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Leandro Erlich
León Ferrari
Jorge Caterbetti
Jorge Gumier Maier
Julio Le Parc
Leonel Luna
Jorge Macchi
Jorge Orta
Jorge & Lucy Orta
Pablo Reinoso
Diana Schufer
Mónica Van Asperen
Mario Verandi

Artists: Leonel Luna

Leonel Luna is passionate about history and its representation. As a trained painter, he has chosen to question the fundamental limitations inherent to the depiction of reality through the appropriation and reworking of iconic paintings. But his works are made with means which are not commonly associated with the genre of painting: photography and digital media.  

Furthermore, Luna's amazing quotations of historical works are carefully elaborated through theatrical staging: in his constructed images, the sitters are replaced by photographs of the artist himself in multiple guises. His palette is as virtual as the resulting image: using montage and critical collages of contemporary events he reconstructs the fictions of the past, in order to uncover the illusion behind all representation and tell us more about the cyclic nature of history.

The source of the work in this exhibition is an epic painting by Uruguayan painter Juan Manuel Blanes, originally titled Ocupación militar de Rio Negro 1879,better known asLa conquista del desierto. It was painted in 1898, during the electoral campaign that resulted in General Justo Argentino Roca second mandate. The general, presented in the original work as one of the horsemen at the centre of the image, is surrounded by his officials, engineers and specialists who accompanied him in his campaign. The aim of the campaign was to occupy indigenous territories by the extermination of the aboriginal inhabitants. General Roca wasan army general who served as President of Argentina twice: from 1880 to 1886 and again from 1898 to 1904.He occupies an iconic place in Argentina's history as the mastermind of the largest massacre of Patagonia's native population.

In his own Conquista del desierto, Luna depicts a contemporary struggle by photographing himself as different horsemen representing the many protagonists of Argentina's XXI century crisis: homeless, demonstrators and piqueteros: the victims of the most recent economic collapse. In addition, he includes real images which he shot during public demonstrations - such as the rows of police officers and the walking protesters holding placards seen on the left hand side of the painting. The result is a precise, formal recreation of Blanes' painting, where the supposedly epic conquest is substituted by current conquests and defeats.

But the viewer's disbelief is enhanced by another revelation: Blanes' painting is also a construction: the composition was never staged, but arranged employing an array of photographic portraits of the sitters to create a final tableau of epic dimensions.

By mimicking make-believe Luna not only manipulates the mechanisms of art: he also unveils the heroic contained in the marginal side of our reality.


La conquista del desierto / The Conquest of the Desert
2002 Digital print on vinyl 260 x 150 cm

The Embassy of the Argentine Republic +44 (0)207 318 1300/1304 2006