“Art is a response to life. To be an artist is to undertake a risky way to live, to adopt one of the greatest forms of liberty, to make no compromise. Painting is a form of love, of transmitting the years in art.” ~ Antonio Berni
Liz and I spent the afternoon at the Phoenix Art Museum. Our main attraction was the featured exhibition of Argentinian artist, Antonio Berni. We knew little about him going in, except that he worked with found objects and created some amazing sculpture. He was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, although virtually unknown in the United States.
This exhibit of over 100 works is the first time he has had an exhibition of any scope in the USA. It started in Houston, and is now in the Phoenix Art Museum. Unfortunately, no photographs of any kind were allowed – Phoenix is fairly liberal with photography, with icons indicating whicg artworks may be photographed (no flash!)
It is a shame, because I was overwhelmed by the scale of his two-dimensional found object collages. Created out of scrap metal and trsash scaveneged from the alleys of Buenos Aires, Berni created a pictorial biography of two fictional characters. The subject matter is dark and brooding, depicting the industrialization of Buenos Aires and the abject poverty of the slums, but depicting his characters not as victims but as positive models always optimisitic about their own future despite the contradiction of their surroundings.
After being blown away by the metal collages that were 10′ x 20′, I was totally unprepared for the prints he created – taking the 3-dimensional relief of a carved printing block to a new extreme – the results were large prints that had the white space embossed, the printing blocks created with the same found metal scraps used in his collages. My description is so lacking, I am hesitant to even try to describe the process – it is something you absolutely have to see in person. His printing techinque, xylo-collage-relief, won prestiges awards throughout South America and Europe.