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date: 18 November 2019

Macchi, Jorgefree

(b Buenos Aires, 1963).
  • Michaela de Lacaze

Argentine installation and mixed-media artist. In the 1980s Macchi studied painting at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires. Encouraged by the influential critic Jorge López Anaya and artist Enio Iommi, he soon banded with other artists of his generation to form El Grupo de la X in 1986—a collective defined not by a coherent style but by an eagerness to experiment across different media and disciplines. From 1993 to 1998 several artist residencies enabled Macchi to live in different European cities, including Paris, London, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. After winning numerous prizes and honors, such as the Argentine Fondo Nacional de las Artes in 2000 and a Guggenheim fellowship in 2001, Macchi represented Argentina at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005.

Inspired by the fantastic elements, absurdity, and madness characterizing the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, Macchi used everyday objects to create poetic and perplexing images that resist signification and strain logic, often with a hint of dark humor. Created for the Argentine Pavilion of the 2005 Venice Biennale, The Ascension, a site-specific installation and musical performance, is emblematic of Macchi’s approach. Below the fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin adorning the ceiling of a 17th-century chapel, Macchi placed a trampoline replicating the fresco’s shape. While a musician played the viola (an instrument also represented in the painting), a performer repeatedly jumped on the trampoline, an action drolly echoing the Virgin Mary’s miraculous ascension. In this manner, The Ascension created an irresolvable tension between the illusionism of representation and the tangible presence of bodies and objects in real space.

Because of its restrained aesthetics and interest in language, Macchi’s art is often discussed in relation to the neo-conceptualism emblematic of the global art scene of the 1990s—a grouping Macchi disputed. The paradoxical, even irrational, nature of his art—that is, its refusal to crystallize meaning through a singular concept or idea—certainly troubles this association with conceptualism. Given Macchi’s play with chance, rejection of programmatic rationality, and estranging juxtapositions of objects, his oeuvre is more aligned with Surrealism than with conceptual art. This lineage is supported by the artist’s avowed admiration for the incongruous paintings of René Magritte and chimerical landscapes of Roger Dean (b 1944). Macchi’s surrealistic interest in tapping into unconscious energies becomes explicit in some of his works. In Doppelgänger (2005), for example, Macchi created a Rorschach inkblot out of grisly phrases recurring in newspaper articles. The repetition of these words (e.g. “her lifeless body,” “macabre finding,” or “bodies in advanced state of decomposition”) emphasizes the uncanny formal similarity between otherwise different stories of death, thus underscoring the id’s insatiable desire for violence as well as the unconscious compulsion to rehearse traumatic events.

Bibliography

  • Negroni, María. Buenos Aires Tour. Mexico City: Conaculta-Fonca: Aldus, 2006.
  • Pérez-Barreiro, Gabriel. Jorge Macchi: Exposição Monográfica. Porto Alegre: Fundação Bienal de Artes Visuais do Mercosul, 2007. Exhibition catalog.
  • Ellegood, Anne. All of This and Nothing. Los Angeles, CA, Armand Hammer Mus., 2011. Exhibition catalog.
  • Candela, Iria. Art in Latin America, 1990–2010, trans. Chris Miller. London: Tate Publishing, 2013.
  • Medina, Cuauhtémoc. Jorge Macchi: Prestidigitador. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Dirección General de Artes Visuales, 2014. Exhibition catalog.
  • Jorge Macchi: Perspectiva. Essays by Inés Katzenstein and Rodrigo Moura, interview by Agustín Pérez Rubio. Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), 2016. Exhibition catalog.