Opening Reception: Friday, March 7, 2014 from 6-8pm
Josée Bienvenu is pleased to present Silencios, Juan Manuel Echavarría’s fourth solo exhibition in New York. Since 1995, Echavarría’s disturbingly beautiful photographs and videos have addressed the consequences of the endless Colombian drug wars. The show consists of Silencios, a photographic essay composed of twelve images, as well as three large scale portraits from an ongoing series of Witnesses. The gravedigger and the missed call, a new video, is presented in the project space.
Silencios is the direct continuation of La “O”, his previous project. Traveling over the past three years through the rural and extensive region of Montes de María, ravaged by the war between the guerrilla movements, the paramilitaries, and the Colombian armed forces. Echavarría documented abandoned schools fallen to ruin and traces left by forced displacements – classrooms without children, desks or teachers, and roofless spaces invaded by tropical humidity where familiar mathematical signs, grammatical symbols, and faint alphabets, can still be seen. He focused his attention on the blackboard of former classrooms.
In Silencios, a suite of twelve photographs taken between 2010 and 2013, Echavarría documents the mutation of the function of the classroom space. Over time, a former classroom is overtaken as a living space by displaced farmers. Makeshift beds, plastic chairs, assorted cans, and other daily objects constitute the very idea of displacement in a form of reverse archeology. Ruins slowly become inhabited again. With their emptiness and muteness, the photographs articulate a ceremonial metaphor, creating spaces of communion where letters, numbers, and the voices of children once silenced, can begin to be heard again as timid signs of life start to accumulate. During these long journeys, Echavarría has been confronted by unexpected encounters he names Testigos. A pig, a cat, and a termite nest become silent witnesses testifying for the children’s absence.
The gravedigger and the missed call is a 16 minutes video, concurrently presented in Colombia at the Biennal de Cartagena. "La paciencia es la ciencia de la paz" (Patience is the science of peace). A caretaker erases the world in order to settle into a parallel reality: working with scissors, he carefully focuses on every blade of grass. Closer to a sculptor than to a hairdresser, he retouches and removes every edge with calm and attention. He gets transported by his own action. Nothing can distract him, not even the surroundings of the cemetery, nor the violence of the ring tone of his own cell phone.
Born in Medellin, Colombia in 1947, Juan Manuel Echavarría lives and works in New York and Bogotá. His work has been exhibited extensively through Latin America, Europe, and the United States. Recent exhibitions include: America Latina 1960-2013 at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France (2013 - 2014), traveling to Museo Amparo, Puebla, Mexico (2014), Colombian Nocturnes at Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France (2013 – 2014), Aliento: Arte de Colombia, Kunstmuseum Bochum, Bochum, Germany (2014); Cantos Cuentos Colombianos, Casa Daros, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2013), MoMA Presents: Juan Manuel Echavarría’s Requiem NN, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2013), El barro tiene voz, Museo de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia (2013 - 2015), La domus del ausente, Galeria Metropolitana, Mexico, D.F. (2013), 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012); La "O", Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia (2012); Juan Manuel Echavarría. Videos, 1999-2004, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico, D.F., Mexico (2012); The Politics of Place: Latin American Photography, Past and Present, Phoenix Art Museum, AZ (2012); Bienal Do Mercosul, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2011); Fast forward 2: The Power of Motion, Media Art Sammlung Goetz, ZKM, Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany (2010).