Teresa Burga

Württembergischer Kunstverein

11-teresaburga.gif

Teresa Burga, Ohne Titel, 1967

Teresa Burga, untitled, 1967

Museums and the art market seem to have finally become aware of demographic shifts. Once ‘young artists’ had been done to death, the search began for new niches, leading to the discovery of… older artists. A gap in the market and in art reception opened up around this hitherto neglected though steadily expanding group. Filling this gap led to the profitable discovery or rediscovery of older women artists, including the Cuban painter Carmen Herrera and the American photographer Barbara Kasten. This survey ‘Teresa Burga’s Chronology: Reports, Diagrams, Intervals’ offers another example.

Yet it would be wrong to suspect a merely strategic campaign to open up new markets in the slipstream of a greying society. The Kunstverein’s directors Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ came into contact with Burga’s work by hosting the group exhibition ‘Subversive Practices. Art Under Conditions of Political Repression. 60s-’80s / South America / Europe’ in 2009. Burga, who was born in 1935 in Iquitos, Peru, and now works in Lima, emerged as a versatile, intelligent and ironic artist operating on the borders between Pop, installation and Conceptual art. The show, curated by Dorota Biczel, Miguel A. López und Emilio Tarazona, fuelled doubts over the validity of a value-based distinction between ‘centre’ (New York) and ‘periphery’ (in this case, Lima).

The first room featured her Pop art works from the 1960s; their stridently colourful anti-modernism could remind well-conditioned viewers of Britain’s Independent Group or American artists like Andy Warhol. At first glance, Burga’s environment sin titulo (untitled, 1967), and reproductions of other lost environments with their pop-culture-saturated domestic spaces, looked like responses to the collages of Richard Hamilton. But Burga was 
inspired by Argentinian Pop art – a fact that supports the ‘comparative art history’ of Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowski, who argues that ‘universal’ styles develop distinct dynamics in different geographical contexts. Burga’s Pop art also has a feminist slant, for example when she reduces her female figures to pure surfaces in sin titulo (untitled, 1967) or presses them in the most brutal two-dimensionality onto a bed where they appear to merge with the mattress in sin titulo (untitled, 1967).

Many of her works based on diagrams and sociological studies from the 1970s and ’80s appear more ascetic, serial and structuralist. They include drawings on which she neatly marked how much time she needed for the various lines (sin titulo, untitled, 1972–74). She also used pseudo-scientific diagrams and colourful visualizations of brainwaves to illustrate her Perfil de la Mujer Peruana (Profile of Peruvian Woman, 1980–81), created using sociological methods. It quickly becomes clear that Burga prefers to deconstruct the conceptual via the conceptual, to use statistics against statistics, diagrams against diagrams: affirmation is subversion.

Most strikingly, Burga never celebrated Conceptual art as bloodless asceticism. 
In this exhibition, she emerged as a talented and exultant creator of drawings and collages who neither dresses up forms platonically 
nor shies away from humorous brain teasers in the spirit of Magritte. Her conceptual art came across as so smart and so nonchalant that one was tempted to coin a neologism: nonceptual art.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell

Jörg Scheller is an art historian, journalist and musician. He teaches at Zurich University of the Arts.

Issue 3

First published in Issue 3

Winter 2011

Most Read

Remembering the pioneering composer, visionary thinker, multimedia artist and techno-utopian, who died in May
Jennifer Piejko's guide to the best current shows in LA
Ei Arakawa work stolen from Skulptur Projekte Münster; Richard Mosse arrested; three men charged over counterfeit...
Joyce Pensato, Landscape Mickey, 2017. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery, London
Lisson Gallery, London, UK
Coinciding with Refugee Week, and her film Hear Her Singing screening at the Southbank Centre, the artist shares some...
Gilda Williams visits the first edition of the ARoS Triennial in Aarhus, Denmark
The Haitian Revolution as a lesson in corporate leadership and meeting the 'prophet of the Anthropocene': what to read...
Creative Time launches series of protest flags; photographer Khadija Saye reported as a victim of London's Grenfell...
A recent retrospective at the Museo Ettore Fico in Turin establishes the overlooked importance of a ‘total artist’
The third edition of the London performance festival makes the case for collective action in an age of political...
A past winner of the Frieze Writer’s Prize, Zoe Pilger on the books and experiences that have influenced her as a writer
A guide to the best projects included in Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017
For the first in a series of our editors’ initial impressions from documenta 14 Kassel, Pablo Larios on the Neue...
Art sees itself as facing a crisis of legitimation – can this account for claims to 'authenticity' being made in shows...

An interview with the late artist on the unique classification system he devised to organize his books
The independent curator on 25 years in the arts

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2017

frieze magazine

May 2017

frieze magazine

June – August 2017