Inspired by the lyrical, political and metaphorical themes in the writing of Roberto Bolaño as well as by his imaginative virtuosity, this exhibition conceptually aligns the Chilean writer’s characters and motifs with the works of eight contemporary Latin American artists. Drawing parallels between these artists and Bolaño’s persona as a nomadic writer, “Salvajes” intends to be Latin American in its essence, and universal in its language.
The title of the exhibition, “Salvajes” (savages), refers to one of Bolaño’s most important novels, Los Detectives Salvajes, and to the stereotypical image of Latin Americans as the uncivilized. We are savages as a result of the long history of violence, deprivation, and exploitation that the continent has experienced since its origins, more perceptible through the recent dictatorships, and colonial, cultural and economic policies suffered right and left, north and south. “Salvajes” refers also to the perception of the role of the artist in society, regardless of their origin. The artist’s struggle against the imperative to create and the ever-gnawing and sometimes maddening demand to make art are some of Bolaño’s larger subjects.
As in much of Bolaño’s oeuvre, the works in this exhibition deal with a notion of emptiness and chaos, and indirectly reference the darkness of Latin-American youth and the wittiness that comes from their rebellious cultural history. Just as Bolaño found ways to make the political integral to his novels without ever making them into political novels, these artists, without being explicit, reference historical facts and characters and draw from personal memory to devise theories and practices which reference a general political stance, even if often these are nuances in the work’s overall concept. While many of the artists allude to their personal histories of permanent migration and cultural
itinerancy, all either speak about or find inspiration in their place of “origin”.
“How do you recognize a work of art? How can it be kept apart, even if only for a moment, from its critics, commentators, its indefatigable plagiarists, its defacers and its final destiny in solitude?” Bolaño asks in an essay from the 2004 book Entre Paréntesis. He goes on to answer: “Simple - just translate it.” The artists in “Salvajes” bring to a New York audience a seamless translation of their Latin American origins into a universal, contemporary and experimental visual language.
-- Guillermo Creus, 2011.