Provocateurs...

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Till the end of the 20th century, those artists not willing to commit to academic rules, suffered the consecuences of rejection. Not working by the imposed limits meant being disregarded by critics. Today, those limits have fallen and a certain chaos prevails. There's no criticism, just a description of the works. Nothing is good nor bad and this is reflected in Contemporary Art. 
One of those detractors was Balthus. Born in Paris as Balthasar Klossowski, he was a self-taught artist. Still very young, but convinced of his aim to shock the public, in 1934 he presented his first solo exhibition. His paitinings were extremely provocative and the French critic found them morbid, simple and hard. As a result, he sold none of them. 
Selfportrait, by Balthus (1935)
Technique: oil on canvas / Measures: 76 x 41,5 cm  
Temporary exhibition "Balthus Cats and Girls" - MET New York
However, that didn't stop him. His dark personality made him interested in teenagers, who poseed for him in his studio.  One of those girls was Thérèse Blanchard. In the following painting (she was barely 14), she holds a thread to play with the cat (another of Balthus' obsessions), but the artist choses to omit the animal, so the final result is quite enigmatic.
Theresa on a bench seat, by Balthus (1939)
Technique: oil on canvas / Measures: 70.8 x 91.4 cm
Temporary exhibition "Balthus Cats and Girls" - MET New York
Balthus had a long life, he died in 2001. With time his obsessions increased, specially those related to cats. In the following painting, the cat is not only smiling, he is also sitting at the table. It's a selfportrait of the artist and it represents what could be considered feline paradise: a rainbow emerges from the sea and ends up becoming fishes that fall directly into the plate. The real explanation for such surrealism is that this work was commissioned to Balthus by a fish restaurant. 
The Cat of La Mediterranée, de Balthus (1949)
Technique: oil on canvas / Measuress: 127 x 185.1 cm
Temporary exhibition "Balthus Cats and Girls" - MET New York 
And speaking of provocateurs, in Argentina we also had several artists who, by mid 20th century, faced academic rules. One of those was Alberto Greco (the MNBA has a painting of his informal period).
One of this most remarkable works was the VIVO-DITO of 1963, which consisted of marking with chalk the petimeter around any passer-by and transform that intervention into a work of art. The VIVO-DITO, or live art, wants us to see what happens in the street. There's no intention in improving the subject nor in showing it at an art gallery. It was just contemplation and direct communication. Not a very shocking experience today, but it certainly was in the 60s. This was the cause Greco was never allowed into the art world of his time. He commits suicide in 1965 in Barcelona and he transforms his own death in the most radical of his interventions. While the overdose of drugs started to case effect, he wrote in the palm of his hands the word End and in the wall "This is my greatest work, demonstrating he was not only a provocateur but an artist till his death.

Keep reading… "Balthus: Cats and Girls", de S. Rewald, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, 2013, Yale University Press, USA.

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Contents

Liliana Wrobel


Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani

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ObrasMNBA@gmail.com