To prepare a retrospective exhibition of his work and to publish a critical catalogue in 2017, the museologist María Lightowler has been researching and cataloging the work of the Argentine artist Santiago García Sáenz.
When García Sáenz died ten years ago, in 2006, his work -largely religious-themed-, sank into a prolonged silence.
But this year marks the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Rancho Urbano, a workshop where García Sáenz -together with artist José Garófalo- worked and lived, and the meeting point of prominent local personalities. That is why tomorrow, Thursday, September 1, from 6 to 9 P.M, at Casa Nacional del Bicentenario- where a smaller-scale replica of that workshop was put together, a tribute to García Sáenz will be held within the exhibition "Casa Tomada", with the participation of people close to the artist.
"García Sáenz was an artist who decided to make his own path ignoring the rules of that time. In the 2000s, for example, he would go in for oil painting on canvas, contrary to most of his contemporaries. Besides, he redefined religious iconography, by painting New Testament narratives and apocryphal stories of local and regional origin", explained María Lightowler to Télam.
For three years, this museology graduate and researcher has been through García Sáenz´ archive -as requested by the painter's family-, an apartment in Barrio Norte, where she catalogs, classifies and in some cases, even restores pieces made by the self-taught artist born in 1955, creator of a particularly original and moving work, who had his first solo exhibition at the Ruth Benzacar gallery when he was 25.
The cataloging work includes a retrospective exhibition of his production from a re-updated perspective and, at the same time, a critical catalogue that brings together his complete work. The objective is to enhance the value of his art and to reinsert the artist into the current circuit, said Lightowler.
The prolific artist produced approximately 300 paintings: his unique imagery can be found in the most salient public and private collections of the country; at 51, when he died, he was at the top of his career.
"He was a really devoted artist, he did well, and was very good at managing his own work. Although I did not know him personally, I have put together a profile of him throughout these years, and I would say he was very kind, outgoing, and talkative. Shortly before dying, he edited a book, 'Angel de la guarda, cincuenta años de dulce compañía (Guardian Angel, Fifty Years of Sweet Company)', which compiled his entire career. He was not only a great artist, but also a great cultural manager”, said the museologist.
For Lightowler, García Sáenz "belongs to a generation of artists, including Liliana Maresca and Alejandro Kuropatwa, who contracted AIDS in the 80s, and developed a very powerful, explosive, voluptuous work in the 90s and 2000s before they died, almost knowing that the clock was ticking."
It was in the 2000s when the sacred gained prominence in his production. Paintings such as “Adán y Eva en las ruinas", "Buscando paz", "Cain y Abel siglo XXI", "Cristos enfermos en las ruinas jesuíticas" and "Moisés salvado de las aguas", are among his large-format pieces, where figurative compositions pervade, with exuberant colors that unfold in settings which, although anchored in reality, seem to depict a world of fantasy.
From his first exhibition at Ruth Benzacar, where he also worked as an assistant, García Sáenz began to exhibit his work periodically. He won the Premio Fortabat (Fortabat Prize), he exhibited at Centro Cultural Recoleta, Museo Fernández Blanco, Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas, galería Vasari, Museo del Barro, Paraguay, and one of his pieces, "Nuestro Señor de Llao Llao", which depicts a Christ in denim shorts, is part of the Vatican Museums collection (García Sáenz himself donated it to Pope John Paul II).
Lightowler's intention is also to cast a new curatorial view on his career and demystify the idea that his art was exclusively "religious-themed”, since he also has a solid production related to Argentine and American history, with themes such as the English invasions, the Malvinas war, or the conquest of the Americas, which was made invisible.
An exhibition held at Hache gallery in 2014 -whose owners commercialize García Sáenz's work-, the edition of a short catalogue for the latest edition of the arteBA fair and tomorrow's talk at the CNB are milestones on the way towards re-enhancing the work of this painter. "Those who knew him have had a chance to remember him, and those who did not, an opportunity to approach his artwork," added Lightowler.
"We are going to dust off the figure of the artist," said the curator about tomorrow's talk in the Auditorium of Casa Nacional del Bicentenario (Riobamba 985, CABA), hosted by José Garófalo (co-founder of Rancho Urbano), the directors of Galería Hache, Herminda Lahitte and Silvina Pirraglia, and the artist's brother, Diego Garcia Sáenz.
Santiago García Sáenz in his studio in Junin St., Bs As City Circa 1985-1988
ph: Ignacio Estrada
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