Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires


Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires

February 20, 2011
May 22, 2011

About the Exhibition

February 20, 2011 – May 22, 2011

Recovering Beauty Gallery Guide

Benito Laren
Buscando precios (Searching for Prices), 1991
holographic paper, mirror, and acrylic on glass
Gift of the artist, 2001

Organized by The Blanton, Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires is the first comprehensive North American presentation of art produced during the 1990s in Buenos Aires, a time of pivotal transformation in Argentina. The exhibition focuses on the work of artists identified as the “arte light” group, which rose to prominence during this decade. The artists involved—including Feliciano Centurión, Sebastián Gordín, Benito Laren, Jorge Gumier Maier, Marcelo Pombo, Cristina Schiavi, Fabio Kacero, Graciela Hasper, and Omar Schiliro, among others—regularly exhibited at the Centro Cultural Rojas, and, through their work, hoped to move beyond the oppressive climate of the military dictatorship of the previous decades to build a new appreciation of visual culture as a source of pleasure and creativity.

The Blanton’s associate curator of Latin American Art, Ursula Davila-Villa states: “Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires’ purpose is twofold: to display the artists’ shared desire to celebrate life through art, and to demonstrate the crucial role the Rojas Gallery, and its artistic community, played in transforming visual art in Buenos Aires during the 1990s.”

Marcelo Pombo
Navidad en San Francisco Solano, ca. 1991
Cardboard, nylon, and synthetic enamel on wood
Coleccion Mauro y Luz Herlitzka

After years of persecution and violence from 1970 to 1983, the 1990s in Argentina were characterized by drastic and dramatic changes on all fronts. During this decade, the process of reformulating and redefining cultural, social, and political values began, culminating in a sense of liberation and demand for free expression. Central to this reform was the Centro Cultural Rojas, a gallery space that opened in 1989 as part of the University of Buenos Aires. The artists who exhibited there regularly became known as the “arte light” group, for they responded to the ongoing changes with works that explored concepts of beauty, color, and personal psychology. Perceived as a band of outsiders that distanced itself from the growing intellectualization of Argentinean artistic practice, the group turned to humble materials in an effort to embrace experimentation and infuse their work with a playful and free-spirited aesthetic. This return or “recovery” of notions of beauty will be illuminated in over seventy artworks in the exhibition as well as through a 150-page illustrated catalogue and a dynamic roster of public programs.

The Blanton Museum of Art is widely recognized as a leader in the field of Latin American art. Since 2004, The Blanton has collected and exhibited works by a number of artists included in the exhibition, and was the first U.S. museum to acquire, present, and discuss the work of this group as part of the museum’s continuing commitment to strengthening its holdings of Argentinean modern and contemporary art. Additionally, Recovering Beauty builds upon the museum’s history of innovative and scholarly exhibitions in this field—over 100 exhibitions of Latin American art to date—including Cantos Paralelos: Visual Parody in Contemporary Argentinean ArtJorge Macchi: The Anatomy of MelancholyThe Geometry of Hope: Latin American Abstract Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, and the museum’s America/Americas permanent collection installation.

Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires is organized by Ursula Davila-Villa, associate curator of Latin American Art for the Blanton Museum of Art. Support for the exhibition is provided by Judy and Charles Tate, the Susan Vaughan Foundation, Sally and Robert Meadows, and by a grant from Houston Endowment Inc. in honor of Melissa Jones for the presentation of contemporary art at The Blanton. The accompanying catalog is made possible by Michael Chesser. 

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Panel: Recovering History: Exhibitions from the 1990s

Thursday, April 28, 5PM

Organized in conjunction with Recovering Beauty, this special program, Recovering History: Exhibitions from the 1990s, brings together a group of curators and art historians to discuss the continuing impact of exhibitions from the 1990s. The decade saw a proliferation of biennials, a growing number of exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world, and the first exhibitions to put social practice on view. Politics, identity and otherwise, were at the forefront of the national conversation in the U.S. and these and other issues were reflected in the exhibitions of the decade. This program examines the importance of exhibitions in the writing of history and provides an alternate context for understanding the specific moment and place represented in Recovering Beauty.

Funding for this program is provided by the Barbara Duncan Centennial Endowed Lectureship and by the Carolyn Harris Hynson Centennial Visiting Professorship in Fine Arts. This program is also supported by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

For a complete list of all of the Recovering Beauty programs and events, please visit our calendar.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a 150-page, illustrated catalog with essays by Ursula Davila-Villa, Inés Katzenstein, director of the art department at the Universidad Tocuato Di Tella In Argentina, and University of Texas at Austin graduate students Doris Bravo and Abigail Winograd. Three essays by Jorge Gumier Maier, director of the Rojas Gallery during the nineties, will be included and translated into English. The catalog will also feature an extended chronology by Natalia Pineau, doctoral candidate at Universidad de Buenos Aires, with key political and artistic highlights that took place in Buenos Aires and other important cities in Argentina during the 1990s.

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