The exhibition Alberto Greco ¡Qué grande sos! [Alberto Greco, How Great You Are!] is the result of one of the most important pieces of research ever undertaken by the Museo Moderno. This staging of the artist’s complex oeuvre features Greco the ground-breaker who destabilised the Argentinian art scene of the 1950s and ’60s and became a key artist in the transition from modern to contemporary art on the international scene.
The Museum proposes to exhibit Greco in motion, opening up a new way to display his output. The ‘exhibition’ mechanism becomes a stage, a kind of discursive platform that includes both a choice selection of existing works, as well as documentary material transformed into a living record and fictional production (gestures, actions) to bring visibility to the myriad resources of Greco’s system of production. The use of different modes of curatorial and museographical representation incorporate the spectator in the artist’s voyage towards arte vivo, or ‘live art’. The aim is to reinstate a view of the artist that does not exclusively highlight his objectual legacy (as previous exhibitions of his work have), but also to reconstruct his actions and vivo-ditos (literally, ‘living fingers’), as well as works without any material visual dimension.
Designed by Daniela Thomas, Felipe Tassara and Iván Rösler, the exhibition proposes a fluid space where three conceptual axes of Greco’s work intersect. The first of these addresses aspects of the artist’s inscription: writing in both his literature and his visual pieces, the signing and branding of the self, and the choice of the real as art in his vivo-ditos. The second axis advances the idea of process as a means of unframing modern painting and making it approach the action: from the introduction of chance and the contingent into pictorial practice, to the inclusion of living characters on the canvas. The third and last axis addresses the community aspect, which is central to Greco’s worldview: the community that constitutes the spiritual, the artistic as credo and the social as material of thought.
The exhibition also sets out to underline Alberto Greco’s relations with his native city, Buenos Aires. Though Alberto Greco lived in Europe for much of his brief career, his interpretation of contemporary languages was alive with the fabric of the Porteño art scene. Relocating the artist in his city and at the Museo de Arte Moderno – which has closely followed his processes since the late 1950s – is intended as an experience of communitarian reunion.
Alberto Greco (Buenos Aires, 1931–Barcelona, 1965) is one of the artists who inaugurated the contemporary scene. Greco’s early artistic links were with the literary field and figures like Sara Reboul, Ernesto Schoo, Juan Rodolfo Wilcock and María Elena Walsh. In 1947 and 1948, he attended workshops by Cecilia Marcovich, and by Tomás Maldonado and Lidy Prati; in this milieu, he became involved with Edgar Bayley, the theorist behind invencionismo [Inventionism]. During 1950, he toured the North-West of Argentina and became interested in the region’s culture and music. In 1954, he gained a grant from the French government and embarked for Paris in June, where he sold his Tachist drawings and paintings at Les Deux Magots café and the Café de Flore. In 1955, he held his first exhibition, at the Galerie La Roue. In 1956, Greco returned to Buenos Aires and exhibited the gouaches he made during his stay in Paris, at the Galería Antigone. In 1957, he travelled to Brazil: he exhibited in Rio de Janeiro, at the Petite Galerie, and presented his informalist works in São Paulo, at the Museu de Arte Moderna; on his return to Buenos Aires, in 1958, he staged the show 9 Artistas de San Pablo [9 Artists from São Paulo] (which included himself), at the Galería Antigone. In 1959, he was a member of the Argentinian Movimiento Informalista [Informalist Movement], along with Enrique Barilari, Kenneth Kemble, Fernando Maza, Mario Pucciarelli, Towas and Luis Alberto Wells. In 1960, Greco exhibited his series of pinturas negras [black paintings] at the Galería Pizarro. Again in 1960, in the VI Salón Arte Nuevo [6th New Art Salon], at the Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori, Greco exhibited a burnt log and some floor-cloths. In 1961, he made two key interventions of his artistic career: in October, his exhibition Las monjas [The Nuns], at the Galería Pizarro; and in November, his first urban intervention, a decal in downtown Buenos Aires, bearing the legends ‘¡Greco qué grande sos!’ [Greco, How Great You Are!] and ‘Greco: el pintor informalista más grande de América’ (Greco: The Greatest Informalist Painter in America).
Back in Paris, in 1962, he took part in the exhibition Pablo Curatella Manes et Trente Argentins de la Nouvelle Génération, organised by Germaine Derbecq at the Galerie Creuze, where he presented his first work of arte vivo [live art]: 30 ratones de la nueva generación [Thirty Mice of the New Generation]. In March the same year, he held the Premiére Exposition Arte Vivo [First Exhibition of Vivo-Dito Art] on the streets of Paris, signalling and signing people, objects and places; the Argentinian artist Alberto Heredia also took part in the experience. From France he moved to Italy, where he published the ‘Manifesto Dito dell’Arte Vivo’ [Declared Manifesto of Live Art] in Italian, in Genoa on 24 July 1962. In January 1963, at the Teatro Laboratorio, Greco, Carmelo Bene and Giusseppe Lenti staged Cristo 63: omaggio a James Joyce [Christ 63: A Homage to James Joyce]: the scandal sparked by the action ended in his expulsion from the city. From Italy he fled to Spain, alternating between Madrid and Piedralaves, a small town in Ávila, where he began work on his Gran manifiesto-rollo del arte-dito [Great Manifesto Scroll of Vivo-Dito Art]. In Madrid, he forged relationships with Adolfo Estrada, Manolo Millares, Antonio Saura and others. In Madrid, too, he organized numerous actions, including Viaje de pie en el metro de Sol a Lavapiés [Metro Journey by foot from Sol to Lavapiés]. In 1963, with the help of Lawrence Viola, he moved to an apartment in the city, and from there launched his Galería Privada. In May 1964, he exhibited these works in his solo show Objets vivants [Living Objects], at the Galería Juana Mordó, Madrid, and, on a trip to Buenos Aires, held Mi Madrid querido [My Beloved Madrid] at the Galería Bonino, a vivo-dito show with the collaboration of the Spanish dancer Antonio Gades.
In 1965, he performed the Rifa vivo-dito [Vivo-Dito Raffle] in New York’s Central Station, with the collaboration of Christo, Roy Lichtenstein, Daniel Spoerri, Allan Kaprow and others. In May, he returned to Spain with Claudio Badal, an old flame he had met again in New York. Greco spent that summer with Badal in Ibiza, where he worked on Besos brujos [Bewitched Kisses]: 120 plates treated with texts, paintings and collages. Estranged from Badal, he returned to Madrid and then moved to Barcelona. He committed suicide on 12 October 1965. In December of the same year, the Galería Pizarro held a tribute exhibition, and, five years after his death, Luis Felipe Noé and the Galería Carmen Waugh devoted a second posthumous exhibition to him.