Josee Bienvenu is pleased to present Erased, a two-person exhibition featuring Colombian artist Johanna Calle and Paraguayan artist Fredi Casco. The two artists intervene groups of found photographs from the 1950s - 1970s, a tumultuous era in Latin American history. In Colombia, a violent and murderous civil war followed by a conflict between the drug cartels affected the whole nation, and in Paraguay, Alfredo Stroessner's longstanding dictatorship held massive campaigns of political repression involving the disappearances and assassinations of its opponents. Both artists built images by obliterating information in order to reveal a new reality. The works in Erased outline the negative spaces and memory gaps in Latin American history.
In this new body of work, Johanna Calle appropriated and intervened a group of anonymous Polaroid prints from the 1970's. The works investigate the notions of disappearance of the physical body, in reference to the kidnappings that shook the history of her country. “Erasing, cutting, replacing or covering”, she says, “emphasize the fact that there is something missing. No matter how exhaustive these actions are, there are always residues that point out that what is absent; there are often traces that are barely visible. It could be said that these processes are strategies particular to drawing or any form that modifies a surface with a voluntary gesture. These actions represent for me a controlled way to obtain eloquent images through a criticism of dominant powers.”
For Johanna Calle the medium of drawing is similar to a language that is constantly adapting itself, integrating new expressions, voices and terms. The dynamism and versatility that she finds in different forms of drawing allow her to work with an array of materials. Born in Bogota, Columbia, in 1965, where she lives and works, Calle holds an MFA from the Chelsea College of Art, London. Her work is currently featured in America Latina, Photographies 1960-2013, Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, (2013-2014). Recent exhibitions include When Attitudes Became Form, Become Attitudes (curated by Jens Hoffmann), Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USA, (2012); K (curated by Juan Andrés Gaitán), Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USA, (2012); Irregular Hexagon, Colombian Art in Residence (curated by José Roca), Sàn Art, HCM City, Vietnam, (2012); ‘Submergentes: A Drawing Approach to Masculinities’, Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, USA, 2011; Untitled, 12 Istanbul Biennial, Istambul,Turkey, (2011); The Air We Breathe, SFMoMA, San Francisco, USA, (2011); Últimas Adquisiciones de la Colección del Banco de la República, Museo del Banco de la República, Bogotá, Colombia, (2010).
In this series titled Foto Zombies, Fredi Casco worked on the backs of original photographs from the ‘50s and ‘60s, acquired by the artist at a flea market in Asunción, Paraguay. They were originally the property of Juan O’Leary, director of protocol under Alfredo Stroessner’s regime, Paraguay’s longest standing dictator in power from 1953 to 1983. Casco traces in pencil the silhouettes of figures and events featured on the other side of the photograph: the formal gestures of ambassadors, the handing over of documents, the official greetings and embraces, and the postures of reception guests. In this way, the fronts and backs of the photographs enter into dialogue in the viewer’s imagination. These modified documents are an open critique of official protocol—the actions and gestures—that promote and support authoritarian regimes.
Through subtle transgressions and a great deal of irony, Fredi Casco examines the apparent transparency and neutrality of various media such as television and photography. His work constantly explores the limits between the so-called high culture and popular culture, and the tensions between official history and its “minor” documents. Casco reveals the social imaginaries and cultural consumption of a context shaped by post-colonial conditions. Born in Paraguay in 1967, Fredi Casco lives and works in Asunción, Paraguay. He was awarded the CIFO Grants Program for Emerging Artists, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, (2007). Casco was recently exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale and his work is currently featured in America Latina, Photographies 1960-2013, Foundation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, (2013-14) and was presented at the 10th Biennial of Havana, Cuba, (2009); the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Thessaloniki, Greece, (2009); the 3rd and 5th Mercosul Biennials of Porto Alegre, (2001 and 2005); the Valencia Biennial, Spain, (2007); the Telefónica Foundation, Buenos Aires, (2006).