Alfredo Jaar, Gold in the Morning, 2002
One thing you could doubtlessly claim about contemporary photography, and the Argentinean division in particular, is that it is virtually indefinable. After the boost it has gone through over the past decade, almost everything is being done with photography, for it, and through it. Categories and styles seem obsolete and themes often insufficient to describe the ever-growing techniques of exploration. In Argentina, as it is in most of the world these days, photography is ubiquitous. You see it in nation-wide newspaper publications as much as in fairs, restaurants and the facades of entire buildings. With some of its best know advocates exploding in recognition and prices, photography is what is being done in Argentina right now. And yet, some subjects, ideas, techniques do appear to remain, to make their way through prolific and often impossible to catalogue production.
The last edition of Buenos Aires Photo has taken upon its shoulders to condense, systematize and export the exciting photographic work being produced today in South America in general and Argentina in particular. Some of the most interesting galleries working in or around the area gather every year in October to celebrate the fixed image and show some of its highlights. Esteban Pastorino, as the guest of the Espacio de Patio Bullrich, was one of them. With a collection of pictures of forests shot over a 12 year span, Pastorino left aside the technical concerns that characterize most of his production to dive into a subject that has marked not only the history of photography but also the history of art itself, laying a hand on subjects such as ephemerality and permanence so dear to contemporary art production. Nicola Costantino, the renowned Argentinean artist, also had a solo exhibition at Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires: a revision of the portrait tradition as well as key moments in the history of cinema, photography and even painting.
Indeed, the “classical” subjects in art and photography seemed to dominate throughout the fair. The notion of landscape, whether outdoors or interior, permeated a large amount of the work shown. Margarita Wilson-Rae´s compositions at Del Infinito Arte recreate chaotic and seemingly post-apocalyptic visions of our environment along the symbolic line of Alejandro Chaskileberg’s Nocturama series presented at Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte, which explore the darkness of the subjects rather than that of the night itself. Particularly interesting were the varied approaches to the still life, updating and revitalizing a subject always eloquent in its time. The work of Sofia Abboud shown by Modo 7 Gallery, for example, manages not only to capture a particular quality of light but also to depict, with a certain melancholy, a world on the verge of change. Florencia Blanco, another young French-Argentinean photographer, works on the subject of death by photographing “Oil photos”, a kind of photo-realist painted portrait very popular in Argentina around the 1950s and 60s in different contexts, thus making a place for the dead amongst the living.
Despite the well-achieved experimentation such as Bruno Dubner’s camera-less photographs (VVVgallery) or Cecilia Biagini’s abstract compositions (Van Riel), the body, and its many permutations, continues to be the preferred subject in contemporary Argentinean photography. From performances, to self-portraits and mise-en-scènes, the human form is, and will probably always be, the most fascinating of subjects. Perhaps because it is what best tells the tale of history. Perhaps because ultimately, it is not about photography but about ourselves.
Alejandro Chaskielberg, La creciente, 2007
Alejandro Chaskielberg, La caída, 2008
Alejandro Chaskielberg, Bahía Negra, Río Paraguay, 2009
Alejandro Chaskielberg, Punta del Diablo, 2009