Tag Archives: sybil harrington director

La gran tentación o La gran ilusión [The Great Temptation or The Grand Illusion]
Oil, wood, burlap, canvas, paper, cardboard, glass, leather and metals including chicken wire, sheet metal, tin-plate, iron, smashed cans, and coins; wicker matt, buttons, plastic containers, aluminum foil, vegetal tow, feathers, sequins, lithographic images, staples and nails on plywood
96 7/16 x 95 1/16 in.
Malba - Fundación Constantini, Buenos Aires

Antonio Berni exhibit shares raw, universal struggle

Juanito va a la ciudad [Juanito Goes to the City] 1963 Wood, paint, industrial trash, cardboard, scrap metal, and fabric on wood. 129 x79 in.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

Juanito va a la ciudad [Juanito Goes to the City]
Wood, paint, industrial trash, cardboard, scrap metal, and fabric on wood.
129 x79 in.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

A boy stands in a dark and rustic town. There is nothing distinctive about this boy; he is an “everyman.” Old cloth, cardboard and metals surround him, materials muted by dirt and age. This is the setting of  “Juanito Goes to the City,” or “Juanito va a la ciudad,” an assemblage in the exhibition Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Berni started the Juanito and Ramona installations in 1958 as a way to express the culture of Buenos Aires through the eyes of two young fictional characters.

The 20th Century Argentinian artist utilized industrial materials and textiles in most of his pieces related to Juanito Laguna and Ramon Montiel.

His artwork became an easily accessible narrative, said the Sybil Harrington Director James Ballinger. Berni created lives for these two, Juanito a young boy living in an impoverished town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and Ramona a young working class woman lured into prostitution.

Berni chronicles the characters’ lives using materials that would come from their worlds, said Vanessa Davidson, Joe Lampe Curator of Latin American Art. For Juanito, Berni used metals from the shantytowns where he would have lived, along with woods and textiles. Ramona was detailed with costume jewelry and lace.

The characters are national icons throughout Argentina, said Michael Wellen, Assistant Curator of Latin American and Latino Art at Museum of Fine Arts Houston. They are rooted to Buenos Aires and realities there. However, Wellen said people from around the world have been able to connect to Juanito and Ramona’s problems.

In every piece, Juanito’s physical traits are different. His common name and differing looks are meant connect the viewer to this boy, Wellen said.

Berni’s wood blocks are unlike any other. They hang on the stark white walls, carved and layered with materials. Fabrics and metals are adhered to the wood, creating an entirely new art form.

Wood block is the means by which a print can be made; it is not usually considered the work of art. However, in Berni’s work, there is always a wooden base with collaged materials from the city, Wellen said.

Hanging next to the blocks of wood are the prints that go with them. Berni found a new way to create these wood block prints, which included making his own paper and at times hand painting the prints.

Berni’s artwork, consisting of paintings, assemblages and wood block prints, give social comment with an air of whimsy and humor, Ballinger said.

The exhibition is a tribute to Berni, to Ramona and Juanito. Walking through the exhibit, there is a sense of kinship with these two characters. One can find him or herself in these youths, regardless of social standing or background. Juanito and Ramona had hopes, dreams and fears – which can be felt in every piece.

The assemblages are dirty and worn, yet beautiful in their own right. Each piece adds another layer to a world unseen by many. While the lives of Ramona and Juanito are based almost 50 years ago, they still hold true and not just in Buenos Aires, but in communities around the world.

Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona will be at the Phoenix Art Museum until September 21, before moving on to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Phoenix Art Museum

Paper! Exhibit On Display At Phoenix Art Museum

Now on display in Steele Gallery, Phoenix Art Museum’s Paper! exhibition includes works on paper and about paper, featuring fashion, photography and pieces from four continents.

Rarely-exhibited work from the Museum’s collection is on display, along with special loans and commissions from area artists and collectors.

The exhibition attempts to broaden the understanding of paper both as a material and a subject for artists.

Manufactured paper dates back to China in 2 A.D. Now, it is mostly associated as being made from trees, but can be made from a variety of materials such as cactus, grass, bamboo, cotton or even jeans. A prevalent part of daily life, paper usage has increased by 400 percent in the past 40 years, according to ecology.com.

Phoenix Art MuseumWith paper as such a ubiquitous material, Phoenix Art Museum began to consider paper’s role in creating art.

Lead by Jim Ballinger, Phoenix Art Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director, the Museum’s curatorial and education departments sorted through thousands of works in the Museum’s collection, identifying close to 200 pieces that best captured the impact of paper in art.

“It was exciting to bring every curator to the table, to work together in this way,” says Ballinger. “It was also exciting to create a dialogue among different works of art in the collection with the assistance of our educators and installation team.”

The exhibition also provided an opportunity to open up a conversation about art with the local community. At a First Friday at the Museum, a community event that invites people of all ages to attend the Museum at no cost the first Friday of each month, visitors responded to a simple question: What do you think of when you hear the word “paper”? Responses filled hundreds of sticky notes with everything from money and trees to the NBC television show “The Office” and a drawing of toilet tissue.

“As we sorted through their responses, we noticed many of their ideas fell into several natural categories,” Blake says. “We used those categories as a basis for how we then organized the exhibition.”

The result is a complex collection from big names like Norman Rockwell, as well as relative unknowns. Works include delicate, hand-painted Asian scrolls; Pop Art paper dresses from the 1960s; a white, steel sculpture emulating crumpled paper by Phoenix metal sculptor Pete Deise; and papier-mâché sculptures by Tucson artist Michael Cajero.

On view until September 23, 2012, Phoenix Art Museum’s Paper! explores the impact on the world of art of something as seemingly simple as paper.

For more information about the Phoenix Art Museum, visit:

Phoenix Art Museum

1625 N. Central Avenue,
(602) 257-1222