Maria Silvia Corcuera – Guardian of Treasures

Lic. María Carolina Baulo. January 2020.

Walking> history is not something everyone does. It is one thing to go through it, to create it at every step without looking back and unaware of it and a very different thing is to go back on those steps to study them, to rephrase questions, to try to understand the present. Maria Silvia Corcuera establishes a specular connection with that story that sustains her artistic work: as a restless woman and attentive to multiple stimuli, as a dreamy artist who reinvents scenarios captured from images that leave in her an impressive imprint, moving from the two-dimensional plane to the three-dimensional object and fundamentally guided by the inquiry about intercultural influences and conditioning established through these links.

Her work mutates with experience, material supports are eclectic but what remains stoic is the theme to be represented, which resists and is re-founded with each work. There is also a binary dynamic where the opposites dialogue: this is clearly reflected in the contrast between the solid and forceful appearance of the pieces but whose construction is based on a subtle and fragile raw material; I think for example of the countless ways in which Maria Silvia works with paper. Even the most aggressive, sharp and hurtful materials are part of structures that allude to the feminine universe - central interest in all her production - culturally associated with qualities and elements that account for the delicate: textiles, threads or papers according to these mandates in contraposition to the distance that iron, aluminum, nails, wood and discard materials impose in their manipulation, just to name a few. Culture builds patterns like this in the social imaginary which, happily, are already obsolete in the 21st century. It is there where Maria Silvia's work emphasizes, reinforcing those breaking points; let's think of her work "Peinetones, Will of Excess>" which tells us about the characteristic Rioplatenses peinetones of the 19th century, feminine accessory par excellence but which also highlights social status. Its presence divides the waters, it is exclusive, it invites "to belong " or not.

Maria Silvia Corcuera exercises a poor art -which is not the same as the art povera- arising many times from an unexpected combination of elements accumulated with a certain degree of compulsion, destined to be forgotten, jealously recovered and treasured by the artist as a "guardian of treasures", each of them waiting for the right opportunity to go on stage. Because of this dynamic, those leading roles mentioned in the peinetones, coexist with the scraps of history discarded by the constant characteristic acceleration of urbanity. That "poverty" of the useless, hazard which brings us to the objet trouvé>, in the hands of María Silvia is transformed into a rebirth where the materials receive a privileged treatment becoming real pieces of jewelry. The question about what is it that we declare valuable emerges at all times and the answer is as vague as subjective.

We talk about the "Peinetones>", and I would like to delve into the importance of the ornament as a popular symbol - which is also cultural as mentioned above-. A piece with arabic roots that prevails within the Río de la Plata's fashion elites and whose bond to politics is not innocent. This is how the artist uses the propaganda phrases often "encrypted" in these elegant objects and proposes a reflection, not without irony, referring to the most reactionary societies of the Argentine political scene of the time. The series of "The Cities>" is not far of this impulse and brings the figure of the peineton to a more synthetic and abstract state which also highlights a turning point in her art because interests and issues begin to interrelate until they merge into a type of work that could speak for both, the individuals as well as the whole. I reaffirm here the importance of repetition because, paraphrasing the great Argentine artist León Ferrari, repeating, insisting, crushing on the same subject although appealing to different forms, becomes an act of resistance.

The symbolic importance of objects is enhanced in "About Dowries, Randas and Jingle Bells>" when the decorative bells, sumptuous but above all noisy and festive, show their presence every second, in opposition to silence. Once again, the inherited culture via Spain brings us closer to this object and María Silvia uses it as an excuse to question the common uses attributed to the bell, reinterpreting its role in a local and contemporary code: "The utopia of the industrial era is over, that festive sound has become silent, darkness. That glitter and sound of the bell I confronted with a very dark, almost black violet. We mourn, don't we? Where are we going? In a world where everything is sound, that color neutralizes it. I added the word, poetry, written on canvas. Perhaps, the most intimate thing that repairs us in silence>", says the artist.

Those words to which we already alluded around the propaganda phrases, reappear in the form of poetic quotes, mystical texts of ancient cultures and medieval philosophy, where sarcasm lighters the violence inherent in certain concepts, all of them interwoven -literally- in works where practices of certain ethnic and gender groups are resumed, such as the randas woven by the Tucuman inhabitants of the town of Monteros. The thread carries in its essence the history of this practice brought to America, inherited more than 500 years ago and keeps its validity by sustaining the word, the message. María Silvia feels comfortable documenting and linking those distant moments, connecting history through the materials that build her sculptures and objects, all of them sensitive to practices that struggle to remain, where paper, fabrics, threads, paperboards, irons, the sumptuous accessories, the poor materials turned into jewels, all of them in their eclecticism and wonderful wealth, are associated to reinforce a speech as changing as time itself and as stable as the past already written forever.

The use of color also applies to that inquisitive look that questions everything and that is how the seemingly neutral monochrome and the use of full and pure colors, trap behind the study of the impact of the cross-cultural where, for example, red responds to Eastern universe, the blue to the spiritual and celestial, the ambiguity of the black and white with its thousands of grays and its ambivalent meaning - think only of the representation of the color of mourning according to the West - East -. Sacred and profane, light and shadow, brightness and opacity, all part of a universe with roots established in territories much more solid than physical materiality because they are sediments created within the minds, in the foundations of the human thinking. And from there they construct habits, customs, truth criteria.

It is not necessary to do a biographical tour here because María Silvia Corcuera's work and trajectory is vast and well-known. A work marked by curiosity as the main engine, research, the archival record of cultures that have impacted on Latin American popular knowledge, the phenomenon of syncretism and the feminine point of view always at the forefront of research. A work that appeals to promote the present of memory, the importance of identity and belonging. But the future always uncertain, carries in its insides some very clear ideas about where the artist moves. The key is hidden in her latest series "The Dowry>" where all her interests converge around the role of women. In this series, the jewel is the one that María Silvia determines to be so, turning into an aesthetic object with a superlative value, what she observes with a creative alert eye. Then, that dowry which responds to a kind of typical donation of the high social classes that accompany the maiden, break the rigid weft of the paradigm. Necklaces composed of golden corks, knitting needles, cardboard, nylon, aluminum, coffee capsules, clothes hangers, votive products, scissors, all of them building works with a cultural legacy crossed by the language of art . This creates a kind of dowry that is not inherited or presented as a legacy, which does not represent a family and its social status but, as María Silvia said, represent "the splendor of the ingenuity of everyday life>".

To remember history, to know the origins, to re-signify the roles, to recover that splendor from a resilient present, exercising always an active point of view; a silent watch for a tireless guardian who doesn't let fatigue to overcome her. She resists.