An outsider at the museum
Catalog of Miguel Harte at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires, MNBA, Buenos Aires, 2003.
The skin of the work, the layer that covers it, imposes a fragmented, discontinuous contemplation that disrupts the chance of an all round visual appreciation. Harte’s works are not designed on one plane, they have an inside and an outside, like a fruit, and it is through craters, crevices or fissures in that skin, that we can look into a disquieting inner world. Sometimes an inner light stresses the independence between the skin and what beats under it.
The choice of materials that make up the skin I mentioned is not casual. The laminated finish, metallic furniture paint, metallic lacquer, resins, etc… all of them refer to elements used daily and are removed from traditional “artistic” elements. They place the work on a temporal stage linked to industrial massive production, and they discuss, no doubt, the changes of social “taste” and its unpredictable variations. The preference for this new physicality does not seem to answer to criteria defined by some sort of aesthetic affinity, if not to other criteria that relate to the spectator’s appreciation of the work.
I found in his early “Martilux", true lakes reminiscent of an office, on which floated autobiographic small characters in capsules, a certain relation with the mechanisms Gustav Klimt used to create expressionist work framed by arte Deco decoration, but his development moved away from that initial coincidence.
With time his work has undergone many changes. The volume of his sculptures has taken over more space and the tri-dimensional character of his pieces has allowed him to widen the possibilities for the more complex formal structures to develop.
Obstinately self referential, he includes himself in his work in different ways. His realistic or metaphoric self-portrait appears again and again in his pieces, and seems to hint vaguely to the tensions that stem from the relation between the artist and the milieu.
Someone said somewhere, that a looking glass is an ever-fascinating window, even when it works out as parody. In some cases, the thin border that separates fiction from reality is particularly permeable. Certain changes in his private life, like starting a family and the birth of Gaspar, his son, go together with important changes in his work, which opened to a less hermetic vision, even if it still adheres to previous characteristics.
The ever present I gave way to his family group. The portraits of the three of them become small cars behind the glass of a box-garage. A tree of industrial finish and polished surface protects the family, this time transformed into animals that look fearfully at the menacing clots of material shed by the branches. The roads that cross an extended landscape, in the beginning conceived as a toy, end by becoming a sculpture and installation of large dimensions. These are some of the steps that account for Harte’s development.
Though Harte started showing in the 1980s, we cannot place him as representing the aesthetics fashionable then. Neither do I agree with those that see him as an example of an artist of the 1990s. Those who say this may be blinded by his devotion to craftsmanship and by the impeccable shine of his surfaces.
If we look more attentively we shall see him closer to the science fiction imagery by Emilio Renart, whose work Harte basically ignores. Flash Gordon would also be an acceptable forefather.
I think Miguel is an outsider. He does not draw his inspiration from well-known sources. His curiosity about various subjects draws him to learn odd things. We have seen him become acquainted with entomologists, from whom he learnt useful data on the drying insect techniques that he would use in his work. His short but passionate approach to chess also served his work. He draws from his personal experiences and from the profound relationship he has with those closest to him. Wrapped in his own thoughts, his solitary meditations become obsessive and strange works.