Alicia Herrero, Humor as a Tool for Rethinking the Disciplinary Order of Modernity

Alicia Herrero – Photo: Florence Downs.

Why does Alicia Herrero include a plane that drops bombs in a drawing with squirrels and rabbits, or why does she do it with kitchen utensils and sets of dishes? All questions that materialize in the individual exhibition, which under the title “Supersigns and performativity of matter” Until November, the Sivori Museum in Buenos Aires dedicates it to him, where he exhibits humorous works based on graphics as a great disciplining discourse on bodies and lives.

“Supersigns and the Performativity of Matter. Works and processes from 1996-2011″ is the title of the exhibition, set up in one of the rooms of the Museum of Plastic Arts Eduardo Sivori in the city of Buenos Aires, which examines Herrero’s work under the curatorship of Teresa Riccardi, director of the institutionand this allows us to peek into this particular look at the symbols and modern imagery that the artist offers.

The exhibition, which is part of the contemporary cycle of women artists called “Visibles en la tempestad”, stems from the research Ricciardi has been conducting on the work of Herrero, who he describes as “a great contemporary conceptual artist”.

Teresa Riccardi director of the institution Photo Florencia Downs
Teresa Riccardi, director of the institution – Photo: Florencia Downs.

your trajectory

Herero (Buenos Aires, 1954), inter alia Lifetime Achievement Award 2021, visual artist and teacher, graduate of the Prilidiano Pueyrredón School of Fine Arts, exhibits installations, collages, paintings, documents, author’s books and videos made between 1996 and 2011 Room B of the Palermo Neighborhood Museum until November 30.

Works such as the reconstructed documentation for “Chat” (2001), the installation “Set” (2002) or “Intimacies” (1997), these two boring paintings painted on metal pans that describe a living room or a kitchen, as well as author’s books or the installation, which refers to the green and red of his well-known reviewers of the 1990s – reminiscences of everyday inventories and questions related to gender – or the videos that record the experience “Reflections on the public. Symposium in three acts” (2010) allow us to peer into the critical universe of the conceptual artist.

Photo by Alicia Herrero Florence Downs
Alicia Herrero – Photo: Florence Downs.

It is an exhibition that brings together some of the creative scaffolding that Herero boasts from the project “Chat” or “Chatten” (2001) developed at the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam (Netherlands), an installation that recovers 80 stories of immigrants and prisoners in dialogue with the technical file of museum objects. A project in which the graphic diagrams and themes of the artist are already present in that “complexity of layers of the project” that initiates the journey that goes from the private to the public of the artistic practice and from the graphic to the performative, without losing its essence, Ricciardi refers to Télam.

Comprised of paradigmatic works, the exhibition examines issues related to economics and gender. The curator focuses on the shift to the public of the artist’s practice with “Considerations on the public” (2010), “a piece anchored in a dimension where Alicia expands into the performative,” she says.

And although the artist has many projects, the curator traces the antecedents of this step to imitate or camouflage herself in “the public forum and her example as an individual artist” to the performance of the 90s, the paracultural and some pieces of the period, and establishes as valid jump the commission of “Chat” from the Rotterdam Herrero Museum in the explosive year of 2001.

“He started working from conversations he developed about grammar, which was already present in the ‘repassando’ series (1992-93), but almost at the same time he was doing the ‘Super signs’ seriesunexhibited – he explains – a collage he worked on for several years with graphic material, school textbooks collected since 1966 and completed in 1999,” explains the curator, who places the work near the documented European work that begins the tour.

“What’s interesting is how some elements and grammars start to emerge”, Ricciardi adds of the papers taped to one of the walls under the heading “Super signs and supermarket.” A piece in which they appear as a repertoire of culinary utensils seen in the Chat, where “their dishes, pots and pans begin to appear and no longer the cloth of the 90s, but it is within the same language of domestic economy,” he defines.

It is a large paper collage composed of others, with national symbols, household items, various objects, means of transport and the female figure in a domestic role. Images that represent “small operations” where the artist establishes “the critique of the symbolic system that shapes education, the world of children, fantasy, themes present in Empire / Things” (2005) and later works, but where they also vessels appear that are repeated in other works of the model already modeled,” says Ricciardi, who limits: “if one knows Alicia, one sees how she is constantly expanding.” And he highlights this possibility that Herrero’s production opens up as an interesting “opening condition.”

“My work is provocative.Alice Hero

With a warm, expansive and at times playful personality, the artist turns humor into a subtle, destructive and even irreverent tool for that modernity, which has marked generations in social habits and behavior, which continues in this view, fixated on the economy as a great theme. Humor that some of these works with a particular visual grammar provoke when one stops in front of them and reads them. They are works that reveal rules, objectify, “deconstruct” – in the words of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida – and destroy the symbolic discourses that he calls into question.

“My works refer to working processes that began in the mid-1990s and grew into objects, paintings, constructions on paper or collages.later in installations, videos and much of this work in different media responds to symbolic elements of our education, images that influence our lives, creating or constructing subjectivities, such as what is understood as female, male, the image about the homeland, representations that (were) in books, magazines, probably on the Internet today, that were important to highlight”.

Herrero takes those “pattern images” that are part of a repertoire he calls “supersign” and works with different materials. And from these graphic images of the “universe of gendered magazines that condition our identity,” he says, rebellion emerges in front of “this universe, armed to construct thought and discipline of the man, of the woman.”

“All this in my work is fundamental because this shock produced by so many predetermined orders, so many regulations, makes materiality a research resource, why? Because in a way I also pass through the world of art and traditions that responded to the conditioning of this type of discipline,” he reflects. And he adds: “If not, it is not clear why there have been so many centuries of religious painting when art is a popular, human expression.”

“My work is provocative”he defines when he takes traditions such as still life or still life and questions them, discovering “meanings that are capable of creating new questions about these genres of art”, such as those in the series reviewing the red and green guarded towel racks, that it can “produce emblems of a feminist activist character.”

The first job was three hanging towels, which he called “For a cleaner game,” a neat concept, he says. “She can talk about the cooking game or gender inequality,” she says.

“What I’m interested in, and in Duchamp’s sense (by Marcel Duchamp), is to take these artifacts in their ready-made state, of reality, and produce a kind of collapse, a discontinuity.”, shows. And he adds: “This whole journey led me to pieces like ‘Considerations on the public’, which later allowed me to work on broader issues of gender.”

The economy as an axis in his work is present in “Imperio / las cosa” (2005), which he presented at Macro in Rosario with his show “Alice Ville” and reinstalled in Sívori. For this work, he takes from a Christie’s catalog the image of a Viennese Imperial earthenware service and reflects on “the power of representational languages ​​in relation to the market, for work”, as the work consists of two parts: a video with an image from the game, which appears and disappears, its hidden counterpart is a workshop where a potter works.

“The economic aspect appears as a question to be worked on in this process, because I wondered how to deal with it in art, without it being pamphlet, illustrative, but asking what is essential, because in the end the laws of economics are the laws of exchange. ” And he concludes “if we don’t have a clear democratic practice, making a fair exchange is more difficult, that’s why it was a whole process to understand, for example, when we talk about the public, how we do it, that’s why I organized the forums (for “Considerations for the public “).

“I was interested to see how we listened to each other, discussed ideas, whether there is really a need to make the phenomenon of knowledge collective, and not that one is right and the other is in opposition – he emphasizes – as if looking for the phenomenon of agreements, because economic inequality is born out of other inequalities of the cultural order and how we exercise democracies—he pauses—in the world,” he concludes.

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