Becú, Bonzo and Vecino. Painting in local shades

No. 128 – September 2005

Among young painters, many have returned to the painting tradition. This is the case of Juan Becú, Alejandro Bonzo and Nahuel Vecino’s exhibition in the Sara García Uriburu gallery. A surprising return to painting just at the time when new technologies are gaining ground in art exhibitions. They paint with detailed precision and allow themselves to recover the figurative image, copying it from photographs or from nature. It is noticeable that for some of these artists, the international scene is no longer taken as a reference. Instead, they build up their repertoire by looking at the yellowish pages of books published by Eudeba and Viscontea, both publishers specialized in Argentine artists. They collect these editions as cult objects found in old people’s bookstores on Corrientes Street or purchase books published more recently by Banco Velox, along with catalogs of current exhibitions at institutions and galleries.

This is the case of Juan Becú (1980), who fervently admires the painting of Lacámera and Cúnsolo, and who admits that his favorite outing is a visit to the collection of the Quinquela Martín Museum in La Boca, or the Argentine section of the National Museum of Fine Arts. City landscapes are the subject of Alejandro Bonzo’s (1976) artworks, showing buildings with lowered blinds, stillness and extreme solitude. A whole iconography of absence painted with strident and vibrant colors emerges, presenting a flat image in enamel and oil on wood. His work results in a mixture between the climate of the painting of Lacamera, Hopper, David Hockney as well as the inevitable references to his teacher, Pablo Suarez.

Nahuel Vecino (1977) draws in sanguine using iconography from socialist realism and paints massive, sculptural figures in oil, with “that muddy, humid, brown, from the basin of the River Plate and from his school of painting“, as Gumier Maier wrote in the prologue to his last show at the MALBA (Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art).

Matching the “anonymous 21st century” style, similar to all art fairs and biennials, in these artists one can sense the antithesis of this neutral anonymity. They paint with a contemporary language that incorporates local references without resorting to folklore.

This movement can be interpreted as an attempt, perhaps still very incipient, to design a model of art, life and thought of their own. It would be interesting to sketch a history of Argentine art by listening to the artists’ heartbeat without drowning out their personal sound and trying not to impose predetermined and universal theoretical frameworks. And also to accept the coexistence of other histories of art together with some version that uses the reasoned emotion of the work in direct contact with the one who looks at it as a legitimizing source. 

(Sara García Uriburu Art Gallery, until September 24th).