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.
These living faces are still here, discredited by a nation hiding behind the curtain of nationalism. 3,000 posters, 12 faces, and one action are reflected in silenced portraits. Beyond the loss of belonging to a place bound by borders or the dignity of possessing a passport, these images show the reality for people trapped between physical and conceptual barriers, positioned between misery and precariousness. This is life for African, Haitian, and Cuban migrants stuck at the northern border of Costa Rica.
In 2015 and the current year, there has been a growing problem with migration through Costa Rica. South and Central America have become corridors to “the American Dream." Because of socio-political and economic factors in each of their regions, emigrants from Africa, Cuba, and Haiti are the protagonists of this scenario. After leaving Brazil, they managed to cross an entire continent, only to find themselves stranded in Costa Rican territory. Countries such as Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia have taken preventive measures and closed their borders to the transit of these peoples. Nicaragua has gone so far as to condemn humanitarian aid as a form of human trafficking.
Rostros Vivos came into being in spite of the propaganda of the 2016 Nicaraguan elections in order to expose those other living faces that occupy a very different socio-political context and ,as a result, brutally neglect the human rights of the vulnerable people—men, women, and children alike—who live day to day in dire uncertainty.
We do not know much with certainty except that they are caught by the lines of a map. In these twelve photographs, juxtaposed against the emblematic hat of Augusto César Sandino, are the faces of those subjected to utter anonymity.
In collaboration with the artist Julia Murillo, the artist Habacuc traveled to the northern border to capture the plight of these people living in limbo, not know if they will ever be able to continue on their long and arduous journey through this passage to a better life.
Rostros Vivos, which could only take place a few days before the presidential elections in Nicaragua, is disclosing the discrepancy between the original radical ideas of the Sandinista National Liberation Front that are still used and cited in speeches of the political elite, but are in reality nothing more than empty words echoing a political strategy.
An inability to communicate is, for the living, the closest thing to death. In the case of these migrants, whatever they say, nobody seems to listen. In light of the elections, perhaps these photographs will not last long on the streets and are fated to be just another layer beneath the city and in the collective imagination, buried under the propaganda that turns our eyes and disconnects us completely from our own humanity.
Thoughts by Erno Hilarion
The exhibition of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc in Despacio in San José, Costa Rica opens its doors to the public from November 18th to December 17th, 2016.
Portraits made in collaboration with Julia Murillo
In 2016, Despacio’s program and Central Archive, located alongside the exhibition space, will plunge with relish into an ocean of paradox and possibilities, freed from the necessity of making sense. Newly comprised of artworks, correspondence and traces of happenings and actions, it will stand as a testament to an extraordinary freedom from convention.
Critical voices of reason will be deconstructed in pursuit of free thinking.
While most archives are banished to remote corners of their institutions, Despacio’s archive shares center stage within the exhibition space.
Despacio will realize its artistic and intellectual pursuit of absence in three acts that will unfold over three years:
Each act brings together exhibitions, happenings, and Libraries in Residence around the theme, as well as a Central Archive, which is a collection of works that are carefully compiled and include physical art objects, correspondence, and traces of happenings and actions. At various times over the year, a selection of these works will be activated in the exhibition space alongside the archive itself.