Banknotes, coins, fabrics, toys and other used objects... How can these materials come together and form a work of art? How do environmental issues like “recycling” or “reutilization” become the main theme of a work of art?
How do children’s toys and politics meet in the same work?
The answers to all of these questions are made clear in the exhibition of Argentine artist Máximo Gonzáles. “Bir Şeye Cevap Niteliğinde Bir Şey” (Something Like an Answer to Something), currently showing at the Artane Art Gallery in Cihangir, compiles Gonzáles works from different projects and displays them for the first time in İstanbul.
The artist is known internationally for his series of works based on the ideas of “reutilization and recycling” that make the audience think about the use of things that both have been created and later discarded by humans for having become useless or gone out of circulation.
So it is not surprising to see in the exhibition huge collages Gonzales made using the borders of bills cut out during the process of money production; or installations he created using banknotes no longer in circulation.
Printed material that was once used for educational purposes in Latin America have now been turned into gigantic installations, such as a squadron of rats, ready to attack. A World War II bugle and a box of oils which Gonzáles used to paint his first landscapes, all serve totally different functions now, just like the automobiles that serve as flower pots in his drawings.
Creating new concepts out of old objects
“I have always liked symbolic objects,” says Gonzáles, in an interview with Today’s Zaman, explaining the idea behind his works. “The most important thing for me is the concept, the idea behind every work, and its relation to the cultural, educational, and political issues in the world. In this regard, there are many concepts behind my projects and I use the symbols as a means to interpret what happened before.”
For Gonzáles, what he actually does is reconstruct and transform past realities into new interpretations and concepts. “The materials I use have their own stories. They have symbols; they have a lot of things connected to the culture, to the space, to the people who have used them in a special way. I use all this energy and these ideas and make another art structure; in other words, I recycle all these materials and ideas and build a new concept, a new language, to express new ideas and, finally, new reflections.”
According to Gonzáles, another significant theme of the exhibition is the idea of “survival.” “I re-use all the time because we’re in constant movement,” he says. “For example the central work in this exhibition is the work with [the image of] Che Guevara. In the ‘60s, Che was a revolutionary figure and the country was abuzz with new things. But the idea of revolution happened many years ago. Now it’s done. Now there’s no more a revolution. It’s ended. People are tired of this kind of revolution and for that reason this piece is like a reflection about the process of revolution and about growing new ideas like the plants. The piece seems to be rotten, but rotten in a good way, [as part of] a process of growing new ideas.”
As an artist growing up in an environment and period where politics and political propaganda were very influential, it is inevitable that Gonzáles would express these political, that is, environmentalist and anti-war, messages through his works.
“Since our culture is very political, and all of my family, my community, everybody talks about politics and changes and visions of the future, I’ve always been influenced [by politics] in my creative process,” says Gonzáles. “For me, the political part of my life is very strong since [revolutionary activities] took place in my country when I was a child. This motivated me to develop these kinds of works and these kinds of reflections. I think it is politics, religion and education that constantly influence ways of thinking, ideas and people and I use this influence to create a new language to express my worries.”
Drawings of automobiles turned into flower pots comprise another interesting part of the artist’s exhibition, reflecting his environmentalist concerns. “This is a very hopeful project,” says Gonzáles. “[In these drawings] there are cars and plants with their scientific names,” explains Gonzáles. “The idea of reutilization here is that one day the oil will all be consumed. What will happen to all these vehicles? So I offer to use these vehicles as flower pots to repair all the damage we caused in nature.”
The exhibition will be on display until May 28.