In 1961, Kenneth Kemble invited a group of artists to participate in an exhibition in which, instead of creating works of art, they would destroy them. The exhibition, Arte destructivo [Destructive Art], which was held at the Galería Lirolay in Buenos Aires, showed a series of objects – ranging from furniture and umbrellas to a large number of children’s toys – subjected to all kinds of destruction and presented in an installation that was as ominous as it was humorous. Two years later at the Impasse Ronsin, Marta Minujín invited leading figures from the Parisian scene to an event to mark the end of her stay in the French capital, where they would appropriate and intervene in the works she had created up to that time in France. She later set fire to the works in a cathartic, inaugural event that would become the first in a series of happenings that would change the course of Argentinean art history.
These two events are part of an avant-garde imaginary based on play and destruction; they are two gestures that influence the rest of the decade, in which the art object was the constant subject of discussion. This is the focus of our exhibition Mad Toys. The exhibition takes its title from Roberto Arlt’s first novel, published in 1926, which summarises, with surrealist humour and expressionist intensity, the playful attitude of artists in the 1960s and their relationship with the art object, which, like a toy in the hands of a child, exploded in this period. The exhibition comprises pieces that display a wide variety of violent gestures made towards the object, its limits and materiality, as well as Informalist and Destructive paintings and sculptures made with waste and violated materials; works that deconstruct the processes of meaning by focusing on the materiality of language; others about the most radical dematerialisation of the art object, and even works that address the disfigurement of the human body. Together, these works present a repertoire of artistic strategies that sought to revitalise art both at the dawn of a decade obsessed with cultural modernisation and, years later, when authoritarian governments and dictatorships were imposed.
The exhibition will provide a playful update with interventions by the artist and filmmaker Joaquín Aras (Buenos Aires, 1985) in the work and strategies employed by the historical avant-garde to expand the limits of the possible. The artists represented include Noemí Di Benedetto, León Ferrari, Alberto Greco, Alberto Heredia, Kenneth Kemble, Marta Minujín, Dalila Puzzovio, Luis Wells, and others.
With his audio-visual installations, Joaquín Aras invokes the irreverent, paradoxical spirit of the works of the period and reflects on the material resonance between Destructive art and the audio-visual archive of the 1960s, as well as on the important task of conserving the artworks that are part of the Museo Moderno collection.
Guest Artist: Joaquín Aras
Curated by: Patricio Orellana
Exhibition Design: Daniela Thomas, Felipe Tassara e Iván Rösler
Production: Julieta Potenze