Until not long ago, it could be said that the one of the most successful Argentine artist today is Adrian Villar Rojas. Represented by Marian Goodman Gallery which is also the agent of many of the most relevant conceptualist artists in the world such as Dan Graham, Steve McQueen, Juan Muñoz, Gabriel Orozco, Tino Sehgal, Anri Sala, etc, Adrian Villar Rojas is struggling to give coherence to his artistic project.
I truly believe, however, that discussing his work from the point of view of his international success would be sterile . The easiest attack could come from those who divide the contemporary world into two halves: the purists and the successful. That latter transforms Marian Goodman, el PS1 MOMA y el New Museum into a black box of ‘bad art’ which, in itself and as an argument, raises more questions than answers.
Having said this, having emerged from the very specific context of state-financed cultural production in Argentina, Adrian Villar Rojas represents a sort of fast forward strategy characterised by a performativism of sorts. Having emerged from an American Idol-ish talent search, organised by one of the main commercial art galleries in the country, we could say that Adrian Villar Rojas allegorically represents the self destructive impulses of the contemporary art world. Too much too soon without any purpose.
The result of this kind of urgency is that the source of artistic value is not in the object but in himself as a character. This transforms him into a performance artist of sorts. By this I mean that his art has become more about the logistics of its production than about its concept. In fact he has recently displaced the content debate from the realm of iconography to a much more complicated (and, as I will show, morally dubious) realm of ‘collective production’. I am saying this because Adrian project hesitates between sculptural modernism (for example, Moby Dick at the End of the World Biennal) and, what we could call, ‘stage design’ (for example, the one currently shown at PS1 MOMA called ‘La Inocencia de los Animales’). Some of his works are supposed to be seen from outside and in the round while others are supposed to be seen from within.
When modernist, his discussions are artistic (and the form is that of the public monument), but when ‘stage design-ish’, his works function with the logic of the amusement or theme park. While the former requires aesthetic detachment, the latter requires sensationalism. While the former aims at the mind, the latter aims at something more primal (and low). So which kind of viewer is AVR aiming at. What is the position of the viewer in these works?
This questions do not qualify the work but cast many doubts about its relevance. So the question is why the contemporary art world at the highest level is endorsing, promoting and sacralising something which artistic credentials are so dubious. The answer is simple and it has to do with the emergence of the world of art as a replacement of the church and the public squares as places where the community expresses itself in different ways. The church used to be the place where to go en masse to feel alone. The public square used to be the place where the ‘res publica’ got constructed. While the church has been replaced by the museum, the public spaces have been replaced by the internet. It is for this particular reason that dictatorships like the AEU and Dubai have embraced this kind of art and, of course, the reason why someone like Marian Goodman represents Villar Rojas in particular. He has become a stage designer for clients who need to do public art that does not raise any unnecesary questions. These are the international clients of Adrian Villar Rojas.
This makes this art kind of ‘amoral’. Through it, the artist places himself on the antipodes of those romantic/punk ideals that he still claims to embody in order to embrace the idea of the ‘marginal’ (dark poor peruvian artist) as a means to be accepted for these clients who are, nevertheless, going to use him for his own ‘inmoral’ ends. Just a thought.
WATCH CAÑETE’S THE PILL ON PATRICIA PHELPS DE CISNEROS’ RADICAL GEOMETRY AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS: