The exhibition Margarita Azurdia. Margarita Rita Rica Dinamita is the first European retrospective devoted to Margarita Azurdia (Antigua Guatemala, 1931 - Guatemala City, 1998), one of the twentieth century’s most emblematic Central American artists. The survey delves into her career, journeying through her vast output, which spans painting, sculpture, non-objectual art and artist’s books drafted with drawings, collages and poems. Retrospectively, the exhibition opens an in-depth view of the modern and contemporary art landscape in Guatemala and prompts an exploration of the artist’s creative metamorphosis between 1960 and the mid-1990s, reflected, moreover, in the numerous name changes with which she signed her works.
From the mid-1960s to the beginning of the decade that followed, Azurdia made incursions into geometric forms inspired by Indigenous textile designs from Guatemala, applying them chiefly to painting — her series Geométricas (Geometric Paintings) went on show at Galería DS in Guatemala City in 1968. Two years later, she received an honorary mention in the Tenth São Paulo Biennial for her series Asta 104 (1969) — large-scale sculptural paintings — in her interrogation of the discipline.
Akin to other Latin American artists working at that time, and in line with formal and conceptual concerns internationally, Azurdia’s interests turned to actively integrating the public into her works. For instance, at the Second Coltejer Art Biennial in 1970, held in Medellín, the artist left behind her predominantly pictorial work and adhered more to the spirit of the times with the installation Por favor quitarse los zapatos (Please Take Off Your Shoes), created specifically for the event, whereby she invited viewers to delve into a place of sensorial experimentation through performative and interactive elements. At the Third Coltejer Art Biennial (1972), her series of mobile marble sculptures stood out for being subject to spectators’ impulses.
From 1971 to 1974, Azurdia made an emblematic series of sculptures known as Homenaje a Guatemala (Homage to Guatemala), made up of fifty wood carvings commissioned to artisans specialised in religious figures, resulting in a set of assemblages with artisan objects, zoomorphic figures and women wearing boots, rifles and tropical fruit evoking the altars of the altiplano towns in Guatemala and referencing the cultural and religious syncretism imbuing the complex history of Guatemala. Three of these pieces, unified under the title El rito (The Rite), were exhibited at the Twelfth São Paulo Biennial and are sculptures which exhibit one of the artist’s most radical transformations, opening the way to new modes of expression.
In 1974, she moved to Paris, the epicentre of a veritable revolution of ideas, where she became involved in women artists’ circles and was encouraged to trace a watershed in her own conceptions as a woman and artist. In addition to becoming immersed in contemporary dance, Azurdia focused on writing and illustrating several of her artist’s books. Upon her return to Guatemala in 1982, she met artists Benjamín Herrarte and Fernando Iturbide, with whom she formed the experimental dance group Laboratorio de Creatividad, channelling her concerns by exploring movement, the origins of ritual and sacred dance. After its disbandment in 1985, Azurdia continued to explore the paradigm between art and spirit, conducting workshops and exploring in greater depth ideas of care and healing linked to nature and the environment, drifts that would also be reflected in her mature paintings, packed full of disconcerting and spontaneous lines reflecting the regrowth of feelings and memories marking her personal history.
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