early Fernando Bryce colour watercolours
view of the exhibition at Fundacion Telefonica Lima
Tatiana Cuevas, curator of the exhibition together with Natalia Majluf
The Progress of Peru, part of Atlas Peru
intellectual visitors to the exhibition, Mr. Medina doing photos of the Museo Hawai vitrine
DRAWING MODERN HISTORY
MALI/Museo de Arte de Lima and Fundacion Telefonica, Lima, Peru
28 de octubre de 2011 al 5 de febrero de 2012
Over the past decade Fernando Bryce (Lima, 1965) has produced a vast corpus of works based on the exploration of libraries and archives to produce new forms of representation of historical memory. This exhibition, jointly presented by Fundación Telefónica, the Museo de Arte de Lima and the City of Lima, brings together for the first time the greater part of the artist’s most ambitious series drawn from private and public collections in America and Europe.
Bryce focuses on certain crucial historical episodes which he explores critically and systematically. His method, which he early defined as “mimetic analysis”, is based on the careful copy of pamphlets, official documents, press images, political propaganda and advertisements so as to articulate large series of ink drawings that focus on power relations and their mediatization in twentieth-century history. Through the basic play of re-presentation (in the most literal sense of showing again), by copying or by the simple mise en scène of documents and objects, Bryce uses appropriation, parody and irony as weapons to expose the prejudices underlying commonly accepted official discourses.
A significant group of Bryce’s early work is shown at Fundación Telefónica. In these drawings and paintings made between Berlin and Lima in the second half of the 1990s, the artist explores diverse approaches to the representation of the local context and its history through images drawn from mass media. There are small paintings devoted to historical figures, like Mao, whose image still circulated broadly in Peru during those years, but also the first freehand drawings in black ink, that announce the artist’s later graphic style. Chronologies (1997-1998), composed of some twenty paintings on paper, reveals Bryce’s interest in extensive series that construct their meaning through accumulation. The artist here alternates between different sources, from images inspired on photographs made by himself on the streets and beaches of Lima, to others copied from newspapers or directly from the television screen. Beginning withMuseo Hawai (1999), a case/vitrine turned into a cabinet of curiosities, showing original documents, books and all sorts of pamphlets, the artist finally concentrates his attention on printed media. Bryce thus gradually consolidates what he then termed “Hawai thought”, a critical form of collecting that plays on the ironic juxtaposition of images.
These early explorations lead to The Progress of Peru (1998), the first drawing series copied from a document, and to the discovery of the system on which his work would be based. But the early culmination of “mimetic analysis”, and the starting point for the programatic character of Bryce’s work is Atlas Peru(2000-2001), an ambitious series of close to five hundred drawings based on images in newspapers and magazines that tell a visual history of of twentieth century Peru.
One of Bryce’s most incisive works, Visión de la pintura occidental (2002), is shown at the Museo de Arte de Lima. This installation, inspired on a museum of pictorial reproductions housed at the University of San Marcos, makes an ironical commentary on the precarious nature of the art system in Peru, as well as on the ambivalent relation of the local scene with the great European pictorial tradition and the very category of art. In its manner of framing notions of originality and of the copy, the piece also proposes itself as a variant of “mimetic analysis” and as a commentary on the artist’s own work.
The ambitious series of drawings presented at the Museo de Arte de Lima reveal the way in which Bryce’s project gradually acquires a programmatic character and assumes an almost encyclopedic ambition. At the turn of the millennium, his work opens up, as in concentric circles, to encompass other regions and other chapters in twentieth-century history. He first tackles critical episodes of the revolutionary cycle and the Cold War in Latin America, focusing on the stereotypical and paternalist images produced by Panamericanism. Later, he begins to explore the Spanish Civil War, diverse moments of European colonialism and the Second World War. In these works, which reveal an ever broader plan, the juxtaposition of images of diverse origin form particularly incisive narrative groups. Series like L’Humanité (2009) or El mundo en llamas (2010-2011) bring together the headlines referring to the crude events of the moment with the commercial iconography of classic North American and German cinema which, in their allusions to power and violence, establish a fictionalized counterpart to the atrocities of the period.
Bryce centers on the printed matter of ideology: war and revolution, colonial exploits, foreign policy, imperial domination and art programs, as officially portrayed in their own graphic language. As they are carefully drawn and copied, the sources are subjected to Bryce’s analysis and objectified into a bizarre uniformity through his graphic style and calligraphy. It is in this process that mimetic analysis produces the effect of parody, establishing the critical purpose of the artist’s project.
“...I feel as close to history painting and the chroniclers, as I do to certain contemporary artistic practices”, Bryce has stated in a recent interview. His project may be indistinguishable from the practice of the critical historian, except his focus is placed on the visible traces of history, made concrete through visual means. Through this strategy, Bryce recovers the figuration of ideology. His project engages the images of history in the modern world, fixed selectively to forge a genealogy of the present.
Tatiana Cuevas and Natalia Majluf