| Essence of Place
López, Miguel Ángel Rojas, Fernell Franco
Curated by Rodrigo Orrantia
28 September - 10 November
This exhibition brings together three artists from different
generations working in Colombia and interested in exploring
the themes of identity and place through the use of photography.
In the 1970s a generation of Colombian artists sought to separate
themselves from the established modern canons of art that were
taught at universities and hung in museums. Figures such as
Antonio Caro (b. 1950), Oscar Muñoz (b. 1951), and Miguel
Ángel Rojas (b.1946) stood at the forefront of experimental
visual art practices in Colombia during the 70s and 80s. Their
concerns converged on the search for a notion of self through
the continuous questioning of their immediate surroundings,
a sense of self found through a connection with place.
Their search was practical as well as conceptual, challenging
the way in which art was produced, displayed and received. The
60s witnessed the arrival of pop culture in Latin America, and
by the 70s its influence was undeniable in every aspect of culture,
especially in the arts. Experimental art practices using photography
and printmaking were a stand against the better-regarded techniques
of drawing and painting, taking direct influence from pop art,
music and the drug-infused hippy revolution.
¨What helped you ¨slide¨ towards art? Was it
The Beatles records?
That was the music of the moment, but above all, its spirit, the
spirit of change that swept in, in May 1968.”
Gutierrez, Natalia, Miguel Ángel Rojas: Essential,
Editorial Planeta with Paralelo10, 2010, p54
Miguel Ángel Rojas’ works from the
1970s are evidence of a voyage of self-discovery through the meticulous
observation of himself and his surroundings. His practice at the
time encompassed photography, drawing and printmaking, experimenting
with their intersections to discover a language of his own.
Miguel Ángel Rojas, Faenza,
Series of 6 photographs, 1979/2010
Amongst his best-known works are the series of
long exposure photographs taken at B-movie cinemas where anonymous
encounters between men took place. They later became the basis
of two key installations entitled Via Lactea (1981)
and Paquita (1997). Rojas’ work with photographic
reductions and installation is not only a search for personal
identity and belonging, but also a poignant revision of the
voyeuristic gaze. His installations bring back a lost intimacy
with the photographic image and ultimately with photography
One can find a number of connections between
Rojas’ images and the works by Fernell Franco (1942-2006).
Part of the same generation of artists, Franco lived in a
different city, Cali, a smaller and much warmer place, but
also more open and daring than the capital Bogotá.
During the 70s Franco worked as a commercial photographer,
but at the same time he explored the grimmer, undiscovered
aspects of the city. His best known series are Prostitutas
(1970), Demoliciones (1989) and Amarrados
Fernell Franco, Demoliciones, C-Print, 1989
Demoliciones is a series about the construction and defacement
of Cali and its relation to the drug trade, which made the city
a war zone during the 1980s and 90s. Through a very personal photographic
practice that involved an elaborate and experimental use of the
darkroom, Franco was able to get under the skin of the city, finding
its elusive spirit.
Twenty years later one can find connections with the work by Rosario
López, a representative of a generation that was either taught,
or heavily influenced by the aforementioned artists. Her art practice,
a consistent questioning of the nature and essence of space, evidences
the inherited concerns connecting her work to Franco and Rojas.
Lopez’s work gained recognition in the international art scene
with her appearance at the 2007 Venice Biennale with her piece Abyss.
In 2000, more than a decade after Rojas and Franco's gaze on the
city, López produced Esquinas Gordas (Fat Corners)
using photography to approach a series of space alterations in Bogotá.
Part local resourcefulness, part public policy, “fat corners”
were a way of preventing homeless people from setting up shelters
in the city’s central candelaria borough and using the corners
of its buildings as lavatories. The cement filled spaces where later
assimilated into their surroundings, painted over or even decorated.
The consistence of her approach transforms the images into a dialogue
with space, and how its essence is defined by spontaneous interventions.
Rosario López, Esquinas Gordas (Fat Corners),
C-Print on paper, 2000
It is interesting to view all the works as different approaches
to the same concern, especially when it constitutes an act of resistance
and divergence from the more commonly associated topics of political
violence and geographical idiosyncrasy in Latin American art. To
enter into a close dialogue with a place is at the same time an
introspective exploration, a definition of self through a disciplined
and conscious observation of the world.
Photography is a common ground where the different generations can
establish a dialogue of peers. As photographic images, these works
share an exploratory nature; they are the record of a time and space
but also of a spirit, a mutual affection between ser (to
be) and estar (to be in).