Antonio Berni is without question one of the biggest names in Argentine art. A compulsive drawer from the time he was child living in Rosario, his immense body of work — extremely varied in its techniques, mediums, and materials — is centered around the examination of the starkness of reality and the human condition in Argentina. With the eye of a photographer, or of a poet, whose aim is to immortalize a single moment forever in his or her work, Berni captures everything from landscapes to subtle gazes and impassioned embraces in his haunting renditions. At times verging on grotesque, his work does not shy away from detail — a practice that is essential to his commitment to brutal honesty.
The Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA) has created an exposition that spans Berni’s entire artistic career — from his earliest works, completed around 1929, to his latest, dated 1981. The majority of the 222 pieces that have been selected for the exposition are studies that have not been previously displayed to the public. The drawings, illustrations, designs and sketches have come overwhelmingly from private collections.
Highlights from the exposition include a series of awe-inducing photomontages that showcase the artist’s use of multiple techniques and mediums. The range of colors that Berni layers on the photographs to create depth and texture is spectacular in its contrast, and makes for some surreal scenes. There is also a whole wall completely devoted to nudes — putting Berni’s love for the human form (especially the female) on display. The beauty of this particular series of sketches comes from the hastiness that they appear to be carried out with — the brusqueness of each sketch speaks volumes about the brevity of human life.
‘Revelations On Paper’ also includes works that deal with the numerous coup d’états that rocked Argentina to its core throughout the 1900’s. The dawn of the so called ‘Infamous Decade’ shocked Berni and prompted him to create a series of politically motivated paintings; Argentina in the 30’s was a far cry from where had spent the previous five-or-so years of his life—Paris in the 20’s. The scenes of clashes between police officers and civilians are a sobering, and often sickening, reminder of history. Berni’s involvement in the Communist party is also reflected in these works.
‘Revelations On Paper’ will be on display in the MAMBA (San Juan 350) until the 17th of February. While you’re there, you can also check out Pablo Picasso’s ‘Más allá de la semejanza’ — a collection of 74 pieces that constitute the first retrospective show in Argentina dedicated to Picasso’s work. The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11AM to 7PM, and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (feriados) from 11AM to 8PM. General admission is a whopping AR $20, and admission on Tuesdays is free.