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.

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Argentine Artifice

Tager, Alisa.

Magazine Art in América, 1995.

“(…) Miguel Harte (b. Buenos Aires, 1961) leaves the techniques of painting even further behind in his multimedium compositions. Harte revels in the artificial. He uses Formica that looks like marble or wood, and he melts resin so that it suggests pools of rippling water. His paintings are almost entirely abstract, although he often places a miniature face or eyeball somewhere within the composition. In one piece from 1991, he painted a bright blue eyeball on an eggshell which was broken and scattered across a fake granite plane, and in 1992 work he put a little painting of a science-fiction head in a bubble of clear resin, cast afloat in a sea of opalescent blue plastic.”

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Art of gouaches and gauchos

William Feaver.

Art of gouaches and gauchos. The Observer Review, 1994.

“(…) This is what argentine art has become to: Miguel Harte`s slabs of grey plastic, each with an enticing hole or two; and his interior-lit, wall-mounted wedge, melting apparently on top and down the sides, allowing exotic aquarium growths to beckon though the translucency. The cultural cringe is over. No longer is the the need to refer everything back Europe. So, no further sightings of the Eiffel Tower in gaucho country.”

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Youth blossoms in springtime

Edward Shaw.

Buenos Aires Herald.September 20 of 1992.

“(…) Miguel Harte proposes another problem: why bother to paint imitation formica? Harte produces the most reproachable of industrial discoveries: plastic surfaces which imitate natural ones. He adds his own clever touches, making us wonder what he`s up to do. He does this all too well, and he is one of the most promising artists of the ebullient moment in Buenos Aires”.

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Young artists overview

Edward Shaw.

Buenos Aires Herald.April 14 of 1991

“(...) Miguel Harte unconditionally covers a wall at the ICI with long white panels which subtlety, even subversively, demand more concentration and more thought than the most colourful, complex painting. His other pieces are based on egg-shells exploding from formica and tiny points of lights emerging from an unexpected point of a sheet of a decorative surface covering. The series of work makes a striking collection of startling yet harmonious objects witch Harte, utilizing minimal elements, has imbued with the spirit of art.”

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