Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
13 October 2018 – 13 January 2019
The influence of the baroque period on Latin-American art was based to an important extent on prints. During the pre-modern era the Spanish shipped countless prints of works by European artists such as Rubens to the ‘New World’, with the idea that they would be able to play an important role in missionary work. Indigenous artists were actually expected to copy the prints and introduce European art and culture in their own environment in this way. The artists did use the composition and Christian iconography from the black and white prints, but had to interpret the palette of colors and brushwork in their own way. After all, they did not know the original paintings. This often meant that the works acquired a different signi cance. In addition, so many copies were sometimes made of the prints that they become completely divorced from the originals. Moreover, the indigenous artists were encouraged to incorporate symbols and other more formal elements in their painted copies, which dated back to the pre-colonial period. This was part of a strategy based on the following key concepts: “reinterpretation, appropriation, eradication and lastly, conversion”. Calero is fascinated by the way in which one culture can assimilate another, either forcefully or otherwise. In her work, ranging from paintings and graphic works to large-scale spatial installations, she tries to unravel cultural clichés. This also applies to the installation ‘El Patio’ which she made for Sensory Spaces. The work looks like a colorful patio that serves as a meeting place for visitors to the museum. In Latin-American countries patios are part of the social structure: they are places where people come together, exchange ideas and live their lives. Because the patio has such a central place in daily life, Calero believes that it is easy to forget that it is the icon of colonial architecture. After all, it was the Spanish who introduced the patio in the ‘New World’. In fact, in Spain the patio had been greatly in uenced by the Arab world, amongst others.
‘El Patio’ has a symmetrical structure consisting of arched walls you can walk through, surrounding a square courtyard with a wishing well. The walls are partly covered by wallpaper designed by the artist, incorporating oral and geometrical patterns. With this wallpaper Calero is referring to the Catholic churches which she visited during one of her last trips to the Andes region. During the pre-modern era the walls, arches and columns of these churches were painted by hand by local craftsmen. They imitated the valuable materials, such as marble, which were used in European churches but which were not available in their own environment. Moreover, these ‘faux marbles’ were also often applied in European churches and public buildings. In the renaissance one could learn the technique of faux stone painting both in Italy and France. In Calero’s presentation the motifs on the wallpaper are executed in black and white on one side of the wall, while they appear in color on the other side. This can be considered as a contemporary version of the interpretation of European prints by the indigenous artists of the ‘New World’. Calero examines, translates and interprets the Latin-American history of art and adds her own elements in her installations and other works of art. For the palette of colors used in ‘El Patio’ she was inspired by Rubens, particularly by his famous oil sketches. The museum has several of these, currently being shown in the ‘Pure Rubens’ exhibition in another part of the museum. Numerous exhibitions have been devoted to the in uence Rubens had on European art, but in recent years academics have devoted increasing attention to his in uence on Latin-American art. In this way Calero’s presentation meets the current demand for a broader and more pluriform canon of art history.
Saskia van Kampen