Guillermo Kuitca - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galería Julia Lublin, Buenos Aires
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    As a very young artist I got used to the idea that painting is something so resistant and elastic that you have to provoke it at all times.
    Guillermo Kuitca, 2009

    Throughout the greater part of the sixties and seventies, the avant-garde art scene of Buenos Aires had privileged happenings, conceptual art, and mass media art. As the military dictatorship that had begun in 1966 intensified throughout the next decade, Argentine art veered towards political activism, a trend that is best represented by the canonical 1968 installation Tucumán Arde, which denounced the activities of the totalitarian regime. Painting was therefore not the artistic medium of choice for nearly two decades; it was seen as démodé and even politically reactionary. Guillermo Kuitca’s emergence and triumph as an Argentine painter in the eighties may thus be considered quite remarkable, especially since Kuitca chose not to adopt the neoexpressionist styles so internationally fashionable throughout the eighties. The viability of Kuitca’s art in such a context is a testament to the artist’s ability to make painting relevant to its historical moment without compromising its capacity to rise above transient current trends.

    A precocious painter who obtained his first solo exhibition at the age of thirteen, Kuitca has since his early years in Argentina relentlessly explored the limits of paintings, transforming the medium and demonstrating its continued relevancy, despite all too common assertions of its death. Widely exhibited at internationally renowned art institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Tate, the Lincoln Center, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the 2007 Venice Biennale, Kuitca is undeniably one of the most important artists to have emerged from Latin America since the 1980s. Recently commended by celebrated art historian Andreas Huyssen as “a modernist after postmodernity,” Kuitca has consistently reimagined the possibilities of painting and produced works that are as intellectually demanding as they are formally complex.

    Created in the 1986, the present lot is painted in a style characteristic of the works in Nadie Olvida Nada, a breakthrough series of paintings that Kuitca created after a period of inactivity during which he questioned painting’s ability to compete with theater. This crisis had been triggered by the young artist’s discovery of Pina Bausch’s dance and theater, an encounter that made a long lasting impact on Kuitca, as evidenced by his later works based on theater seating plans. The artist’s fascination with the theater is already evident in Untitled, which presents a stage-like space awash in deep crimson. This saturation of color—a formal choice that brings to mind The Red Studio by Henri Matisse, one of Kuitca’s favorite artists— creates a dramatic and tense mood reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s masterpieces.

    The painting further lends itself to a psychoanalytic reading, for its very structure echoes Max Ernst’s surrealist collage from the 1920s, The Master’s Bedroom, whose deep recessional space functioned as a symbol for the private internal space of the psyche. In this red vacuum, Kuitca paints diminutive figures around the crude lines of a bed, an object connoting everything from death to desire and which functions as a leitmotif throughout Kuitca’s oeuvre. So blatantly exposed at the center of the composition, the bed here registers the exposure of a traditionally private space. The schematic, anemic figures have no faces—blankness replaces expression and individuality. This erasure of identity connects Kuitca’s figures to the alienated antiheroes of Franz Kafka’s brilliant literary works and Samuel Beckett’s most canonical plays. Barely holding up as cohesive entities, these figures, like the entirety of the painting, approach abstraction and presage Kuitca’s eventual transition into the non-mimetic representation that characterizes his acclaimed paintings of maps on mattresses. Untitled is therefore an exceptional and foretelling work in Kuitca’s overall oeuvre, for in it one can see the motifs and concerns of Kuitca’s later work: theater, space, the concept of the bed, and a looming sense of alienation.

  • Artist Biography

    Guillermo Kuitca

    Argentinian • 1961

    Guillermo Kuitca is an Argentinean child prodigy who held his first solo exhibition at age thirteen. He emerged as a painter during the 1980s, rejecting the neoexpressionist trend of the time. Yet his art is intellectually demanding, formally complex and relevant to the historical moment.

    Kuitca is influenced by Antoni Tápies, Francis Bacon, Jenny Holzer and Pina Bausch. His paintings denote total abstraction and deal with space, language, deat, and travel. His series of maps from the 1990s depicted on canvases and mattresses explore themes of disappearance, migration and the importance of memory. He rarely depicts humans, and his map paintings are difficult to decipher geographically, allowing viewers to meditate on the psychology of space.

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oil on canvas
79 x 55 in. (200.7 x 139.7 cm.)
Signed, inscribed and dated "'Sin Titulo' Kuitca 1986" on the reverse.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm