Viva Argentina!

Malbec, steaks and the tango—Argentina’s most famous exports seem none too shabby. Yet the Smithsonian salutes the greater diversity of the country known as the “Europe of South America.” Throughout 2010, programs and exhibitions on and off the Mall celebrate the bicentennial of the May Revolution, Argentina’s first step on its rocky path to independence.

This month the spotlight turns to contemporary Argentine art. In the underground
International Gallery (enter the copper dome next to the Castle), “Southern Identity” features works by 32 living artists. With themes like politics, landscape and identity, the bilingual exhibit shows artists both established and emerging—Gyula Kosice with 1948 blue neon installations, 1960s activist Marta Minujín with a jumble of deconstructed mattresses (pictured) and artist-of-the-moment Pablo Siquier with a large-scale, black-and-white installation. Plus: Eduardo Iglesias Brickles’s Soviet-style graphics and León Ferrari’s “crucifix” on a jet.

Through Nov. 21 the
Art Museum of the Americas bridges generations and locales. Now Florida-based Sergio Vega, born 1959 in Argentina, offers a stuffed parrot, roosting at a microphone in front of painted stripes that match the bird’s feathers. It’s an invitation “to speak in the museum,” says curator Alma Ruiz. Meanwhile Argentina resident Cristian Segura (born 1977) presents site-specific “flames” on the building’s façade and a video installation that documents skateboarders using the steps at Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art as a makeshift skate park. Also here through Nov. 14, find “ghostly,” melancholy drawings and paintings by Emilia Gutiérrez (1928-2003).

Hirshhorn surveys the career of Buenos Aires painter Guillermo Kuitca (born 1961) with works on paper created between 1980 and 2008. Kuitca’s artistic signature? Transforming spatial and mapping motifs—seating charts, theater sets, baggage-claim carousels, road maps—into abstract art forms. In the process he blurs the line between “public” and “private” spaces and injects vibrancy into the ordinary.

See our online Attractions listings for more information on the museums.