Casa Bonet in Buenos Aires showcases itself

Casa Bonet in Buenos Aires showcases itself

In the house Antonio Bonet designed for himself, built in 1939 in the centre of Buenos Aires, Ediciones Bisman (one of the publishing touchstones in the Ibero-American world for architecture and art) bought an apartment on the first floor and one of the shops on the ground floor of the building and transformed them into the Galeria y Residencia de Arquitectura de Bisman Ediciones, respectively an artist/curator residence and an exhibition hall.

Here, until 28 February, the exhibition Usted Está Aquí is on display, dedicated to the house itself: curated by Gonzalo Fuzs, Pablo Engelman, Roberto Busnelli and Hernan Bisman, it reconstructs the biography of the building as one of the events of South American modernism, framing it within the wider (and little known) history of the Grupo Austral, which the architect Bonet (1913-1989), Catalan by birth, was part of together with other pioneers of Latin American modernism, such as Jorge Ferrari Hardoy, Itala Fulvia Villa, Juan Kurchan. The exhibition recalls the elitist world of intellectuals and artists that, starting with the obligatory Voyage to Paris and Barcelona in the 1920s and 1930s, then spread throughout the world, often forced to flee fascism, to ‘sow’ the word of Le Corbusier in different places.

The curators’ research is thoughtful and original in considering how this very house, like other masterpieces of Buenos Aires modernism little known in Europe, represents a ‘critique from within’ of the categories and the word of Le Corbusier. The form this critique takes is that of a project that chooses to apply Le Corbusier’s principles to the rigid grid of the quadras of Buenos Aires and in a condition of wholly urban density. Or that welcomes the unequivocal signs of pictorial and literary surrealism that become ‘disruptive’ architectural objects, like the grand piano-shaped slab that bursts into the double-height space of the apartments on the first floor. Or which, in the face of the piloti base prescribed by the Swiss master, chooses the path of serene acceptance of the shops on the ground floor, with a highly refined and light-hearted, rounded, welcoming shop window. Basically, a modernity that welcomes the unexpected, which opts for irony in the face of rigour, for uncertainty in the face of dogma.

They are a set of ‘clarifications’ that remind us of a period when a piece of architecture could be as eloquent as a treatise or a critical essay; it was an opportunity to write a ‘text’ that immersed itself in the debate, a gesture of critical attention that often emerged precisely from the realities at the margins of the driving forces of ideas and to which, perhaps for that very reason, orthodox modernism paid little attention and filed away as physiological exceptions.

The exhibition is full of drawings, photographs, letters and other artifacts that put the Bonet house back in the rightful place it deserves in the history of the modern. This is another chapter in a historiographical reconstruction that seems to have no end, a season that surprises us for how many philological discoveries and repêchage it can still guarantee, and how this continuous excavation renders the modern still interesting, topical and compelling.

Usted está aquí.
Casa de estudios para artistas:
Un manifiesto iberoamericano
Organised by Bisman Ediciones
with the collaboration of COAC, Muma, Fundación IDA and Victoria Bonet.

Galeria y Residencia de Arquitectura de Bisman Ediciones,
Suipacha 895 y Atelier E, Buenos Aires
15 December 2022 – 28 February 2023

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