The National Museum of Colombia is organizing a retrospective of Antonio Caro (1950-2021) to mark the first anniversary of the conceptual artist’s death. Caro, who was an outspoken critic of how art was presented by institutions, and someone who chose to show his multi-media works in non-art spaces, including creative workshops, is also better known. in the country for his work Colombia/Coca- Cola Serigraphy. Yet despite a trajectory of half a century as an artist, Caro was not prolific, “carrying out more creative workshops than works”, during his life, says the curator of the Victor Manuel Rodríguez exhibition.
“The tribute to Antonio Caro recognizes this and imagines the Museum as a great workshop for collective creation, which encourages participants to share the critical concerns of the creator and to continue to question the role of the artistic institution”, emphasizes Rodríguez. “Caro showed us the tragic fate of the memory of the nation: its inability to account for the multiplicity of stories and places,” he said. Rodríguez holds a PhD from the University of Rochester and an MA from Goldsmith’s College London.
Titled in Spanish as Plastic action: homecoming to Antonio Caro, the retrospective is divided into seven sections, each based on themes representative of an artist who has been described by fellow artist Luis Camnitzer as a “visual guerrilla”, even though Caro considered himself a “failed political artist” from his days in the fine arts program at the Universidad Nacional de Bogotá. An institution from which he left in the mid-1960s to work under the sponsorship of Bernardo Salcedo and “without pressure from a political principle”. In an interview with Rodríguez for BOMB magazine, Caro admits that he “tried to contribute more to art than to politics”.
The exhibition includes two early works by Caro – Head of Lleras and Imperialism Is a Paper Tiger – revealing the artist’s methodology and intention to create information art grounded in historical interpretation. Lleras’ head was made from salt and fitted with glasses, resembling a bust of President Carlos Lleras Restrepo who completed his term in 1970, and in the same year the piece was shown as part of the National Salon of art from the National Museum.
the original room was housed inside a glass box until water droplets dissolved the Liberal leader’s face, sending salt water onto the museum floor. In the retrospective, the public is invited to replicate this process and pay homage to the artist’s belief that “the creative proposition can be constantly repeated,” says Museum Director Juliana Restrepo. Or in the words of Caro: “Art needs creativity, but creativity doesn’t need art.”
With Imperialism is a Paper Tiger, spectators will be able to hang silhouettes of disposable tigers from the ceiling of the Museum, as the artist did in 1972 at the planetarium in Bogotá. When the installation opened with a large red banner of Mao’s famous phrase as a backdrop, leftist artists were not amused and scoffed at Caro’s critique of China’s Cultural Revolution. “I had the preconceived idea of making a political play, but the result did not convince political circles. It was a very pivotal moment, to be shunned by political orthodoxy,” he said.
The exhibition also includes print works that show the artist’s close relationship with commercial typography, posters, and historically distant mediums, including achiote and xeroxing. In the sections Tribute to Manuel Quintín Lame, Corn and Art Have No Place Here, the public is also encouraged to participate with different mediums and pay homage to an artist who, in 1978, coined the expression “Todo esta muy Caro” and a pun on his last name. and the word Dear.
Antonio Caro’s works are part of the Latin American collections of the Tate Modern in London; Queen’s Museum, New York; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; and Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá.
The artist died at the age of 71 of a heart attack in Bogotá and was represented by the Casas Riegner gallery.
The exhibition is open from April 1 to June 26.
National Museum: Cra 7 No.28-66
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