Exhibition from “El Vasco” Besoytaorube

In the Depths of the Sea (En el Fondo del mar)

The painter and cultural agitator from Mar del Plata presents an exhibition at Villa Gainza Paz while creating a unique “Fund” for art.

By Fabián Lebenglik

From Mar del Plata

The Marplatense artist Daniel Besoytaorube (1959) presents an individual exhibition in this city after seven years since his last exhibition of this kind (at the Sara García Uriburu gallery in Buenos Aires). El Vasco, as everyone knows him, is not only one of the notable artists of the nineties and one of the best painters from Mar del Plata but is also a promoter of local visual arts.

The exhibition is held at Villa Gainza Paz, one of the beautiful aristocratic mansions that survive in the city, located in the Los Troncos neighborhood, part of the Manantiales hotel complex. Precisely, the hotel towers rise monstrously between the mansion and the coast, completely closing off the sea view, in a clear architectural metaphor of the rise of the middle class against the aristocracy’s status quo. During the summer, the managers of the tourist complex organize three exhibitions featuring three local artists from three different generations: Daniel Joglar, Daniel Besoytaorube, and Pablo Menicucci.

El Vasco’s exhibition consists of an installation of paintings, artist books, and a soundtrack, in direct and profound relation to the sea, a theme that obsessively constitutes the object of representation and evocation in his work for over more than a decade. In the first of the three rooms, three visual poems by the Swiss concrete poet Eugene Gomringer (1925) and their numerical transcription — onto three small canvases — with the heights of the tides from the last days of January are exhibited on the wall. On the opposite wall, the artist hung a large canvas on which various tide tables are superimposed over the painted image of a sea/sky.

In the second room, the poem “Trilogy” by the same author is heard in a soundtrack that alternates this reading with the readings of the tide numbers that Besoytaorube transcribes as if pouring one language into another. In turn, the sound of the recitations, transcribed into a wave graph, is exhibited in two paintings.

In the third room, there are three tide books that, when opened, reveal acrylic boxes with seawater (sand and algae) taken from the tides of those same days in late January.

El Vasco’s first contact with concrete poetry was in 1988, in a visual poetry seminar in São Paulo, a city with which the artist had a long working relationship for six years. Simultaneously, he immersed himself in the arts there. He was able to attend the setups of a series of biennials, witness music festivals — where he heard live performances, for example, by John Cage — and film festivals; plus a whole array of activities and exhibitions — such as a large Duchamp exhibition — that together produced the effect of an intense period of training for a budding artist. In the mid-eighties, he left his economics studies and decided to dedicate himself to the visual arts. He connected with Brazilian artists, began producing art by mail, and developed a friendship, first through letters and then in person, with the great Argentine artist Edgardo Vigo, who visited Mar del Plata very often. El Vasco enrolled in the Mar del Plata School of Fine Arts but lasted only a month. In 1986, he participated in the thematic exhibition “La mirada inasible” at the Castagnino Museum in Mar del Plata. The following year, he took part in an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. In 1988, he moved to São Paulo with his wife (a classical dancer), but with no stable job, the experience lasted only six months. Upon his return, he received an honorable mention at the Marplatense National Salon. In 1991, he participated in the exhibition “Six Painters from Mar del Plata” at the Centro Recoleta in Buenos Aires and in the selection for the Nuevo Mundo Foundation Award at the National Museum of Fine Arts. That same year, he was selected to participate in the first Kuitca Scholarship organized by the Antorchas Foundation. In ’92, together with his fellow scholarship holders, he was part of the exhibition “Pictórica” at the Victoria Ocampo Cultural Center in Mar del Plata, and he also participated in the thematic exhibition on Argentine urban art in New York. The following year, also with the other scholarship holders, he exhibited at the Museum of the Americas in Washington, presenting “Argentine Painting of the ’90s.”

Furthermore, the peak of his friendship with Vigo occurred when, invited to the São Paulo Biennial in 1994, he entrusted El Vasco and the designer and photographer Mario Gemin — a longtime friend and collaborator of Vigo — with the assembly of his space. Shortly before his death, at the end of 1997, Vigo left them part of his work.

In 1996, within the framework of the First National Biennial of Young Art in Mar del Plata, Besoytaorube presented an exhibition at the Castagnino Museum, along with Tulio de Sagastizábal, Mauro Machado, and Sergio Bazán. Also in that year, he won the Grand Acquisition Prize of the Regional Art Biennial at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Bahía Blanca.

In the new exhibition he presents these days, Daniel Besoytaorube starts from the synesthetic notion of concrete poetry — which sought, through the visual and spatial, to overcome the structure of the verse — to delve into the sea through theory (tables and measurements) and matter (samples taken from the sea and displayed in the form of acrylic book-shaped boxes). Both in the poems of Eugene Gomringer (which name the wind, the seasons, the sea, the sun) and in the installation proposal, there is a pre-scientific substrate in the mathematization of the image and text carried out by the painter, in which arithmetic serves to organize syntax and geometry to organize space. The conceptual and poetic installation exhibits a contained lyricism and an asceticism close to Zen. Few words, few images, few textures, few sounds, few “samples” of the sea. Everything is dosed but does not seem insufficient. El Vasco demonstrates that eloquence sometimes requires simplicity and expressive and resourceful economy, through which rational processes give way to emotional ones. (At Manantiales, Villa Gain until the 18th of February)