During my last weeks in Buenos Aires, I visited the Fundación Espigas’s Document Center on the History of the Visual Arts in Argentina and got the chance to interview Delia Cancela, one of my favorite artists from the Centro de Artes Visuales of the Instituto Di Tella.
Argentina is unfortunately known for being rather negligent when it comes to building up and preserving archives. In that context, the work of Fundación Espigas is especially praiseworthy. Created in 1993, it has undertaken to gather and protect all Argentine art-related documents at home and abroad. Their archive has been very helpful for my research on Argentine artists who emigrated to France in the late sixties/early seventies. I visited Espigas’s offices in Recoleta and spent days looking for information and all sorts of documents related to Alfredo Arias, Delia Cancela, Roberto Plate, Juan Stoppani, and David Lamelas. Old interviews or articles published in magazines and newspapers, invitations to openings in Buenos Aires, Paris or New York -a whole range of materials unlikely to be found at any other place than Fundación Espigas.
I met with Delia Cancela at her beautiful house in the neighborhood of Colegiales. As soon as we started talking, even during a very casual, informal conversation, I felt the need to record Delia’s opinions, stories, and reflections. She said she’s fascinated by people of letters because she’s never been “good with words” herself. I turn the pages of a heavy book containing her wonderful artpieces and note how many of them include names, quotes, and all kinds of phrases. I wish I was that good with words, I think, and listen. She has a lot to tell. She’s been one of the “pop stars” from the Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires. In the late sixties, along with her long-time partner Pablo Mesejean, she moved to London, where their art creations (some of them in the form of clothes) attracted the attention of the Fashion popes of the moment. A few months into their stay in the city they were contributing regularly for Vogue and by the mid-seventies Pablo and Delia had become a cult Fashion house both in London and in Paris.
Drawing by Argentine writer, actor and cartoonist Copi in homage to his close friend Juan Stoppani -materials like this give as a hint of the links and the fruitful exchanges among these Argentine exiles in France.
My second interview during my stay in Buenos Aires was with Juan Stoppani, another relevant artist from the Instituto Di Tella who moved to Paris by the end of the sixties. As a member of Groupe TSE, created by Alfredo Arias, Stoppani started a career as a costume and stage designer. Throughout the seventies and the eighties, Stoppani continued to work in theater under the direction of Jean Louis Barrault, Jerôme Savary, Roland Petit, and Jorge Lavelli, among others. The curtain he designed for the play Le frigo by his close friend Copi, in 1984, attracted a great deal of interest.
After many decades of living abroad, Stoppani returned to Buenos Aires and lives now in a sort of Mundo Stoppani, an old beautiful house in the neighborhood of La Boca, fully renovated according to his personal style and peopled by works of art -all of them his own creations- dispersed in every single room, in every single wall. Continue reading
These are the porcelain cakes Arias is showing at his art exhibit "Patria Petrona", a homage to the most famous Argentine chef ever, Doña Petrona.
In my first year as a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at NYU (2010-2011) I’ve developed a strong and consistent interest in Argentine writers and artists who emigrated to Paris in the sixties and early seventies. My examples draw from both well-known and obscure writers, including Alejandra Pizarnik, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Copi, Sylvia Molloy, Raúl Escari, and Javier Arroyuelo, as well as visual artists like Roberto Plate, Alfredo Arias, and Juan Stoppani.
Although I’ve already started my research in New York, traveling to Argentina has been incredibly helpful to carry on with the project. Many of the authors and artists in question are currently living in Buenos Aires, which has allowed me the great opportunity to meet with and interview them. I have already been in touch with Edgardo Cozarinsky and Javier Arroyuelo, and interviewed Alfredo Arias and Juan Stoppani.