For the last 15 years, Iván Argote has been investigating and creating interventions on public monuments from his home country of Colombia to his current home in France. Influenced by the 2020 global uprisings of a new generation of young social activists confronting systems of inequality, oppression, and racial hierarchy, Argote’s artistic works come through as poetic and political gestures. This body of work settles at Galerie Perrotin this month, as the artist will present six new bodies of work proposing alternatives for contested monuments within major historic cities, centering in particular on Bogota, New York and Paris.
Titled A Place For Us, the show sees Argote attempting a new series of tactics — disappearance, eroticization, natural decay, and fiction — in order to theorize a new future for historical monuments. The centerpiece of this exhibition is Argote’s immersive installation, Wild Flowers, which includes planters made from disembodied fragments of Wall Street’s iconic George Washington monument. Scattered across the third floor of the gallery, Washington’s torso, hands, and feet are hollowed out and reimagined to contain regional plants and flowers, as modes of replenishment and regeneration.
Entering the gallery, one is treated to a large-scale photograph, titled Etcétera, based on a series of interventions the artist conducted in Bogota, Colombia from 2012-2018. There, Argote disrupted statues in public parks around the city by disappearing them with a mirror shell, like the one covering a statue of Francisco de Orellana, a conquistador who was the self-proclaimed discoverer of the Amazonian Forest. The resulting optical illusion obscures the statues while reflecting its surroundings. Building upon this, in his new Etcétera (2021) series, Argote uses architectural intervention with mirrors to entirely replace statues, reflecting the gaze back on us. Another series, titled Bondage (2021) is based on the artist’s daydreams of removing specific statues of conquistadores – such as Christopher Columbus and Sebastian de Belalcazar.
Creating complex discourses and concepts around the presentation and understanding of history, Argote embraces each viewer’s role in the understanding, re-contextualization and re-shaping of history. It closes August 13th.
– S. Clark
Iván Argote at Perrotin [Exhibition Site]