Mildred Burton: Fauna del país
Mildred Burton
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires
27.02.20 | 22.06.20

In its Project Room, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires presented Mildred Burton: Fauna del país curated by Marcos Krämer. Outfitted in Victorian-style furniture, rug, and orange-flower wallpaper, the gallery contained an overview of paintings, drawings, collages, and intervened photographs produced by Mildred Burton (Paraná, 1942–Buenos Aires, 2008) over the course of four decades, from the early sixties to the early 2000s. Stretches of the wallpaper on the gallery’s walls were torn from floor to ceiling, suggesting the ruptures that marked the artist’s imaginary. Her figurations, the Museum explains, “dialogue with fantasy, perversion, and humor at once, constructing family portraits, animated objects, and even imaginary animals through representations with a distinct surrealist bend.”

A number of visual references appear in Burton’s works, from the nineteenth-century English decorative arts tradition, the Arts & Crafts movement, and the surrealism of Max Ernst and René Magritte to the political realism of Argentine art from the nineteen-seventies and eighties. But the literary references are the ones that endure throughout her oeuvre, especially those related to fantastic literature and popular children’s stories—the basis for “a great visual novel of the family environment and its conflicts.” The exhibition included, for example, three portraits of members of the Rosas family (1974), each of which “slowly and delicately turns into the flower [the rose] that is their last name. From the son’s ears two thorns gently blossom; the grandfather’s hair assumes the rose’s spiral shape; and the father’s ear is an elegant bud,” describes the curator.

Burton’s art, like fantastic literature, witnesses transformations. Books open and from them emerge the characters, objects, and animals featured in their stories. Bye, bye… trencito mío… bye, bye (1994) and El tiempo náufrago de Gran Father Boat (The Shipwrecked Time of Grandfather Boat 1994-1996), for instance, “put the finishing touches on the exhibition’s domestic-fantastic space, proposing the home as a necessary platform from which the imagination tears up the limits of the known until lost in a reverie” (Krämer). The artist “merged two apparently contrasting worlds—nature and civilization—bringing human and animal forms into contact at the point of bestial transformation.” In Burton’s images, the domestic sphere is invaded by unbridled nature as basic tensions nestle in the heart of the home. In works like El primer dolor de Jean Jarrow (Jean Jarrow’s First Pain, 1992) and Los primeros días de Mayo (The First Days of May, 1978), meanwhile, Burton injects fantastic life into the most mundane objects like a cup—the landscape on its porcelain surface encroaches on the rest of the canvas—and a stool—the chimneys on it release smoke—“in pursuit of estrangement in the most ordinary reality,” says the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires.