her productions. The earliest works in the exhibition such as El Mar Dulce and Siete Ultima Canciones, both completed in 1986, are reminiscent of stage sets viewed from a distance, with tiny figures acting out mysterious and disturbing dramas. Themes of absence and disappearance emerged in subsequent works of this period, which depict overturned chairs, sullied beds that appear to be on fire, and a microphone on an empty stage.
Kuitcas works of the late 1980s and early 1990s explore architecture and topography, as well as domestic and communal spaces. The floor plans of public institutions (the Tablada Suite), geographical maps (the artists map paintings on canvas and mattresses), and genealogical charts (the People on Fire series) begin to serve as important references during this period. Though these works infer human interconnection and spaces which are normally occupied by large groups, the human figure remains notably absent.
Kuitca further explored organizational systems throughout the 1990s and early in this decade. In Neufert Suite (1998) a series of paintings, and LEncyclopédie (2002), a series of works on paper, he references an architects handbook and the work of French philosopher Denis Diderot, who attempted to condense the whole of human knowledge into an encyclopedia. In his series of drawings titled Global Order (2002), Kuitca fuses a map of the world with building plans for domestic spaces, identifying borders and notions of place as the changing products of human invention.
Since the late 1990s, Kuitca has created both large- and small-scale works on paper which investigate and deconstruct his painted works. Continuing his investigation of mapping, Kuitca based a 2007 series on seating charts from renowned performance spaces such as the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Kuitca selectively edits information from these charts in an electronic format before printing them. He then further alters their appearance and meaning by subjecting them to different water treatments which alter the printed image. The resulting works are surreal abstractions, whose pictorial elements have migrated across paper.
Drawing voraciously upon diverse subject matter across a variety of disciplines, Kuitca has frequently returned to familiar motifs of theaters, maps, and city plans throughout his career. Only recently has he taken on the legacy of painting. Desenlace (Denoument) is a series from 2007 with obvious references to noted painters from the history of abstraction, including Jackson Pollock, Joaquín Torres García, Georges Braque, and Lucia Fontana. Yet rather than simply appropriate the styles of these modern masters, Kuitca renders a different kind of homage and critique of the history of modern painting. His representations of these iconic forms of abstraction are empty shells, no different than the maps and theatrical seating plans of his earlier works. They are familiar yet disembodied artifacts of prescribed authority and value, representations of abstract systems and concepts that Kuitca has lovingly and ruthlessly divested of their efficacy. All to find a new pathway in painting, in which affinity and distance are held in striking, exquisite balance.
Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Guillermo Kuitca (born 1961, Buenos Aires) has garnered international attention since the mid-1980s. His first solo exhibition at age 13 took place in 1974 at Lirolay Gallery in Buenos Aires. In 1985 he represented Argentina in the XVIII São Paulo Biennal. His work was first seen in the United States in the group exhibition New Image Painting: Argentina in the Eighties at the Americas Society in New York in 1989.
In 1990 Kuitca began to exhibit internationally and had solo museum and gallery shows in the Netherlands and the United States, which included a Projects show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1992. Also that year, his installation for Documenta IX of map paintings and a large installation of bed sculptures brought him significant international attention. Since then Kuitca has had solo exhibitions at the Instituto de Arte Moderno (IVAM) in Valencia, Spain (1993), and Burning Beds: Guillermo Kuitca, A Survey 1982-1994, organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, and the Contemporary Art Foundation, Amsterdam, in 1994. In 1999 he exhibited at the Centro Hélio Oiticica, and in 2000 at the Foundation Cartier in Paris.
The most recent survey of Kuitcas works, covering the period 1983-2003, was organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, and traveled to the Museo de Arte Latino Americano, Buenos Aires (MALBA), in the summer of 2003. Kuitca was the chosen representative of Argentina at the Venice Biennale in 2007, where he was one of only three artists with work on view in both a national Pavilion and in the central international Biennale exhibition.