Tonico Lemos Auad
Tiago Carneiro da Cunha
Juan Manuel Echavarria
What struck me most about visiting Mario Testino's collection was that as well as reflecting his in-depth support of now recognized emerging artists, an extensive part of it included artists I had never seen or heard of before. It all seemed fresh with a particular kind of verve that makes up Mario's individual taste and is an almost physical manifestation of his own personality. His attitude toward collecting has an ecstatic immediacy to it. The collection illustrates a bent towards the sexual and sensual, yet never neglects a commitment to content. From my personal experience in selling work to Mario, there is a certain quality of fearlessness in his approach. What also became evident while visiting the collection was that much of the work that I was unfamiliar with was by Latin American artists. It seems that Mario always seizes the opportunity while traveling extensively for his own work to seek out and visit artists' studios and their galleries. Although the collection is truly international there is an underlying support and appreciation for artists with Latin American roots. It was an immediate education for me in a field I thought I already was quite familiar with. I was inspired to ask Testino to curate an exhibition so that I could learn more.
In putting the exhibition together Testino recognized a common thread in the artists he chose to include. Their work often involves the transformation of materials in the process of making images (Jarbas Lopes's recycled plastic political posters, Tomas Espina's burnt gunpowder drawings). The relationship between transformation of materials and transformation of identity is paramount. Testino describes this shared esthetic below:
"Ironically, it is a concern with re-shaping existing materials into a new vision which transcends the political and social instability of their childhoods (and mine) that unites these artists from neighboring countries and cultures. The ancient art of Latin America was intensely original and casts a long shadow. This work shows that a new generation has had the courage and imagination to move into the light, making modern art which is informed by the idea of fracture and fragmentation but which is united by a reaction to their places of origin."
Mario Testino is a photographer. Born in Peru, he moved to Europe in the late seventies where he pursued a career which has led him to a distinguished position in the world of fashion and portraiture. Having established his view of the world in his photographs, he became increasingly fascinated by the vision of contemporary artists.