We are grateful to Sonia Becce, from the artist's studio, for her assistance cataloguing this work.
“There is nothing more contemporary than painting,” Kuitca once reflected. “A painting as a battlefield about what is, what is not, what ought to be, what I like, what I hate, what I love. . . . The state of fear, of excitement, of enthusiasm, of disenchantment, of embarrassment, is all the time.” Based in Buenos Aires and an international presence since the 1980s, Kuitca has long plumbed the spaces of painting—in effect, painting space itself—in works laden with the placelessness of the postmodern landscape. He represented Argentina at the São Paulo Bienal in 1989 and at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and major retrospectives have been organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (2003), four U.S. institutions led by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (2009-11), and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2014).
Themes of emotional and spatial dislocation took root in Kuitca’s work during the 1980s, shaped by his travel to Germany and exposure there to the experimental Tanztheater run by the dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, whose production of Café Müller he had seen in Buenos Aires. Bausch’s surreal dance-theater commingled the language of the body and the raw violence of sexual relationships, and Kuitca has acknowledged the influence of her unconventional sets, multiple spatial perspectives, and agonistic characters. “The connection with theater arose in part from that idea of the world as a stage, and also because I was well aware that, at the beginning of the 1980s, the limits of painting—not only my own painting but that of the entire period—were indeed many, and that theater appeared, in contrast, as an inexhaustible universe,” Kuitca explains. “From the beginning, it was clear to me that the story, in the anecdotal sense, had been erased, but what was left was a strong sense that we see a scene in which something has already happened.”
Suggestively anticlimactic, La boca del tigre appropriates scenographic elements from Bausch (empty chairs scattered across the floor; trap door) as well as the pervasive melancholia of her brooding figures, cast here across a vast, surreal stage. A lone, diminutive woman lies on the floor at center stage, her red dress reflected in softly gleaming bluish light; a standing couple, mere transparent outlines, stands at the foot of the bed. Kuitca has probed the theatrical and disembodied space of the bed qua stage since the early series Nadie olvida nada, an important touchstone for his later work and the first instance in which the bed is rendered as a site of alienation and absence. Yet here, the architecture of the set is arguably Kuitca’s primary subject, its space framed by the flat, bright-white plane of the bed, the exposed staircase leading underneath the stage, and the squared-off opening in the backdrop. The spatial limbo is suggestively somnolescent, evoking a dreamlike (or nightmarish) suspension of reality: the painting is at once dramaturgy and exegesis, an inquiry into the pregnancy of space itself.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1 Guillermo Kuitca, quoted in “Hans-Michael Herzog in Conversation with Guillermo Kuitca,” in Guillermo Kuitca: Das Lied von der Erde (Zurich: Hatje Cantz, 2006), n.p.
2 Kuitca, quoted in Graciela Speranza, “Conversations with Guillermo Kuitca,” in Guillermo Kuitca: Everything (New York: D.A.P., 2009), 76.