The Architectural Muse

Visitor at a Homage to Roberto Aizenberg’s Paintings

He started out as a student of architecture and ended up being a surrealist painter whose work has an architectural quality. Roberto Aizenberg (1928-1996) is the subject of this post, part of a desultory series on Argentinian painters. In general, I dislike abstract expressionists and love realists and surrealists. A student of Antonio Berni, about whom I have written before, Aizenberg’s work is reminiscent of Xul Solar, another surrealist from the Rio de la Plata.

“Biography of the Author” by Aizenberg

The above painting ties the artist’s love of architecture to the soil of Argentina, with the buildings appearing to be a range of buttes and mesas built atop red earth riddles with caves. This one particularly reminds me of Xul Solar’s surrealist humor.

“Harlequin” by Aizenberg

Harlequins typically wear costumes broken into a design of alternating black and white diamonds. Here, Aizenberg suggests the costume and brackets it with architectural elements. Instead of a human figure, the painter’s harlequin is topped with a doughnut-shaped ring and supported by three spheres of descending size—almost as if it were a decorative finial for a staff or scepter of sorts.

I have not seen many original canvasses by Argentinian painters, with the exception of Xul Solar, whose dedicated museum I have visited in Buenos Aires. The next time I go to South America—and I hope there is a next time—I will have to visit MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires.


The New Realism

Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda

This is a continuation of my occasional series on Argentinian painters. Today, I am presenting three paintings by Delesio Antonio Berni (1905-1981), who is known for his Nuevo Realismo, or new realism. This is usually taken to mean a Latin American form of social realism.

Below are two paintings dealing with poverty and the effects of industrialization in Argentina. Juan Perón came into power in the 1940s largely because of his appeal to workers. He was greatly aided in this by his then wife Evita Perón.

Public Demonstration

Manifestacion (Public Demonstration) (1934)

Note the sign at the upper right of this haunting image that reads “Pan y Trabajo,” which translates as “Bread and Work.” The faces in the foreground are particularly interesting.

There was a time when Argentina and Uruguay were two of the richest countries in the world. Much of this had to do with the invention of canned meat, followed soon after by the First World War, when there was a huge demand for meat to provision the troops of both sides. Sadly, boom times do not always last.


Desocupados (The Unemployed) (1934)

The above painting shows unemployed workers either asleep or staring into the middle distance.

When I go to Buenos Aires next month, I hope to find some of his original paintings, perhaps at MALBA (Museo d’Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires).