Far from the ideals of beauty and style that had been the hallmarks of art prior to the outset of the 20th Century and instead, firmly situated within tendencies that had sought to push the boundaries of art practice since the end of the War, from 1962 on Alberto Heredia elaborated his works using refuse material, an attitude that would be further accentuated during the following decade (1).He presented his series of Amordazamientos (Gaggings) simultaneously in several exhibitions during the course of the year in 1974. The artist had worked on over ten of these pieces since 1972. They were assemblage objects composed of dentures gagged with rags impregnated with glue and mounted on supports made of recycled wood that he showed as allegories of censorship, which was increasingly present at that time in Argentina. The idea of bodies fragmented and dismembered to the point of reaching the very least bit still capable of expression, revealed these mouths as metonymic representations of the body and its impossibility to speak. From this perspective, isolated fragments became decisive and lent even greater potency to the expressive ability of every detail. This series is closely related to others that the artist produced in parallel: the Embalajes (Packaging), the Engendros (Freaks), the Lenguas (Tongues) and the Sexos (Sexes) (2). In all of these, he persisted in using refuse material, “useless objects” discarded by consumer society that served as a resource to establish an ethical position regarding contemporary mankind’s behavior. In the case of the Amordazamientos, the concept of waste material was closely tied to the violence involved in showing how fragmented bodies can be seen as tracks or traces of destruction. His persistent use of bandages and plaster also had a powerful biographical imprint, given that Heredia suffered an accident in 1963 falling from a horse and was obliged to spend two years largely covered in plaster casts for lengthy periods of time.Some of his concerns during that period were summarized in an exhibition that included a selection of works from these series shown within a large environment that he denominated De las lenguas… y otras cosas más (Regarding Tongues… and Other Things as Well, Galería Carmen Waugh, 1974), held in homage of the first anniversary of Argentinean poet and critic Aldo Pellegrini’s death. There, the works were mounted on a table set up on sawhorses and covered with real grass which Heredia himself periodically watered as a performance gesture (3). It was a veritable staging that offered scathing irony regarding power, sex and religion (4). The choral music that accompanied the show in the background should be understood in this sense; it included a selection of Gregorian chants and an excerpt from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. In December of that same year, having received death threats from the Triple A (Alianza Anticomunista Argentina)—for, among other reasons, being a “Communist activist of the artistic elite”—he sought asylum in Uruguay for two months. That moment also marked a turning point in his career. Upon his return to Buenos Aires, in what can be considered a period of taking stock, Heredia dedicated himself to revising his production since 1960 and undertook casting several of these works in bronze (5).Mariana Marchesi
1— Cardboard, wood, plastic containers, plaster, bandages, teeth and fabric are some of the elements that make up his work.
2— Except for the Embalajes (Packaging) series –done between 1967 and 1973– all his series were produced between 1972 and 1974.
3— Laura Buccellato, “Alberto Heredia, el amigo artista” in: Alberto Heredia. Retrospectiva, exhib. cat. Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Moderno, 1998, p. 7.
4— A series of his Crucifixiones (Crucifixions) was also presented in the exhibition.
5— Cf. Hugo Monzón, “Creaciones de un trágico con un muy oscuro sentido del humor”, La Opinión, Buenos Aires, November 30, 1976.
1974. MONZÓN, Hugo, “Provocativa muestra escultórica de Heredia en Carmen Waugh”, La Opinión, Buenos Aires, 13 de abril.
1979. SANTANA, Raúl, “Alberto Heredia” en: Gabriel Levinas (ed.), Arte argentino contemporáneo. Madrid, Ameris, p. 144. — LÓPEZ ANAYA, Jorge, Heredia. Escultores argentinos del siglo XX. Buenos Aires, CEAL, nº 13, p. 4, reprod. p. 5.
1998. RABOSSI, Cecilia y Clelia Taricco, “Alberto Heredia. Vida y obra” en: Alberto Heredia. Retrospectiva, cat. exp. Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Moderno, 1998, p. 107-108.
2005. LÓPEZ ANAYA, Jorge, Arte argentino. Cuatro siglos de historia (1600-2000). Buenos Aires, Emecé, reprod. color p. 405.
2009. MARCHESI, Mariana, “Cuerpos des-hechos. Destrucción y reconstrucción del cuerpo en la plástica argentina de los 70” en: AA.VV., XXX Coloquio Internacional de Historia del Arte. Estéticas del des(h)echo. México DF, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM.