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Marcelo E. Pacheco. "III Bienal Iberoamericana de Lima, Perú"
Texto de presentación en el catalogo general. 2002
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While Argentina devoured its own belongings (material and symbolic) as well as its social contracts, Hugo Vidal persisted with his broken plates and cut wooden planks, provoking a meeting between fragments, giving form to old civil insignia like the star, or to political symbols like the silhouette. The artist insistently searches for a way to activate personal as well as historical memory; a way to sustain artistic practice in the terrain of social strife. Buen Año (A Good Year) from the Texturas (Textures) series from 2001, finds a way to synthesize the social movement of the piqueteros with their roadblocks (picketers who block traffic to protest for social reforms) and the hunger currently suffered by 40% of the people in Argentina, using shattered earthenware plates. Vidal thoughtfully and patiently reunites the remaining shards of Argentina, without disguising the cracks and irregularities, shedding light on the blows and stitches.

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Over the past ten years, Hugo Vidal (1956) has built up a significant body of work combining photography, objects, installations, videos, interventions, digital work and performance. He seeks the best support for each of his narrations, disobeying any discipline’s orthodox system and developing his discourse (singular and multiple in its unfolding content) by focusing on obsessions with different symbols: the star, the silhouette, religious images, plates, knives, art and its fetishes, art history and its icons (local as well as international) and by repeating operations like reuniting, cutting, breaking, quoting, pointing out, accumulating, perforating, and alluding.

Various group shows and one solo show, presentations with the “La Carpentería” (The Carpentry Shop) group, participation in competitive exhibits and successive “Cohechos Artísticos” (literally Artistic Bribes, with a play on words that implies a work done in cooperation) together with Raúl Flores, have served as hits along an itinerary full of decisive reiterations. In the local context during the ‘90s, Vidal gradually appeared on the scene, as if he were an infiltrator. Fissures in the establishment, several strategic alliances and a cautious but sure insistence positioned his work (marginal and marginalized) in a dense focal point of attention. Following the artistic and theoretical discussions of the early ‘90s regarding “light” art, “bright” art and “guarango” (slang for uncouth) art, certain changes in the arguments, viewpoints and strong impositions from the social and cultural context opened up overlapping paths toward a return, albeit contained or camouflaged, to a political art practice, or a communal art practice. Vidal, in his choice of materials, iconography and recurring symbolism presents work that is among the most vital within the Argentine (political) art scene.

He remains alert. Attentive to art history, attentive to the parameters within which works are read and to the work of other artists, attentive to the transformations taking place in Argentine society and politics. With a capacity for constant absorption and digestion, Vidal goes along his way, looking with curiosity and perspicacity, as an anonymous spectator, as protagonist, as receptor, as an active participant, with a voice of his own or a silent presence. Along this journey, viewing from within as well as from the frontier, he produces works with a minimal economy, using common, inexpensive materials that retain a strong latent social and political charge: knives, earthenware and stainless steel plates, wooden planks and tires. With these materials, basic but potent in their utilitarian and communitarian evocations, he constructs simple, elemental forms, anchored in the collective symbolic imagination. Stars and silhouettes or Brancusi-style columns or tires overflowing with china, they evoke symbols from recent political history or the battles of 20th Century art history. A suggestive tension between questions of form, the value of the support and the world of the everyday, gives weight to each piece and its internal and external relationships, within a rational system made up of constellations of meaning that expand ever outward.

While Argentina devoured its own belongings (material and symbolic) and its social contracts, dissolving identities and networks of solidarity, Vidal persisted with his broken plates and cut pieces of wooden planks, provoking apparently chance meetings between the fragments, giving new form to old civil insignia like the star, or the ghost-like silhouettes of absent bodies. A suggestive way of reconstructing upon the ruins and with the remains. A simple way of convoking lost rituals, giving new form to ancient vestiges. The artist insistently searches for a way to activate personal as well as collective memory, everyday and historical memory; a way to sustain artistic practice in the terrain of social strife. Una reunión más (One more meeting) and Otra silueta (Another Silhouette) are titles that underline continuity, reiteration in time as a necessary rhythm in order to assure the value of a ritual that is repeated with ceremonial and testimonial decisiveness. A devastated society where artists patiently reunite the leftover shards, without disguising the cracks and irregularities, shedding light on the blows and stitches.

The star, with its visual overabundance, was the theme of his first solo exhibition in 1999. Objects, installations, photography and digital images depicted a world of complex messages that trapped the star sign / emblem / icon in order to give it back its borders and rough edges. The form of the silhouette, a mournful mark left by the last military dictatorship, only appeared publicly in 2001, with renewed spectral potency. The metal or china plates, raw materials that are charged with domestic and historic resonance (souvenirs of a country with solidarity) have appeared in successive mutations since 1996. Plates as halos, plates as self-portraits, shattered plates, columns of plates, plates revealing bodies lying down or laid out. Hugo Vidal captures materials and forms from day to day living and provokes us in familiar territory, eliminating certainties and questioning ever comfortable truths.

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