BEING AND TIME: Two Approximations is the title of the exhibition that brings together, for the very first time, two of the greatest and most important Peruvian visual artists ever, Martín Chambi and Fernando de Szyszlo, under a specific curatorial focus. The show consists of over 35 works from different periods of both artists’ careers. In the case of Chambi, the exhibition features a selection of medium- and large-sized photographs, made using traditional chemical development processes in an exclusive edition using Chambi’s original glass plates, developed in one of the most detail-oriented and prestigious studios in the world: that of Spanish National Photography Award winner Juan Manuel Castro Prieto. In the case of Szyszlo, the exhibition includes a selection of works made using acrylic on canvas, bronze sculpture, drawing, and engraving, representative of the working hypothesis under which the show was curated. “In their work, both Chambi and Szyszlo exhibit a particular, shared ability to transmit, imbue the spectator with a special force; ancestral, territorial, vital, telluric, and alive, underpinned by the drive toward life, and toward death as well. They both pursue an understanding of an essential, vital, authentic identity, that real and elusive mystery. Both, in their own visual languages, have undertaken quests that in many cases appear similar. The quest for and unflagging intent to discover, show their culture, reflect or cause to emerge, hoist forth the soul, the essence of their culture, of things, of all that they see and feel. Both make liberal use of the earth, the vestiges, the evidence of their civilization and culture, of the layout of the territory, of light and shadow. Martin Chambi, a Quechua-speaker by birth, worked with, grasped the soul of Peru in his search for and display of that quintessence, that overarching, fundamental characteristic. We see it in the choices, definition, and framing of his works, with the half-dark and shadows and the focuses; he exhibits, lays bare that underlying constituent principle of the place, its force and its culture. Numerous examples bear witness to this. The archaeological sites of Machu Picchu, Qoricancha, Ayaviri-Puno, and Curahuasi-Apurímac, among others; the twists he puts on his “landscapes,” capture and display that unique mystery that cannot be expressed in words. The same can be seen in his works featuring urban landscapes and people and customs. Chambi’s work transcended the interpretation and meaning that the Indigenismo movement assigned to the revival of the ancestral and the pre-Hispanic. Fernando de Szyszlo was one of the earliest practitioners in Peru of that great adventure of modern art, abstraction. He is abstract, or rather abstractionist, not abstract. He takes inspiration from the ancestral and the telluric, exploring his roots, rendering the ancient Peruvian cultures in symbols, abstraction, capturing their essence. He is inspired by the landscape. It is an artwork, a painting bursting with density, with contrasts between shadow and light, light and shadow. The luminosity, the light sprouts from the darkness. He is interested in unity. He has been in search of a style of painting able to address the mystery, the essence of life, in all of its profound significance. He is also inspired by the desert, the Peruvian coast: the landscape, as we said. There is a series of pieces in his oeuvre that leads us, transports us along stairwells to sealed-off enclosures, closed, subterranean, sanctified spaces. These steps, rungs, or stairways, bring us back to, evoke ancient pre-Columbian temples. They point out or help us discern the sacred, the occult. Suddenly, we see tabletops, knives, sacrifice, altars, beds, and even eroticism, life, and death.” Roberto Ascóniga This exhibit was curated by Roberto Ascóniga, director of Galería Enlace Arte Contemporáneo; the art critics Elida Román, Andrés Garay, and Jorge Villacorta; and the director of the Chambi Photographic Archives, Teo Allaín Chambi. As a working hypothesis, the curators focused on the common dominators between both artists, as well as other commonalities that began to emerge and reveal themselves over the course of the investigation into these two creators, artists who came from different circumstances and origins, yet who both feel and possess, discover and share a common gaze, in the constitution of space, rituality, and solutions in their own time. "I have read that in Chile, they think that the Indians have no culture, that they are uncivilized, that they are intellectually and artistically inferior compared to the whites and the Europeans. More eloquent than my opinion, in any case, are the visual testimonies. It is my hope that an impartial and objective judge will examine this evidence. I feel that I am a representative for my race; my people speak through my photographs…” –Martín Chambi, from a speech given by Chambi during a visit to Chile to inaugurate an exhibition of his works. "I think the presence of the pre-Columbian tradition is an important reality for a Latin American painter. It is a completely unprecedented language of forms that play the role of mediators between the reality of the human group that developed them and the occult forces that threaten to triumph over the human condition… Before the concept of art even existed, these forms fulfilled, in some obscure way, the same function that art fulfills today: keeping alive the symbolic connection, Jung’s ‘unconscious identity.’ This is the testimony and the storehouse of the most serious and permanent elements in human experience.” –Fernando de Szyszlo.
Fernando de Szyszlo (Lima, 1925) has held numerous individual exhibitions of his work. Among other cities, he has shown in Lima, Paris, Madrid, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Caracas, Bogota, Quito, Santiago, Chile, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Asunción, Río de Janeiro, São Paulo, Florence, Rome, Warsaw, New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Seoul. His work is held in many public collections, such as those of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Lima; the Museo de Arte de Lima; the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C.; the Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico; the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City; the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Martín Chambi (Puno, 1891). In 1917, Chambi presented his first photography exhibition at the Centro Artístico de Arequipa and opened his first studio in Sicuani, Cuzco, which soon became the most important in the region by helping to capture seemingly opposite realities: rich vs. poor, white vs. Indian and mestizo, tradition vs. renewal and modernity, country vs. city, past vs. present, artistic photography vs. documentary photography, form vs. content, freedom vs. commerce, rational logic vs. circular logic. His works have been exhibited in Lima, Cuzco, Seville, Viña del Mar, São Paulo, La Paz, Montevideo, Santiago, Chile, Mexico City, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Washington, D.C., New York, Zurich, Paris, Madrid, Arles, Stockholm, Bordeaux, and Rome. The exhibition Being and Time: Chambi/Szyszlo—Two Approximations can be visited at Galería ENLACE ARTE CONTEMPORÁNEO through January 28, 2017, Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free and open to the public.