Indicios at Galería Céntrica

A friend of mine opened a conceptual photography show a few weeks back. As I explained on Juanele’s blog, it’s a bit headier than average, but very well executed.

Looking through Céntrico’s locked front doors at the rows of designer shoes beyond, I began to doubt that I was in the right place. The corner store seemed “artsy,” alright, but I had made my way to this disorienting five-point intersection at the juncture of two Palermo street grids for photos, not footwear.

The photos were there, after all — but below the sales floor in Galería Céntrica, a small, triangular, basement space accessible through a side entrance and down a flight of narrow stairs. The whole building, as it happens, used to be a gallery devoted to young artists. But as the neighborhood’s prestige rose, canvas and Kodachrome gave way to Centrico’s leather and suede. The store’s owners decided to pay homage to the history of the space by reserving the basement for the sort of exploratory, art-for-art’s-sake projects that used to exhibit there.

The show I had come to see — Indicios, which means both “traces” and “clues” — fits the re-dedicated gallery’s by-artists-for-artists profile perfectly. The first exhibition by a new four-photographer collective consisting of Andrés Blasina, Carlos Janon, Germán Ruíz, and Sol Santarsiero, Indicios doesn’t feature the kind of shots that most people envision when they proclaim their love for photography. But that was never the idea. Ruíz told me that the group intentionally sought to downplay the individuality of the photos that comprise the show, foregoing wall labels and replacing the gallery’s spot-lighting with generic fluorescent tubes, harsh in tone and reminiscent of a crime lab.

Uninviting as the lighting may have been, these uncommon curatorial decisions were smart choices for a project that centers more on concept and juxtaposition than raw visual impact. The show includes photos of all sorts — its clues come as portraits, still lifes, and landscapes; they are large and small, colorful and muted, glossy and matte. Very few of them would, on their own, demand a second glance, but taken together, they represent the superstructure of a detective story that the viewer writes herself. Crumpled jeans on a blood-red couch, an aerial shot of Plaza Lavalle, and a dark-suited, red-tie-wearing man point toward a political scandal. A much larger but equally tense portrait suggests something more sinister — surrounded as it is by four views of a sterile, institutional building.

On its surface a detective story, Indicios is also a reflection on process. Ruíz told me that the four photographers behind the show opted to use only photos that they had created for other purposes, without modifying them at all.  They wanted to see how re-situating them in new surroundings might change them. Such dependence on context — especially a context that so mimics the police-detective approach — calls into question the objectivity of these superficially unremarkable, “unadulterated” images. It’s not the sort of operation that’s going to inflame the passions of most gallery-goers. But given the sort of feet that Galería Centrica hopes to draw downstairs, I’d say the shoe (and the clue?) fits pretty well.

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