Art history rarely moves in a straight line. Now more than ever, when it comes to a collective notion of Latin American art, there are as many ways to approach it as there are to traversing its nineteen countries and territories. Steering clear of a generalized survey of the region, we choose a more personal path by compiling works from Latin American artists that inspired us throughout our journey over the last decade, bringing to the fore the works, artists, and conversations that we couldn’t possibly forget.
First Day of Good Weather takes as its inspiration and starting point conversations that happened in and around Despacio. While it is true that personal dialogues can result in a filtered perception of reality—the filters as well as the perception being both highly subjective—that same subjectivity seems to be an essential ingredient for a truly independent art space. There are no set guidelines, just a vision that is focused through the discourse of like-minded peers.
The exhibition features artworks by sixteen artists from Central America, the majority of whom have never before shown their work in Germany. Also included are thirteen more Latin American artists who have been at the center of extensive dialogues detailing their profound influence on entire generations of artists, from Mexico’s Rio Grande to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego.
Spanning multiple genres and ranging in tone from political to humorous, the works transcend the immediate allure of the exotic to reveal the contagious spirit of curiosity. The artistic propositions are often balancing acts between everyday life and what it means to be an artist in Latin American society—a society which has a long history of wrestling with local and global political crises, colonial capitalism, abuse of power, and the struggles of subsisting day to day.
Art is critical thinking—building an awareness of the inner workings of the mind. But art is also making sense of the situations we find ourselves in. It helps us to accept that there is not such a thing as a single current reality, but rather a myriad of perceptions that together comprise our collective reality. The sum of all of these works is, therefore, much more like a fluid conceptualization of Latin America and its art than it is a static definition.
First Day of Good Weather takes visitors back to where everything began: the conversations with artists that sent our thoughts flying into space to return in new and unusual configurations that would culminate in more than fifty exhibitions and projects over the last decade. The exhibition is a voyage of discovery through the artistic territory of Latin America, far off the beaten path of exotic fantasies, dealing instead with specific experiences and contexts that exist in constant states of evolution. We wait, ever watchful, after each rainy season for that first day of good weather to begin our explorations all over again.
Thoughts by Sandino Scheidegger
The group exhibition opens on January 13th and runs through March 11th, 2017 at Sies + Höke in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Participating Artists: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Iván Argote, Sol Calero, Javier Calvo, Luis Camnitzer, Benvenuto Chavajay, Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker, Alejandro de la Guerra, Melissa Guevara, Federico Herrero, Walterio Iraheta, Alfredo Jaar, Regina José Galindo, Aníbal López, Teresa Margolles, Adrian Melis, Ronald Morán, Rivane Neuenschwander, Yoshua Okón, Liliana Porter, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Abigail Reyes, Crack Rodríguez, Gabriel Rodríguez, Tercerunquinto, Adán Vallecillo, and Guillermo Vargas Habacuc.
Photo credits and copyright: Images of the art works courtesy of the artist and their respective galleries. Installation views by Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf.
If you didn’t happen to be walking the streets of Guatemala City in 2006, you probably missed an old green Volvo cruising around with a pair of pale bare feet sticking out of the back, insinuating the macabre nature of its contents: a dead body in the trunk. The person behind this action was Gabriel Rodríguez, an artist known for pushing viewers to the limit of tolerability, confronting us with things we try to ignore, while maintaining an almost gentle touch in his use of simple actions that blend into everyday Guatemalan life.
This striking car ride through a city, which for decades has tried to bury its own violent history, is called Muerto (Dead Guy), 2006. The action, which is one of Gabriel Rodríguez’s early works, took place in Guatemala City ten years ago. It’s no coincidence that Muerto evokes the language of the pioneers of political conceptual art—Aníbal López, Regina Galindo, or Jorge de León—who have all been important "fellow artists" of Rodríguez.
The point of departure for disruptive urban interventions in Guatemala is often the rather peculiar nature of violence, namely that it can be just as omnipresent as it is ignored. For people who witnessed the nation's arduous attempts to sweep its history of violence under the rug, Rodríguez’s artistic actions are difficult to distinguish from the reality of everyday life in Guatemala.
Muerto lives on in simple documentary photos, just like the work Pequeño Sísifo (Little Sisyphus), 2008, in which he paid one of the many kids working on the streets of Guatemala City to hold a heavy hunk of asphalt for as long as his strength would allow before letting it fall to the ground. In order to appreciate such artworks, we are forced either to acknowledge the presence of violence in our society or to do just as we are prone to do in reality: look away.
Rodríguez’s installation works frequently boast elements of humour and never shy away from revealing paradoxes. In his work Propiedad de dios (Property of God), 2009, he declares the ceiling of the gallery space property of God. While in Todas las escuadras que puedo hacer con mi cuerpo (All the right angles I can make with my body), 2014, he presents a series of seven photographs, in which he demonstrates all the 90 degree angles he can form with his body.
With unflinching honesty, Rodríguez presents his own relationship to the artworld and how he came to be a part of it in the video Cómo me convertí en artista (How I became an artist), 2013. Setting aside the romantic idea of feeling called to the profession, he simply discloses which art books he read before he could comfortably refer to himself as an artist. We all have our idols and inspirations, many of which we prefer keep to ourselves in order to maintain an aura of mystery around our motivations. Rodríguez has never had much patience for such pretense.
Text by Sandino Scheidegger
Gabriel Rodríguez was born 1984 in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where he lives and works. Since he founded the art space Sótano 1 in downtown Guatemala City in 2013, it has developed into a defining venue for the growing independent art scene of Guatemala.Learn more about Rodríguez on Instagram or Facebook, or contact him by email.