ROCHESTER, MN.- Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck relies on an investigative approach centered on analyzing how power and propaganda have intertwined in the geopolitical arena since the mid-twentieth century. His work functions like decoders, giving viewers the chance to examine decisive periods and events in contemporary history from new, overlooked perspectives. The artist devotes particular attention to the origins of the Cold War and to strategies implemented in that period from managing global powerspecifically, controlling oil resources in the American context by merging state foreign policy with private industrial interests.
In Balteo Yazbecks work, which ranges between installation, video, photography and text, form is always aimed at serving contenteach work sums up a long, meticulous process of research conducted using multiple sources such as historiography, journalism, diplomatic records and popular culture. Thus, his oeuvre is characterized by a high degree of hermeticism and complexity. It is organized into progressive, occasionally contemporaneous series that span years, developing separate thematic areas to be explored in ongoing analysis. The two major of these, Modern Entanglements (20062013) and Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect (20072009), encompass much of his output, some of it created in collaboration with the critic and art historian Media Farzin. In works such as R.S.V.P., 1939 (from the latter series), Balteo Yazbeck shows the fluid interrelation between art and political history, revealing, for instance, the constant interdependence between MoMA´s promotion of American art and the energy industry interests championed by the members of its board, especially during the years that Nelson Rockefeller was its president. A perspective of ideological analysis is constantly active in Balteo Yazbecks work, illustrating the conflicts of power and hegemony that permeate the relationships between corporate interests, national policy, and art history.
The objects which drive Farzin and Yazbecks story are almost too good to be true, conveying a historical moment and its ironies and tensions with minimal means and maximum force. R.S.V.P, 1939 (2007-2009) is a reproduction of an invitation conceived by former MoMA staff member Frances Collins and a professional printer friend. The expensive, flowery invite sarcastically invites guests to the opening of the new museum of standard oil. Its front is stamped with a small crown above the motto Oil that glitters is not gold a dig at then-president of MoMA, Rockefeller. Rockefeller may be the most infamous embodiment of the collusion between private and government interests that characterized the time: as the head of intelligence in Latin America during the war, he commissioned MoMA to arrange several art exhibitions that toured the region.
In May 1946, the U.S. government extends a diplomatic invitation to several countries, including the Soviet Union, to attend atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. That August, an American officer was sent to the UK to supervise the construction of bomb loading pits required for an atomic offensive against the Soviet Union.
Balteo Yazbeck has developed a hybrid practice that incorporates the activities of a researcher, archivist, historian and curator. Working across various mediums, his productions formally resemble or incorporate the works of others, stressing notions of authorship and cultural authority. His entangled narratives are motivated by sociopolitical questions involving gaps in collective knowledge or misrepresentations in the public record, often focusing on the importance of propaganda as a political strategy. Authority is a recurring theme, especially cultural authority. In his works he aims to reveal the political strategies and motives at work in the world by analyzing the dynamics of power and propaganda in modern history and aesthetics.