AArgentinian artist Ad Minoliti’s work draws on the legacy of geometric abstraction – art made from shapes and forms, often with bright colors – as “a tool to challenge patriarchal structures “. Among their influences, Minoliti, which is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them, cites two rival artist groups in Argentina, Grupo Madí and Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (AACI). The work of both groups focuses on geometric abstraction, specifically a movement known as concrete art. First defined by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg in 1930, it encompasses the use of lines, colors, and planes, among other forms, to create art free from any basis in reality.
Both Grupo Madí and AACI were born out of a revolutionary period for Argentine art during the second half of the 1940s, in a context of political instability under the military dictatorship of General Juan Perón. Through their work, they made political statements, evoking themes of social justice and liberation.
Although inspired by the way these two groups used “art as a means to improve lives”, Minoliti was frustrated with the male dominance of art in general. So that they turned to queer and feminist theory to influence their work. “I apply theory to geometric abstraction in order to rethink, or try to break the binary, of human classification,” says Minoliti, who represented Argentina at the 2019 Venice Biennale. “Of course, abstraction and geometry shouldn’t have a gender, but I think art history is very male dominated. And it shows, it’s very strong… Modernity is rooted in a patriarchal repression of the feminine. On the other hand, Minoliti uses what they call “non-binary geometry”, which brings together “all these values that modernism has discarded: humor, tenderness, but without being cynical”.
Minoliti’s first solo exhibition in the UK, Biosfera Peluche/Biosphere Plush, debuted at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead and is now moving to Tate St Ives, Cornwall. In accordance with the stuffed toy From the title (meaning “teddy bear” in Spanish), Minoliti’s approach is playful. Bright murals adorn the walls, and around the room are genderless human figures that Minoliti calls “furs,” their heads inspired by animal toys.
The exhibit is a critical exploration of the early 1990s Biosphere 2 experiment, in which a group of eight men and women lived in isolation in the world’s largest closed ecological system: a three-acre complex of sealed geodesic domes and of pyramids in Arizona. desert. With its forests, deserts and farm, the facility was originally designed to show how humans could survive in an artificial environment in space. But it didn’t work: When oxygen levels dropped, participants struggled to breathe; the animals died; crops failed.
For Minoliti, the story of Biosphere 2 highlights the capitalist and colonialist connotations of space exploration – all eight participants were white. Biosfera Peluche/Biosphere Plush is therefore Minoliti’s own biosphere, which, they say, “transforms this experience into its opposite”: a “democratic, open and safe” universe. It also features the artist’s feminist school of painting, first exhibited at Kadist Gallery, San Francisco, in 2018, an active classroom that will be used to host painting workshops and discussions.
The exhibition, says Minoliti, was conceived during the pandemic, in response to the rise of eco-fascism – a combination of authoritarian and environmentalist politics, often linked to immigration – both on social media and in the physical world. “Eco-fascism is also driven by white supremacy,” they explain. “So I wanted to make a statement against this idea of an apocalyptic future. Why can’t we think of other kinds of endings?”
Ad Minoliti: Biosfera Peluche/Biosphere Plush is at Tate St Ives from 28 May to 30 October.
Three other works in the exhibition
“The works hanging on this tree are inspired by the character of Sarah Kay [a series of cutesy drawings by Australian illustrator Vivien Kubbos]. I read that the media used Kay as propaganda for conservative women, [encouraging them] resume guarding and do not go down the street. I wanted to redraw this gender role.
“The feminist school of painting [at the far end of the photo] is a great project in this idea of rethinking the white cube and the gallery and traditional painting into something interactive and open to all walks of life and all ages. The feminist school and the plush of the biosphere are determined to cooperate. »
“The palette of the murals – orange, green and purple – comes from the militant movements here [in Argentina]», explains Minoliti. “The green refers to the feminist movement for legal abortion. Purple is also a color that represents the Latin American feminist movement. Orange represents protests against the Church in politics and government.