Santiago García Sáenz – Museo Isaac Fernández Blanco

No. 17 July – September 1995

Following a project initiated by the architect Alberto Petrina, who is now director of the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano (Museum of Hispanicamerican Art), the chapel of this establishment is used to house temporary exhibitions of contemporary Argentine art. The mansion, built by the architect Martín Noel, is a typical example of the theoretical formulations of colonial renaissance, which reached great popularity in Argentina around the centenary of the May Revolution, in 1910. In this sense, art exhibitions presented in the chapel are linked to the museum’s institutional vision that also looks to promote an aesthetic with a national historical aspect.

Marcia Schvartz was the artist who inaugurated this project in 1994. This year, the gallery opened its doors during the months of March and April for the exhibition Visiones Americanas (American Visions) by Santiago García Sáenz.

García Sáenz (1955) belongs to the generation of artists that emerged in the 1980s along with Schvartz, Pierri, Pino, Pietra and Pirozzi, and others. They all shared the generational spirit of that period, characterized by the irruption of neo-expressionism and the return to the practice of painting. During that time, this artist’s painting displayed a powerful and erotic nature, with a wild treatment of materials and brushstrokes.

During the year 1986, García Sáenz traveled through Latin América. He journeyed through Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador and the north of Argentina. As he reflected on the upcoming Fifth Centenary of the discovery of the New World, he began to develop an epic-historical series titled Te estoy buscando, América (I’m looking for you, America). Between 1988 and 1989, he painted the altar of the Iglesia de Santa Cecilia in Castelar, Province of Buenos Aires. From that moment on, his work acquired the traits of his current production.

In his Visiones Americanas (American Visions), the American popular iconography is blended loosely with certain features of the Cuzquenian tradition. The religious syncretism of Latin American communities is approached and emphasized by the eclecticism with which García Sáenz overlaps biblical legends, New Testament narratives, and apocryphal stories of local origin. The Three Wise Men are represented as gauchos and Jacob as a builder dreaming of a heavenly city, surrounded by Paraguayan ruins in a tropical forest. The sacred and the profane coexist in a narrative where memory works as a source for imagination. In his images, García Sáenz blends his childhood memories with the collective memory of national history. The Americanist perspective is brought up-to-date with a rhetoric that manipulates strategies of juxtapositions and textual crossovers. In some cases, contemporary architecture can be identified with specific buildings in the city of Buenos Aires, infusing their images with strange subtleties that mark the deviation from the traditional narrative, with the objective of installing an updated understanding of the features that define a certain culture. The exhibition closes with the series of Cristo de los enfermos (Jesus of the sick). Here, the reinterpretation of religious content is renewed through the idea of the fin-de-siècle martyrdom, brought by our time’s terminal illnesses.