Luis Camnitzer, from the Uruguayan Torture Series, 1983-84. Photoengravings, 29-1/2 x 21-11/16”. Courtesy of Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY.

Luis Camnitzer, Tres Elementos (Three Elements), 1973. 3 Brass plates, 8” x 10” each, 3 parts. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY.

Luis Camnitzer, Walking the Line between Metaphor and Individual Pain

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Washington University
One Brookings Drive
314-935-4523
St. Louis
Luis Camnitzer: Forewords and Last Words
January 28, 2011-April 18, 2011

Luis Camnitzer: Forewords and Last Words presents a selection of prints, multiples, and artist’s books by renowned conceptual artist Luis Camnitzer, highlighting his longstanding engagement with the print medium as well as his distinctive interweaving of wordplay, wit, and sociopolitical critique. The exhibition is curated by Buzz Spector, Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art and Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr., Professor of Art.

Camnitzer was born in Lübeck, Germany in 1937, raised in Uruguay, and is a Uruguayan citizen. He studied architecture and sculpture at the University of Uruguay in Motevideo and later studied sculpture and printmaking at the Munich Academy. In 1964 he moved to New York where he has lived and worked since. He is internationally recognized not only as a pioneer of conceptual art, but also as a critic, educator, and art theorist.

Art critic Gerardo Mosquera writes, "Camnitzer's social and political work is made to elicit thought. At once it possesses a complex metaphorical dimension while also stressing the more individual aspects. It is an art of ideas and experimentation with language, which eschews messages directed at involving the viewer's participation. Without grandiloquence, achieving distance through humor, his work can be intellectual or carried on picket-signs. The intellectual side of his production created through force of circumstance runs the risk of appealing to a limited audience and the danger of being reified as merchandise. Nevertheless, his work is paradigmatic in as much as it counteracts the nihilism, banality, and narrowness of much contemporary art."

 

He continues, "The permanent integration of social critique with subjectivity, of objectivity with poetic symbolism, clearly separates his work from that of Alfredo Jaar, Hans Haacke, or Group Material, where conceptual discourse is used to achieve more direct effect, with a greater sense of denunciation and deconstruction. Some Cuban artists, like Ponju'an, Rene Francisco, and Somoza, move with a double-barreled approach close to Camnitzer's. However, no matter how tropologically they work, their work addresses concrete problems. Eugenio Dittborn, by way of contrast, can be placed on the other extreme, with social criticism merged with anthropology."

Camnitzer's work has been shown in noted exhibitions and institutions, including solo shows at the Galería Ruth Benzacar, Argentina; The Kitchen and El Museo del Barrio, New York; List Visual Arts Center at MIT; and Museo Carillo Gil, Mexico City. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx, N.Y. (1991) and Kunsthalle Kiel, Germany (2003), as well as at the Daros Museum in Zürich (2010) and the upcoming exhibition at El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011). His work has appeared in biennials and group shows, including Information (1970), the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Biennial of Havana, Cuba (1984, 1986, and 1991); Whitney Biennial (2000), Documenta 11 (2002), and Beyond Geometry (2005) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition to his work as an internationally acclaimed sculptor and printmaker, Camnitzer was one of the original founders of the New York Graphic Workshop and served as curator for the Viewing Program at the Drawing Center. He is currently Professor Emeritus at SUNY College at Old Westbury and the pedagogical curator of the Iberé Camargo Foundation in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He is a frequent contributor to ArtNexus, and wrote New Art of Cuba (1994, 2003) and Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (2007).

 

Luis Camnitzer, Last Words, 2008. Archival digital print on paper, 6 parts, 66 x 44" each. Edition of 3 with 1 AP. Courtesy of Alexander Gray Associates, New York.

Luis Camnitzer, He Practiced Every Day, From the Uruguayan Torture Series, 1983, courtesy El Museo del Barrio.

Luis Camnitzer: On Dictatorships and the Death Penalty

Luis Camnitzer, Last Words (#1, #2 of six parts), 2008, Archival digital print on paper, 66 x 44", Edition of 3 with 1 AP.

Luis Camnitzer, Last Words (#3, #4 of six parts), 2008, Archival digital print on paper, 66 x 44", Edition of 3 with 1 AP.

Luis Camnitzer, Last Words (#5, #6 of six parts), 2008, Archival digital print on paper, 66 x 44", Edition of 3 with 1 AP.

 

Alexander Gray Associates
526 West 26th Street #1019
New York
212-399-2636
Luis Camnitzer
March 19-April 26, 2008

Since the late 1960s, Luis Camnitzer has created works in a variety of media — including installation, printmaking, drawing, and photography — that expose our collective indifference to the violence governments inflict on individuals.

A pioneer of conceptual art, Camnitzer critiques current political realities with a perspective informed by his first-hand experience of dictatorships in Latin America.

This exhibition is particularly timely because it comes on the heels of New Jersey’s historic decision to abolish the death penalty, and as the Supreme Court continues to consider the constitutionality of lethal injections.

This exhibition is comprised of two text-based works by Luis Camnitzer: Last Words (2008) and Sifter (The Mechanism for Killing a Spectator) (1978).

Death row prisoners’ final statements are the texts that constitute Last Words. Forgiveness, apologies, declarations of love to mothers, sisters, daughters, and others are interspersed with phrases alluding to death; the refrains like “I love you” is followed by “I am ready” or “It’s my hour.”

Camnitzer collected these phrases from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s website, and reprinted those that include the word “love.” Printed in reddish brown toned ink on six sheets of paper measuring five and a half by four feet each, these works’ human scale mirrors viewers’ bodies.

Their formal rigor alludes to minimalism, but the emotion of the texts undercuts this elegance.

In Sifter (The Mechanism for Killing a Spectator), Camnitzer compares the violent dictator with the artistic genius by forcing the viewer into an uncomfortable position.

The installation consists of a brass plaque on the wall, a brown welcome mat, and electrical tubing connecting the two.

The plaque is inscribed with text describing a system for measuring viewer response to a work of art and killing the viewer if that response is not satisfactory.

To read this text, one must step onto the mat, which resembles a low-budget execution apparatus.

Camnitzer’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions since the early 1960s, including individual shows at Galería Ruth Benzacar, Argentina; The Kitchen and El Museo del Barrio, New York; List Visual Arts Center at M.I.T., Cambridge; and Museo Carillo Gil, Mexico City. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx (1991) and Kunstshalle Kiel (2003). His work has appeared in biennials and group shows, including Information (1970), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Biennial of Havana (1984, 1986, and 1991); Whitney Biennial (2000), Documenta 11 (2002), and Beyond Geometry (2005), Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Camnitzer’s work is in the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), among other institutions. Camnitzer received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1961 and 1982. A highly regarded critic and curator, Camnitzer is a frequent contributor to ArtNexus, and wrote New Art of Cuba (1994, 2003) and Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (2007).

Luis Camnitzer, Sifter, 1978, Mixed media, 69-1/2 x 19-1/4 x 12-1/4"