The aesthetics of "The Spider Woman" in an incomparable collection of photographs

George Friedman, Untitled. 1950 - 1955. Courtesy Larivière Foundation.

Fabi Al Mundy, Untitled, from the Vernacular Eroticism series. 2001. Courtesy Fabi Al Mundy.

Alejandro Kuropatawa, Untitled, from the series Mujer. 2001. Photography: Courtesy of the Larivière Foundation.

Ana Martinez Quijano

She is a journalist, art critic, researcher, and independent curator. She edited the Ámbito de las Artes supplement of the Ámbito Financiero newspaper, where she has been writing a weekly column for thirty years. Among other books, she published Siqueiros: muralismo, cine y revolución (Ediciones Larivière); Registros contemporáneos: notas publicadas 2013-2003 (Editorial AsGa) y Fioravanti. Clasicismo y Modernidad (Ediciones Casa Museo Magda Frank).


She has been a visiting professor of the Master of Art at the National University of Misiones and the Master of Argentine Culture of the National Institute of Public Administration (INAP). She was the holder of the Art and Media Chair at the Universidad del Salvador. She coordinated with Edward Sullivan, from New York University, the graduate seminar on Latin American Art organized by the School of Cultural Administration (EDAC).


She was the curator, among other exhibitions, of the anthological exhibition Norah Borges, almost a century of painting (Centro Cultural Borges, 1996), Borges y las Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts); adjunct curator of Politics of Difference (Malba and other Latin American museums); RED Project, Alto Paraná Educational Project, Pop Art, to Argentina and Tributes (arteBA); she was adjunct curator of the 2011 End of the World Biennial; Art & Swap, Art and Exchange exhibition for the Belgian Government; Borges y el arte and La carne de los héroes (CCK).

By Ana Martínez Quijano *

Right at the end of the year 2022, the Larivière Foundation. Latin American Photography Collection, opened its doors in the La Boca Arts District. The extensive exhibition "Dreams of the Spider Woman", curated by Alexis Fabry, brings to the public eye the profile of Jean Louis Larivière's specialized collection of photos from Latin America. In the selection of 200 pieces, the accent is placed in the social and political turbulences that crossed the territory and that, despite the end of the dictatorships, are still going through it.But there is also the desire to rescue the spirit of the big cities and bear witness to "the processes of modernization and dissident identities , sexuality, the marginal, the night”.

The set of photographs surprises by the freedom and the unusual diversity of the selection criteria. The exhibition includes big names, such as the portraits of Annemarie Heinrich, along with those of anonymous authors. Then, although there are large-format photos, there are also postcard-sized ones; there are collages, painted and intervened, printed and serigraphed photos; works, finally, where the photo is combined with other materials and supports, such as the image painted with gunpowder by Tomás Espina, where violence coincides with the material that constitutes it. A rarity is a fan by an anonymous author with several portraits of women wearing natural hair hairstyles.

By its very condition, photography inexorably refers to the past. But the selection of images from the 60s and 70s of the 20th century rooted in the fiction of Manuel Puig's pop novel, "The Kiss of the Spider Woman", speaks of a reality that is closer to the enigmas of the present itself and of a future that is imagined unstable, than to the problems of the past. Marco Antonio Cruz's image of poverty, Daniel Merle's CGT demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo and Graciela Sacco's “Bocanada” del hambre, address current issues.

In the prologue to the catalogue, Alan Pauls highlights the period painting of Puig's novel. He states that the two prisoners in a Buenos Aires jail, a fantasizing homosexual locked up for abusing a minor and a virile leftist militant, share a cell and in this forced coexistence, they establish a sincere friendship. The prison is the scene where a new and strange relationship arises, a "new man", without precedents in literature and life. Little by little prejudices are erased and a feeling similar to genuine love is born. These antagonistic characters enter into a relationship of affective and sexual intimacy, which "had a lot of heresy", according to Antonio Muñoz Molina in the presentation of the book "The kiss of the spider woman". He clarifies in the same text that Puig's French publishing house refused to publish it. Today, two French editors, Fabry and Larivière, put images on it and create a context where the violence of dictatorships in Latin America is linked with glamour, sex, transgression and the passion for cinema. Muñoz Molina points out: "The first non-cartoonish gay protagonist that I found in a novel written in Spanish was Molina."

And in the universe of that prison in Buenos Aires, "the cinematographic dream" appears, which takes shape in the exhibition with the photographic collages of Maripaz Jaramillo and, in the novel, with the fascinating stories that the gay stained-glass designer tells his classmate. cell, Valentin, tortured to death by military police. Molina also dies. Although he lacks ideologies, the companions of his guerrilla lover shoot him to prevent him from speaking. Violence runs through 20th century society and photographs haunt Puig's text to show contempt for life, an attitude as evident in the authoritarian right as in the politicized left.

The drama is present in the exhibition with authors such as Adriana Lestido, Sara Facio or Eduardo Longoni, the Paraguayan Osvaldo Salerno, among many others, especially Chileans and Peruvians who render an account of the ferocity in the streets. In this series there is a clipping from a 1974 newspaper intervened by Antonio Berni; "The hostages" shows a firing squad riddling six characters with their backs against a wall. On a white watercolor cloud the red forms of blood and fire stand out.

On the other hand, the humor and irony that characterize Puig's works are present in a photo by Alejandro Kuropatwa: a carefree and smiling girl biting into an olive. That chapter is shared by the female silhouette of Alex Klein, the shots of the beauty salons or the behind the scenes of the Mirta Legrand program with Carlos Menem as a guest, photographed by Nicolás Goldberg. There reality is confused with fiction.

The sad universe of prostitution is reflected in the photo of Jorge Aguirre, in the mystery of the sensitive image of Fernell Franco and in the underworld of street advertising for sexual offers by Facundo de Zuviría. The cabarets where transvestites perform, some in painful situations, appear in the works of Jorge Domenech, Agustín Martínez Castro, Pepe Avilés and Paz Errázuriz. There are many artists who came to Argentina from Europe, among them is George Friedman. And it is worth taking a look at the images for the fotonovelas published by the Abril publishing house in the 50s and 60s, since they are perfectly intertwined with Puig's story.

The body is the subject of the historic photo of Anna Pavlova taken by Frans van Riel and, the natural and simple expression of Fabi Al Mundy's “Vernacular Seduction”. Two images that contrast with the bullet-ridden body of Oscar Bony, the exacerbated musculature of the portraits of a group of bodybuilders by various anonymous authors, and the sophisticated 1920 nudes taken by the Mexican Antonio Garduño.

Lariviere Foundation. Exhibition Dreams of the Spider Woman. Photography: Courtesy of the Larivière Foundation.

Jean-Louis Larivière and behind, the access to the Foundation, his great work, recently inaugurated in the thriving artistic circuit of La Boca.

The origin of the Foundation, a brand new museum of Latin American photography, actually dates back to 1992, when the collector and Dudu von Thielmann, an exceptional cultural manager, created Ediciones Larivière and published "Argentine Ranches", "Private Gardens of Buenos Aires" , “Large residences in Buenos Aires. The French influence”, his first books. The publishing house already has in its catalog several jewels dedicated to architecture and the series of books published preferentially by photographers Marcos López, Facundo de Zuviría and Marcos Zimmermann. Strengthening the richness of the South American cultural heritage, particularly Argentina, is the main objective of the Foundation.

The bookstore space within the Foundation. Another point of interest for visitors. Photography: Courtesy Larivière Foundation.

The Larivière Collection treasures more than 3,000 photographs, mostly vintage. There, as in the exhibition, the period from 1940 to 1990 and the images of Argentina predominate, along with pieces from Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela and Brazil; in addition to Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama. A library made up of more than 800 titles dedicated to Latin American photography completes a heritage as diverse as it is valuable.

* Special for Hilario. Arts Letters Trades

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