Text by Stuart Krimko
Via Viva brings together the work of three dozen artists whose work is testament to the extraordinary visual and literary art movements that have developed in Buenos Aires over the last two decades. It includes internationally recognized figures such as Roberto Jacoby, Fernanda Laguna and Mondongo, as well as a number of artists who will be showing their work in the United States for the first time. Most of the works on view have been commissioned especially for the show and sent to the United States by mail using the most basic means available; most often this has meant relying upon the Argentinian federal postal system.
Via Viva focuses on a generation marked by the massive financial crisis that affected Argentina in 2001. In its wake, artists were forced to realize their ideals in increasingly independent ways, coordinating the realization and exhibition of their work in often radically direct fashion, and engaging in forms of creative production that were also a means of economic and social resistance. This led to sui generis phenomena like the gallery and DIY publisher Belleza y Felicidad, founded immediately after the crisis by artists and writers who valued collaboration over individual expression, and who believed that art could be a social as well as an aesthetic experiment. Shared projects of this kind continue to evolve with astonishing vitality, and new groups of even younger artists have begun to work in these modes, moving freely between mediums and simultaneously participating in Buenos Aires' active literary, music, performance, and fashion communities.
The manner in which Via Viva has been organized honors the overtly fleeting and fluid nature of the work its artists produce. Drawings, prints, texts, lightweight sculptures, and video files have been fitted into inconspicuous envelopes and boxes designed to draw the least amount of attention by customs officials. The works bear signs of having traveled in this way; there has been no attempt to remove the creases, wrinkles, and other effects of their voyage, which form an intentional part of the overall installation. As a result, the exhibition also addresses a global condition in which international borders are both more socially porous––and more contentious––than ever. While this constraint arose as a response to the very real difficulty involved in shipping artwork from Argentina to the United States, it became a source of invention and an elegant way to provide a cross-section of a cultural scene strongly characterized by its embrace of ephemerality, collaboration, and its location at the periphery of the contemporary art world. In keeping with this, the show's curator, artist Alina Perkins, has installed the show in her own Hollywood studio outside of any institutional framework.
The works themselves emerge from a wide array of critical and formal positions. Some are sentimental and personal, channeling a strongly feminist, punk-style immediacy that deliberately flies in the face of the erudition prized by the cultural elite in Buenos Aires for many years. Others, meanwhile, are pointedly political and inscribe themselves in ongoing lineages of South American conceptual art while addressing themes of migratory turmoil and railing against reactionary strains in the Argentinian government. What all the works share is their status as documents authored to commemorate a specific occasion, and to function as parts of a conversation that transcends the concerns of any individual artist. For while Via Viva is undoubtedly a collection of singular voices, it is first and foremost a celebration of art's inherent generosity and its ability to establish embodied, if impermanent, utopias wherever and whenever like-minded artists cross paths.