Mildred Burton: National Fauna

The Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires is proud to present this cabinet exhibition of the work of Mildred Burton (Paraná, 1942–Buenos Aires, 2008). In her paintings and drawings the artist has built up a wild, oppressive domestic world to lift the veil on the animality that lurks in the human body. Burton has created a body of fantastic imagery that narrates the echoes of the latter third of the twentieth century in Argentina.

In her forty-year output Burton has married a broad range of influences: the English nineteenth-century Arts & Crafts decorative tradition, the surrealism of Max Ernst and René Magritte, and the political realism of Argentina of the 1970s and ’80s. But her most enduring references have been fantastic literature and children’s folk tales. Out of these elements she has created a great visual novel of the family environment and its conflicts.

Using these tools, Burton has made a direct criticism of the cultural by invading it with the wild and has understood that the best way to exploit the tensions between them is to have them cohabit at the centre of the family home. She has merged two apparently contrasting worlds – nature and civilization – bringing human and animal forms into contact at the point of bestial transformation. At the same time, Burton injected everyday objects like stools or cups with fantastic life in pursuit of estrangement in the most ordinary reality.

By focusing on the Western family tradition and its protective atmosphere while opening up cracks in it with these mixtures of humans, animals and living objects, Burton made her characters symbolic vehicles that carry in their bodies the national identity, alive with natural exuberance and social cruelty. Her work enacts a delirious spiralling outwards from the stillness of the home to the whole of Argentinian society that gave rise to it. This has made it an eccentric piece of its generation and an inescapable reference point for contemporary feelings.

Mildred Burton (Entre Ríos, 1942 – Buenos Aires, 2008) studied at the Escuela Provincial de Bellas Artes de Entre Ríos and at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes ‘Ernesto de la Cárcova’. In 1973, after receiving awards from several national and provincial salons, she embarked on a long series of exhibitions in Buenos Aires. In 1974 she won the prestigious Marcelo de Ridder prize, and her work was acquired by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. She was part of the Post-Figuration group and held countless exhibitions at various Argentinian galleries and museums. In the 1980s, while staging performances with Federico Klemm and working with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Mildred Burton deservedly began to receive growing recognition.