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'Guillermo Kuitca: Philosophy for Princesses' on view at Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo
“Guillermo Kuitca: Philosophy for Princesses”. Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, 17 July – 2 November 2014. Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York.

By: Giancarlo Hannud

SAO PAULO.- The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, an institution of the State Secretary of Culture, is holding the exhibition Guillermo Kuitca: Filosofia para princesas [Guillermo Kuitca: Philosophy for Princesses]. With about 50 works, including paintings, drawings and an installation, the show features works produced throughout his artistic career, spanning from the 1980s until 2013. Kuitca (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1961) is considered one of the most important Latin American painters and his work deals with themes such as displacement, isolation, loneliness and abstract representations of space, such as maps, theater floor plans and architectural blueprints.

Curated by Giancarlo Hannud, a curator with a Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the works in the show belong to public and private collections in Europe, the United States, Argentina and Brazil. One of the highlights of the show is the installation Le sacre, 1992, which will occupy the Octógono, the Pinacoteca's central space. Made up of 54 beds, on which maps of different parts of the world have been painted, Le sacre belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, and has been shown in museums such as IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia, in 1993, Fondation Cartier, Paris, in 2000, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, in 2003. "Le sacre is obviously a development of my work with mattresses, revisiting the first work that I did with this object, a series of three mattresses shown at the 1989 Bienal de São Paulo. The beds of Le sacre are smaller than real beds, and can thus be referred to in Spanish as 'camitas.' I wanted to play with the perspective and size of the things; we are not as close to them as we think. I wanted an enlarged view of something, like the bed, an object as close as our own body, to then visualize it within the house, the house within the city, and the city within the map. A zoom that becomes increasingly distant, or closer."

Guillermo Kuitca, a leading Argentine artist, began his artistic studies in the 1970s, at the studio of Ahuva Szlimowicz. A resident of Buenos Aires, he is widely recognized internationally, having represented Argentina at the 2007 Biennale di Venezia. He also participated in Documenta IX, in 1992, and, more recently, in 2010, his work was the theme of a retrospective entitled Guillermo Kuitca: Everything, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1980-2008, a traveling show held in the following North American institutions: Miami Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in Buffalo, Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, and the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Guillermo Kuitca's work has been establishing itself over the last 35 years as one of the most singular and striking voices in contemporary painting. Based in a home-studio in Belgrano R, a green and quiet neighborhood of Buenos Aires, thousands of miles from where the tradition of painting and western art was created and its narrative written, this artist has known how to combine the limitations inherent to his pictorial virtuosity with a remarkable power of invention which engages a hybrid and opaque visual universe. A prodigy, Kuitca began studying painting at age 9 and had his first solo exhibition at 13. In the beginning, his work was closely linked to the return of painting that marked the early 1980s, as well as the interest that emerged, within the international artistic community at the time, in the work of artists located outside the United States-Europe axis.

Despite considering painting to be a dead end, Kuitca was able to employ it to serve his entirely intimate and subjective discussions and, in a solitary exercise characteristic of the medium, mastered its techniques through a slow and silent process, becoming one of its contemporary masters. His pictorial investigations descend directly from the great tradition of Western painting and its traditional supports, celebrating and confronting its remarkable resilience. The present show emerges from the desire to present in the broadest possible manner to the Brazilian public the production of the last 35 years of this artist, and brings together a set of 50 fundamental works from private and public collections located in Argentina, Brazil, United States and Europe.

The title, Philosophy for princesses, comes from a recent painting in which recurring elements of his visual universe - like the crown of thorns, architectural blueprints, and cubistoid brushstrokes - overlap, forming an entirely particular iconographic counterpoint. What might be the philosophy to which the title refers? or Who are princesses to whom it is addressed? are questions that do not necessarily need concrete answers. It seems to me sufficient to conjure them, in the same manner in which imagination and suggestion are issues present in the body of work of this artist who creates spaces of absence, suggests presences, and drafts maps of loneliness and estrangement. The recurring elements mentioned above, little visual motifs that recur constantly, make up the pictorial vocabulary with which Kuitca builds his work: the bed, the woman seen from behind, the baggage carrousel, theater seating charts, the blueprint of an apartment, maps, etc.

The bed, the central element in the installation titled Le sacre, presented in the Pinacoteca's Octagon, is one of the many recurring elements in his work and, assuming multiple meanings over the last three decades, has served as a platform upon which Kuitca develops his images. It is interesting to think that the 54 small beds - the camitas - are small not because they are for children, but because they are being seen from very far, since, in the artist's words, "we are not as close to them [...] as we think." They are beds seen from the sky, distant and exiled from our contact, on which we see the lines of roads and place names - with all their imaginative and poetic resonances - creating an isolated space of sleep and loss, tragically separating us from the idea of rest that these objects usually hold.

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