The Unmaker of Objects: Edgardo Antonio Vigo's Marginal Media
April 2–June 30, 2014
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, Mezzanine
This exhibition celebrates the mail art, visual poetry, performative works, and publications of the Argentine artist Edgardo Antonio Vigo (1928–1997). From his quiet hometown of La Plata, Vigo developed an extensive network of contacts in the Americas and Europe, making the city a hub of the international mail art movement—a loose network of artists who exchanged ideas, art, and poetry through the postal system. From his defiantly local position, Vigo developed an internationalism tempered by a sharp critique of the foreign policy of the United States, from its role in the Vietnam War to its support of authoritarian Latin American governments.
Interested in mass media and alternative channels of communication, Vigo nevertheless maintained an intimate human touch, producing handmade works that he bluntly called cosas, or “things,” to challenge the hierarchies of aesthetic tradition. Consistent with his embrace of mail art, which involves the participation of a recipient, he developed instructions, actions, and visual poems to be carried out or completed by others. He also published magazines that promoted an accessible, democratized art in place of the unique and valuable art object.
Vigo was active during the period when Argentina was ruled by a military junta, which, in 1976, “disappeared” his son Palomo. Vigo and the artist Graciela Gutiérrez Marx together adopted the pseudonym G. E. Marx Vigo and campaigned for Palomo's return; they often stamped the envelopes they sent out through the mail-art network with the English phrase “Set Free Palomo.” Despite government censorship, Vigo's moving letters and graphic works reached artists the world over, testaments to his dedicated ethical commitment.