Buenos Aires Herald. Published Sunday, April 6, 2003
Art On Sunday
Jorge Gumier Maier is back at the Rojas
By Alina Tortosa
For the Herald
On April 2 the art gallery of the Centro Cultural Rojas de la Universidad de Buenos opened its season with work by Alfredo Battistelli, once more under Jorge Gumier Maier.
Gumier Maier, artist and curator, is definitely one of the best-known personalities in the local visual art scene. His decorative abstract figures and his own perception of art were central in the 1990s to open a mental and physical space to work that had never reached exhibition venues, other artists, the public, or the press, specialized or otherwise.
In 1989, following Daniel Molina’s suggestion, the Centro Cultural Rojas de la Universidad de Buenos agreed to devote exhibition space to the visual arts. Molina went further and said that he knew of an artist who could fill the role of curator. So it came about that Gumier Maier, who had never thought of himself as a curator, organized from scratch visual art shows that made history in what was then a corridor. How did he do this? Did he set out with definite ideas of what he wanted to achieve? No, he said he had no plans, no theories. He looked around to see what interested him that was not been shown elsewhere. He saw young artists working in isolation in ways that were not taken into account by anybody else.
He chose work that was mostly decorative, which then was a bad word in the local art world. Not to him. Gumier Maier reminded the Herald that decoration is at the very origin of man’s creative impulses, since art history begins with paintings in prehistoric caves and with the design of basic containers for domestic use. He was concerned with work that celebrated domestic rituals as well as the identity of those artists involved. Soon people in the contemporary art world, particularly young people, spoke of “el Rojas” as an exhibition venue to take into account.
There was not much else going on then for the very young crowd except the gallery at the ICI, then Instituto de Cultura Iberoamericano – now the Centro Cultural de España - that had opened a year before under Laura Buccellato, currently the director of the Museum of Modern Art. She was the contemporary curator by excellence then, the one and only, with a very clear-cut vision of the use of space. Gumier Maier says that though they had different aims conceptually, he went to her shows to study her style, neat and perfunctory. By 1996, when his curatorship ended, he had helped to establish new parameters, created a convivial atmosphere that brought together young artists who had worked in isolation before, and he himself had become a legend. A controversial legend, since much of the work he showed was considered too decorative by some curators and art critics. Discussions issued on “light art”, and on the fact that a few of the artists he launched were gay. In practice, less than ten per cent -which is the given average in current society- of the artists shown were gay, but the fact that gay work had not been acknowledged openly before put the Rojas into the lime light and their acknowledgement was understood as a powerful statement.
In 2003 things have changed in the local art world. Quite a few art spaces, opened in the last three years, show very young work. Young artists are therefore well taken care of, some of them are even represented by prestigious galleries. The schedule for this season is to work with artists from other provinces that have not shown in Buenos Aires.
The grand news is the University bought the house next door, so by late Spring the Rojas visual art premises will be three times larger and specifically designed as an art exhibition space. “It won’t be the Malba”, Gumier Maier says guardedly, but one can sense the pride in his tone.
As an artist Gumier Maier has exhibited extensively in Argentina and abroad. Though his work has changed throughout time –indented and meandering wooden structures that work as wall pieces, mostly in pastel shades-, it is always easily recognizable as his. He has never shown his own work at the Rojas under his own curartorship, careful to keep his two activities apart to comply with his ethical principles. He has taught in the Buenos Aires, Tucumán, Rosario, del Sur (Bahía Blanca), and Cuyo Universities. He has been awarded the Konex Prize in 2002, the Fondo Nacional de las Artes Prize to career performance in 2001, and the Otium Ecology Prize in 1993.
The visual art community at large is focusing on this new period at the Rojas and looking forward to what our artist cum curator cum professor will propose.