Marta Minujín Looks Ugliness Right in the Face

Marta Minujín, “Gran mancha” (Big Stain) (c. 1959) (© Marta Minujín Archive. Photo by Arturo Sánchez)

Anyone who has known a teenager will recognize in Marta Minujín’s early work a spark of that distinctive rebellious spirit. When she was around 16 years old, the Argentine artist began making paintings in the Informalist vein, applying layer upon layer of muddy acrylic tones onto rough surfaces constructed of carpenter’s glue, sand, hardboard, chalk, and other substances unbecoming of fine art. Debasing not just her medium but her approach — eschewing the easel, she worked on the floor — Minujín distilled the essence of postwar disillusion and her immediate political reality, holding up a mirror to an ugly world indeed.

Unlike so many adolescent dabblings, however, Minujín’s foray into Informalismo was not just a phase — though transient, it was foundational, paving the way for the Pop interventions, environments, and happenings she is best known for today. This is the central thesis of Born of Informalismo: Marta Minujín and the Nascent Body of Performance, a compact exhibition on view at New York’s Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA).

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