Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Monica Lerner

I just came across this work by Monica Lerner, an Argentine ceramic sculptor, and really liked it.

Art based around tango is usually dire; excessive and caricatured, well into hats-and-split-skirts land, with exaggerated gestures and expressions, an illustrative art that doesn't aim to find out anything about tango, the music, the embrace, the interaction between the dancers. Since it just aims to present a sort of enhanced snapshot it's sterile, like, often enough, the kind of tango it's illustrating. On the other hand, really intense tango might not look particularly wild and visually interesting: there are layers of feelings and awareness, but they aren't visible. Moreover, dance unfolds in time, and art -- drawing, painting, sculpture -- is three- and not four-dimensional. So it isn't easy.

But if an artist looks at tango and gets interested in what is going on when a couple is dancing, in how people relate to each other and the music, how can she or he proceed? Monica Lerner's work doesn't aim to illustrate exterior appearances, doesn't even aim to show a sort of Hogarth-type caricature, although perhaps there's an element of that in some of it. It seems to show a reaction to the human feelings and frailties involved, to the messiness and ambiguity of human interactions; it seems to tear open appearances. So it isn't 'tango art' at all: it's art that's aware of human sexuality and the interactions involved in tango. Another theme in her work is 'Putavesti', looking at the power of money, the falsity of conventions, and the victims of human trafficing. It's intense and beautifully made; the surfaces, the colour, the drawing that underpins it, clearly showing the vision behind it.

I recently saw the Anish Kapoor show at the Royal Academy which I found mind-numbingly boring and senseless. I really liked the early work he made with pigments, but it's got crass and bombastic. Why can't they give a showing to someone like Monica Lerner? Well, perhaps the answer is the power of money. Kapoor is a name in the UK, he's good box office and Monica Lerner, sadly, isn't.

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