Buenos Aires – I keep wanting to visit the Municipal Museum, but somehow or other it always seems to be closed when I go that direction. Yesterday I was informed that it would be closed until mid-March. For whatever reason, its cafeteria is open, but nothing on the menu looked interesting. Then again, museum cafeterias are not my usual choice of places to eat, so I knocked out the one at MALBA as well. Though the dining room attached to the Museum of Art, Science, and Technology looked promising, it also looked expensive, and besides, I wanted to sit outdoors. I’m just picky some days. So I found myself at this cute little semi-circular plaza that is flanked by the Via Barberini and Via Frattina buildings. I chose not to go to the “Tucson Steakhouse” and instead took a seat at Épico, Salguero 2737, in Palermo Chico.
Other than being a pleasant place to sit and people watch, there’s nothing in particular to recommend this place. I had a perfectly nice salad of tomatoes, cucumber, celery, and watercress – which my waitress kept repeating to herself out loud, over and over, because she’d forgotten to bring a notepad out with her. The spinach filled canneloni looked promising, topped with a simple filetto, or fresh tomato sauce. The filling was good, but there was something just not right about the texture of the dish. The pasta was, well, spongy. I’d love to give them credit for using testaroli, the Italian pasta that’s sort of like a spongy crêpe, but no, this was just, very simply, a spongy, eggy, pancake. And it was just wrong.
I should be kept away from modern art. Or, from my point of view, modern art should be kept away from me. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, over the years to understand, to comprehend, to enjoy. I spent an entire day with my friend Arthur Blumenthal, who’s now curating the stuff somewhere down in Florida, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as he tried to get me to recognize the genius of Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol. If you’ve been reading along, you know my friend Frank and I went to the remodeled MOMA back around Christmas time. It’s not to say I don’t like anything in these places, I just don’t like much of it. I realized that in all the time since I moved here, and vacationing here, I’d never been to MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, and, since, as I pointed out above, the Municipal Museum was once again closed, I thought I’d give it a go.
It’s a little pricey as museums in this city go, 10 pesos for entrance, though obviously that’s not expensive in the scheme of things. It feels somewhat pricier though, because no one mentions that the entire second floor of the museum is closed down, with no exhibition. That means, other than a few scattered things in the lobby area, there’s one mid-sized floor of art on display, plus an outdoor terrace. Okay, I liked a few things – Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait with mustache wasn’t bad. There was some very good photography scattered here and there. A small section of optical illusion sculptures seemed more suited for the science and technology museum, but they were pretty. But…
A screwcap bottle of polluted rainwater sitting on a pedestal (provided by the museum, not the artist), colored with red-orange dye. A series of black and white photographs of a staged robbery and murder. A large yellow square, outlined in black, with a small white “x” in the center. A series of photographs of 2-liter water bottles tied to trees. A lineup of wooden schoolroom rulers. A stack of different colored post-it note pads. My favorite – the self-described “stainless steel table with block of cow fat and wax, inscribed with words and studded with a line of metal bolts”. Yes indeed, I want to display that in my living room.
Obviously there are people who like this sort of thing. The museum was full of visitors, many of them in deep discussion over one piece or another. The terrace display – a 100-foot long collage of violent photographs from protest marches and such, printed on textured cloth and slathered, yes slathered, over with varicolored transluscent plastic schmears (a technique the apparently famous artist, Fabian Marcaccio, calls Paintants) seemed to be garnering the most attention. The colors were pretty. For slathered plastic schmears. Here, in his own words… and this sort of, well, crap, is part of what I don’t like about “modern art”:
Paintants are abstract based history telling. Paintants emphasize time-space relationships, using pictorial, photo-based and sculptural composites. There is a dual potential developing over a space-time dynamic: the process of in-formation or pictorial mutation as they in-form and re-form themselves, and a process of giving information via pictorial means. Paintants are Action painting for the beholder. A territorialized and de-territorialized pictorial zone of active nature, that engage the participant. Through different degress of artificiality, from the digital to the analog, Paintants works thorough integration: Street banner – advertising activities; Sculptural – architectonic sequences; Pictorial photo based flows. When the indexical domain of photography is heavily altered by digital means, an abstract rooted history telling could bring an alternative analytical report, against the constant senseless attack of image in the media arena. Paintants bring an environmental, retinal, tactile and spatial excess. Finding integration beyond the dialectical, conceptual art critique and the over increasing pure painting practice. Paintants emphasize an endless series of micro-macro representations as an alternative to the revivals of standard representation and minimalist liberal presentations. Paintants values mutation and corruption as producers of links and resonates with our contemporary multiple realities.
I think that basically means that if you make a collage out of photographs and slather over it with plastic, it will look different from the original photographs.
It was a beautifully sunshiny day, and MALBA had not destroyed my good mood, in some ways, it had just enhanced it with a sense of the ridiculous. I wandered back towards home passing along Av. Libertador. A beautiful tree in full bloom, a biker taking in a bit of sun on a park bench, a group of young soccer players playing on the field with the sign saying “Soccer playing is prohibited here, along with other sports”.