Flamenca
Emilia Gutiérrez
Cosmocosa
08.11.19 | 18.12.19
Emilia Gutiérrez, Flamenca, 2019, view of the exhibition in Cosmocosa. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa

Curated by Rafael Cippolini, an anthological exhibition of paintings by Emilia Gutiérrez (Buenos Aires, 1928–2003), alias Flamenca or La Flamenca—in reference to Flemish painting—was held at Cosmocosa. The artist got her nickname, which is the title of the show, because of her chromatic choices: “The outgrowths of green, the families of blues of different intensity, and the reactions to that color we call mahogany” deliberately coincide with the tones most used in Flemish painting.

Emilia Gutiérrez, Flamenca, 2019, view of the exhibition in Cosmocosa. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa
Emilia Gutiérrez, Flamenca, 2019, view of the exhibition in Cosmocosa. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa

Seven solo shows of Gutiérrez’s work were held from 1965 to 1975. The first opened at Galería Lirolay, less than three blocks away from the mythical Instituto Di Tella, where Marta Minujín and Rubén Santantonín’s La Menesunda was up at the same time. In the same neighborhood shortly thereafter, Edgardo Giménez, Dalila Puzzovio, and Charly Squirru put up their celebrated billboard ¿Por qué son tan geniales? As Cippolini observes, Gutiérrez’s art could not have been more different from her contemporaries’. “While the Di Tella artists marched to the vertiginous drum of the present, La Flamenca’s inward-looking, centripetal images were largely set off from that scene. She did not voice her indifference to the mass media’s novelty or immediacy or to social metaphor—she didn’t have to. Slow and steady, her work pursued each one of the unique paths it took. Though not immune to the imaginaries of collective life, she felt no need to engage them.”

Emilia Gutiérrez, Extraño Ser (Strange Being), 1974, oil on canvas, 60 x 45.5 cm. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa

While her peers were experimenting with images from the mass media and consumer culture, Gutiérrez felt that “nothing in life mattered”; her paintings held “the not-always-happy world of my childhood,” as she put it in one of the few interviews she gave (“Acuérdate del ángel,” Primera Plana magazine, June 1, 1965, quoted by Cippolini). La Flamenca did portraits of the characters in her “family novel”: her grandmother Esperanza—the one who raised the artist and her sisters, Lida and Ilda—her mother, who was not around much because institutionalized for psychosis, and her also-absent father.

Emilia Gutiérrez, Magia (Magic), 1974, oil on canvas, 85 x 74.5 cm. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa

The work’s title and the artist’s signature are usually on the back of her paintings, not in the pictorial space. The bulk of her copious portraits show “torsos and more torsos,” as Cippolini puts it. The “individual portraits” include Mimo (Mime, no date), “a pale young man in a bell-shaped hat with handkerchief tied bandit style around his neck; Mujer (Woman, 1974), a corpse-like, self-absorbed blond figure in black hat and blue coat; Niña (Girl, 1973), wearing dramatic headscarf before a blue table with comb and thread; and a second Mujer (Woman, no date), sitting against a green background glancing sideways at a large flower pot with plant.” The artist’s production includes variations on the portrait genre like what the curator calls her “portraits with landscape.” In Después del juego (After the Game, 1973), “we see the full body of a glum boy, his cap in front of a red ball, before a dilapidated wall above which three mysterious crosses hover in a dark sky.” Another variation on the portrait theme are the “portraits of strange beings.” In Magia (Magic 1974), for instance, “someone is hiding under a cloak (all we see are its legs wrapped in thick stockings); a small child, naked, is coming through a door, in front of a sort of encapsulated sun that turns into something like an aerial placenta that harbors a fetus.” Extraño ser (Strange Being, no date) also forms part of this subgenre. In it, a “wind-up, two-footed blue and black creature with scales rests on what might be a dead ram beside a red ball identical to the one in an earlier painting.” The curator cites researcher Diana Wechsler, who speaks of another subgenre, which she terms the “Siamese portraits.” In Sin Título (Abrazo)[Untitled (Embrace)], for instance, “we see two girls merged at the arms in an embrace; the larger one in a green dress holding the smaller one in white.” “It is impossible to unbind [the individuals], [as] they exist only in the presence of the other.”

Emilia Gutiérrez. El Mago (The Wizard), n/d, oil on canvas, 65 x 40 cm. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa

Cippolini groups together another set of works as “scenes.” In them, “the characters, though self-absorbed, are set off in a situation where they interact; they occupy a single space, the one to which their inner worlds seem to be moored. One example in this show is Trilogía (Trilogy, 1970). In the foreground, we see a woman with her hands crossed, a tray under her right arm; further back a bald man is at a table and a girl reads behind what appears to be a counter.” The curator proposes a third and hybrid group: “interiors” of “so very many scenes and portraits in bars and domestic settings that depict a world hallucinated. Loly (1974), for instance, shows a hatted woman with long hair and knit sweater, her glass on the table and curtain in the background.”

Emilia Gutiérrez, El paseo del diablo (The Devil’s Outing), 1974, oil on canvas, 45 x 55 cm. Ph: Courtesy of Cosmocosa

In 1975, Gutiérrez gave up oil painting to focus on drawing. The curator explains that “when she was almost forty-seven, she began hearing things: those same colors that made her Flamenca began speaking to her,” and her psychiatrists recommended that she give them up.

Content produced by arteBA. Annual Report on contemporary Argentine art.