Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca is widely considered one of the most important and influential contemporary Latin American artists working today. Kuitca, born in 1961 in Buenos Aires, represented Argentina in the 2007 Venice Biennale, and his work is housed in some of the most important galleries and collections across the world. Now through the 28th of July, Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery presents an exhibition of Kuitca’s recent paintings and works in graphite.
Maps, travel, migration, and memory are all recurrent motifs that feature in Kuitca’s work, and his exhibition reveals at once an abstraction and deeper exploration of these themes. His large-scale paintings dominate the North Gallery and immerses the viewer entirely in the rhythm of the dynamic slashes that cut across the canvas to create a dense web of marks. These abstract networks are colorful cartographic lights, though Kuitca has removed all markers of place and location. The resulting images resemble vaguely mountainous landscapes, shot-through with dynamic nonrepresentational lines.
Guillermo Kuitca, Untitled (Guille) (2011)
With these pieces, Kuitca has reframed the function of a map as a purely aesthetic experience. However, the lines that once signified highways or clusters of color that might indicate a town retain a clear sense of movement and direction. A sense of orientation contained in many of these overbearing, abstract works remains. This series pushes the themes of mapping, tracking, and orientation, frequent concerns for Kuitca, to a place of abstraction, pointing to the question of how to account for the individual’s physical relationship to space.
In the South Gallery, a series of seven large-scale graphite works are on view, for which French Enlightenment philosopher Diderot’s ‘Encyclopédie’ was the inspiration. In this ambitious project, Diderot attempted to compile all knowledge into numerous encyclopedic volumes. Kuitca manipulated the marble floor plans from the ‘Encyclopédie’, transposing each minute detail they contain into graphite. As the press release states, “Kuitca’s manipulated plans straddle the boundary between ancient and futuristic. While the massive scale and intricacy pays homage to the demands of such a task, Kuitca sees in this suite an acknowledgement that technology is now bringing us closer to reaching Diderot’s originally unattainable goal.” The beauty of these works resides in part in the impressive labor that went into their production.
Encyclopédie VI, 2010.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication cataloguing Kuitca’s new works. The fragmented cartographies and architectural plans that comprise this show represent a profound investigation into the graphic and aesthetic significance held by maps. Kuitca’s recent works also signal an overall fascination with the individual’s preoccupation and near obsession with keeping track of oneself in space. Kuitca’s transformation of the map into a surface of abstract representation as well as his response to Diderot’s ambition to gather all knowledge into encyclopedic volumes illustrate the artist’s engagement with the canvas as a rigorously intellectual endeavor.
— A. Corrigan