Nahuel Vecino and Guido Pierri at Cobra

This past Thursday evening I won the Buenos Aires art-opening lottery: I hit one amazing show, and stumbled into another one that may not have impressed me much on the art front but was more of a party than an ‘inauguration,’ with a DJ and–a first!–individual bottles of Stella Artois. I’ve already written about the former (as has Juanele’s Gabi Schevach–check it out); now it’s time, as I explained on Juanele’s blog, to set aside serious thoughts and enjoy the party half:

It wouldn’t be hard to find something serious to say about the dozens of disembodied young boys’ heads that Nahuel Vecino has hanging around the subterranean Cobra gallery. Nor would it be a stretch to spin elaborate theories about the science-experiment-meets-occult-practice-meets-teenage-basement-bedroom-decorations that Guido Pierri contributed to the space. Both of these tasks would be even easier in light of the two-artist show’s title, Incesante mutacion del río noche (“Incessant Mutation of Night River”) — strange but serious-sounding and oh-so-mysterious, it practically begs for some blog-based bloviating.

But I won’t attempt any of these things. Not because the show isn’t ‘good’ art (who am I to say?), but because Vecino’s paintings and Pierri’s objects — inspired, the artist says, by nine months near the Arctic Circle in Sweden — just didn’t hook me. Though his mass of bloody heads, some with eyes open and looking right at me, didn’t break through, there was one work by Vecino I did enjoy: a chalky reclining nude, surrounded by a marinescape of conch shells and sexualized plants and set bizarrely against a desolate plain straight out of Chaco or West Texas. It managed to strikes notes naive, lush, barren, and a little bit twisted, all at the same time.

More than the art, though, it was the unexpected spectacle of the night that made my visit memorable. I had never been to Cobra before, and although the gallery’s entrance was all but hidden (it’s an unmarked rectangle cut into a wooden facade), it was easy to spot, given the club-sized crowd smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk out front.

Through the door and down a flight of stairs, I found myself in a cavernous, multilevel basement space much larger than I had imagined. Beside the stairs was an alcove bar dispensing individual glass bottles of Stella along with the usual red wine. The soaring main gallery itself was one of the more unusual art spaces I’ve seen. Its concrete floor was inset with elongated off-white lights, and the rounded edges of its recessed ceilings and the glass edging of its DJ-occupied mezzanine produced an effect somewhere between late ’60s university library and mid-2000s European dance club. The blaring electropop went better with the beer in my hand than the bleeding heads on the walls, but no matter — this was a party, and I wasn’t about to ruin it by thinking too hard.

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