Horacia Zabala: Purity is in the Mix

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Exhibition catalogue for: Horacia Zabala: Mapping the Monocrome.

Horacio Zabala (Argentina, b.1943) is recognized as one of the most important conceptual artists to emerge in Argentina during the latter part of the 20th century. Educated as an architect but active as an artist since the late 1960s, he has long been fascinated by the means by which space is defined, be it architectural, cartographic, or narrative.

In the early 1970s, Zabala produced a series of maps of Latin America that he graphically modified to reflect Argentina’s socio-political turmoil under repressive military dictatorships. He began this experimentation by obscuring maps of the region with monochromatic rectangles of black, blue, or red paint. He also made maps invisible by the proliferation of the word “CENSORED” rubber-stamped across their surfaces; maps with absences created by burning gaping holes through the paper; and hand-drawn maps of Latin American land masses crumbling into the sea from inside out.

To escape persecution, Zabala moved his family to Europe in 1976. He returned to Argentina in 1998 and took up where he left off, with the idea of mapping space, but now through a different idiom: monochromatic paintings arranged in sequences accompanied by mathematical signs or punctuation marks. The monochrome seen in his early maps has now become untethered from geography. Zabala titles these punctuated monochromesHypotheses, suggesting that they constitute only one possible solution among many others: these works present viewers with an invitation to visualize painting as inextricably linked to other systems of logic and reason, even beyond math and language.

Featuring maps, monochromes, and sculptures, the exhibition Horacio Zabala: Mapping the Monochrome presents a cross-section of Zabala’s work, both historical and contemporary. It illustrates his continuous exploration of innovative ways to engage viewers with art objects that are immediately accessible because they are familiar to us, but altered to reflect deeper socio-political undercurrents or references to art historical traditions on an international scale.

  • Paperback
  • 205 pages
  • Phoenix Art Museum, 2016