For more than 20 years, Guillermo Kuitca has been complicating our understanding of space. The Buenos Aires artist’s paintings and collages are based on maps, floor plans, and theater seating charts, all of which are disintegrating, collapsing, or reconfigured. For his current solo exhibition at Sperone Westwater in New York, Kuitca is, for the first time, taking his architectural ruminations into three dimensions. He has constructed a small freestanding room in the gallery, with walls that meet at slightly off-kilter angles. The exterior is simple and white, but interiors are painted with overlapping shadowy gray planes. This “Cubist/Futurist mash-up”—Kuitca’s term—is “a foreign language that I’ve inherited,” the artist says. “One that I speak fluently.” But as so often with Kuitca, he filters art history through his fascination with maps. “The layering became topographical,” he explains. “It’s almost like a terrain.”
The chamber may be new for the artist, but it can be traced to his longtime love of theater and dance. In 2008, he was commissioned to design a curtain for the Dallas Opera House, and he counts the choreographer Pina Bausch as one of his foremost influences. Still, he protests, “I have a two-dimensional mind.” The show also includes new collages, including one made with bits of colorful construction paper. If you squint, it looks like a landmass, or a network of roadways. There are also several enigmatic paintings in somber tones, as well as a single canvas depicting a female figure looking through a doorway of a vividly pink room. “I love pink,” he says. “It’s my favorite color. It’s so resistant.” More surprising is the presence of the woman. Years ago, Kuitca explains, the “people in my work were replaced by symbols of human presence, like seating or maps.” The reappearance of the figure even took the artist by surprise. “A funny thing happened on the way to abstraction,” he laughs. “A woman appeared.”
Titled “This Way,” the show is a sequence of doors, passages, entrances, and halls—light in volume but symbolically weighty, the painted room being the most loaded. “The idea is very simple,” Kuitca says. “I think as a viewer, when a painting attracts you, you inhabit it in a certain way. The room is a response to that wish to be inside the painting.”
“Guillermo Kuitca: This Way” is on view through June 21 at New York’s Sperone Westwater gallery, 257 Bowery. In July, a major Kuitca retrospective of 50 works from 1980 to 2013 will open at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.