Answers To An Interview: I was born in Cordoba, Argentina. I studied architecture at the National University of Cordoba...
– I was born in Cordoba, Argentina.
– I studied architecture at the National University of Cordoba–the third oldest in the Americas–and simultaneously at the Provincial School of Fine Arts, which was founded over 200 years ago.
– When I was 18 I unwittingly discovered this FAITH called Art, which to date is my only religion.
Berta, my friend and fellow rock ‘n’ roller, had enrolled at the Art School. That night we weren’t playing with my music group. With a portfolio of sketches under my arm and no respect for protocol, I went to the school and the Director accepted me a s a regular student.
Within two weeks Berta left school and I had become addicted to art and unfiltered black cigarettes…
What I didn’t know was that a skinny, long-haired girl, unknown to me then, who I turned to look at as she strolled down the streets of downtown Cordoba with a girl friend, would become my girlfriend, the mother of my children, and my life companion of the past 50 years. She was also a student at the Art School.
I doubt if I would have got to where I am now on my own: Stella “Kitty” has stood by me through good times and bad in our lives. When we share our aesthetic appreciations almost without saying a word, or when we argue about something.
– I was part of a movement of Argentinian students inspired by Spilimbergo, Alonso, Cuevas, Segui and other talented artists.
DRY AQUARIUM - Chapter 1: How old could Debora be? Thirteen? Fourteen? She had an ancient name, uncommon at the time...
How old could Debora be? Thirteen? Fourteen? She had an ancient name, uncommon at the time. In the fifties the norm was to be called Elvira, Esther, Silvia, Martha. Could it be that this anachronism is just part of our imagination due to a silly, superficial way of looking at history?
The neighborhood was just a couple of miles from downtown San Francisco and was easy to get to on the electric tram. The tram, originally a shade of oriental pale yellow, with that tac-tac-tac one could hear from below and the faint shick-shick-shick of the slider on the roof, still played its tired tune. A kind of unavoidable urban melody that helped you count off the stops before reaching the corner of the square. The screech of the steel wheels on the tracks could be heard as it arrived, along with all the other noises of the old, rundown electric tram. It was line seven that reached the neighborhood.
San Francisco was already the sort of …capital (?) of the American avant garde. Not just because of the hippies with their marijuana and the advances made in gender equality, but also because of the young, enterprising immigrants looking for a new life.
So near and yet so far from the city center: the neighborhood was another world. Homes whose doors were open all day to any neighbor wanting to drop in for a chat. It never even remotely occurred to them that someone could come in and steal something. That’s how conservative they were in the neighborhood. That old-world morality of giving your word as a guarantee, of looking your fellow man in the eye and trusting him, of helping friends out without a thought and of showing respect for laws, freedoms and one’s word.
The young, out of impatience or laziness, never use complete words. Bike, skool, info, auto, WhatsApp, see u are the same everywhere, so she was “Didi” and her friend Tatiana was “Tati”.
Debora used to cross the road to the neighbors’ to keep up with Hollywood gossip. Mr. Romanoff always bought the TV Guide for his wife Coty at a magazine stand downtown, so Didi and Tati would keep abreast of every last detail of the celebrities they admired from time to time in the cinema stalls.
With the boys it was a different story. Off to the primary school early in the morning, a hasty lunch on returning home, then running off to the empty lot to play ball in the sun until sundown.
And the school homework? Who cares about homework… as long as you pass the grade.
The girls had been to the lot too at some time, and they had won. For a teenage male it was humiliating to be beaten by a team of girls! The ball game was for men!
They also thought smoking cigarettes was a way of gaining the respect and admiration of the neighborhood girls. If only the girls knew that the first cigarette the boys had smoked in hiding had made them throw up… Damned cigarette corporations, they got you smoking by appealing to your brain, eyes and ears: “and if you want to be a real man like Virginio Slims… liberate yourself. Filter-tipped to look after your health! Only if you want to keep up with the times, naturally”. How many of them had been unable to celebrate Christmas?… That cough that leaves you breathless!
During those icy winters, Debora walked to school all bundled up, wearing a scarf so you could only see her eyes, those deep, transparent green eyes. Walking slowly, she watched the tram full of people going downtown to work. She looked at them enviously.
“When I grow up I’ll take the tram too” she thought, as she kicked the frozen water at the edge of the path, breaking it up with her feet. What was she at the time, ten, twelve years old? The age of rebellion?
The news about Martita was all over the headlines. The police rapidly arrived on the scene after being tipped off by a desperate neighbor, and found her lifeless near the path in the tree-filled park where people went walking or running in the early morning. The horror felt by the mothers gave rise to an almost pathological fear.
Indeed, housewives were part of the life of the neighborhood too. Getting the family organized, cooking, keeping the house impeccable, sewing on the Singer, replacing fallen buttons, washing, ironing their children’s starch white dustcovers. The fathers out and about on the streets, searching for the family’s daily sustenance.
Debora’s and Tati’s homes had live-in maids. They had their own little room with a bathroom, away from the main house. After so many years of helping out with the housework, they had become the children’s adoptive mothers.
That was the case with Olga. Didi was fond of her and respected her. But if she became too demanding… a pinch or two and that was that. When she left her absence was keenly felt. Then when she came to visit she was married… married and happy.
Tatiana was born in the neighborhood. She was the daughter of Russian immigrants. Romanoff, her father, had fled from the Soviet Union – like so many dissidents—to the land of liberty. A professional photographer, he made his money more from finding than from looking: from being in the right place at the right time. The lottery that some immigrants get to win, while the majority wait to hit the jackpot, keeping their hopes up from six in the morning to eight at night, Monday to Saturday.
Romanoff opened an office on the 13th floor. San Francisco was on the up and up at the end of the Second World War. The elevator was a prodigious invention, but it also led to the city’s vertical overcrowding. In the luxury buildings on its main avenue, space was measured in square inches. In the neighborhood, houses were measured in acres. In those tall, anonymous concrete prisms, a neighbor was just the sound of a key opening a door, then the door banging shut. In the neighborhood though, the doors were always open to a friendly neighbor. It was in that office on the 13th floor that Romanoff earned his family’s daily bread.
They knew he was an important man, although he was known to everyone in the neighborhood… “He has two cars! Even though one is second-hand… But he doesn’t have to take the tram to work”. To think Dadi dreamed of going home on the tram, irresponsibly alone. The news about Martita had struck deep in the hearts of the mothers in the neighborhood.
The secondary school was downtown. If Romanoff was not going home for lunch, the two girls would walk the twenty blocks along the street with a steep downward slope, with the natural energy that a pleasant morning brings. After a shower and breakfast, they’d exchange all the latest gossip as they walked down the street, and by one o’clock at the latest they’d be crossing the main entrance to the schoolyard. In winter they’d leave the secondary school at six, when the sun had already sunk below the horizon, and go up to the 13th floor.
While Romanoff finished tidying up his papers, they’d stand on the balcony and look down. In the evening shadows they could see the stream of red lights leaving and the yellow lights coming their way. The cars of the people coming home from work moved slower than pedestrians, and their lights made magic lines, winding like a school of fish. Like a sort of dry aquarium, without a leader. All heading in the same direction, disappearing mysteriously into the dark cavern of the night. That warm evening in the summer of ’64 was the day they had been waiting for. Sometimes everything turns out just right; it’s part of the unfathomable initial cosmic design.
As they reached the door of the building, the group of kids they were walking with from school scattered and Santiago, a friend from the neighborhood, got into the elevator with them. For him, a boy of very humble origins, what for the girls was the winter routine from Monday to Friday, returning from school in Mr. Romanoff’s car would be a novelty.
Ever since they had been driven out of their country of origin, that night was when they celebrated the original independence anniversary of their country, then a Soviet enclave, and all the dissidents, with Romanoff at the head, would show the free world the ignominy of a history that had been falsified in the name of a proletarian dictatorship that had never become a reality.
Mr. Romanoff, breathing a sigh of relief that Santiago was there, took a handful of coins out of the old glass jar where he kept them in his office, and with a little trepidation asked: “Would the three of you mind taking the tram home?”
Santiago gave him the offended look of someone who doesn’t understand what they’re being asked to do, since for years he and the other kids from the neighborhood had run behind the tram, jumping on as it started moving, and jumping off before the guard had a chance to tell them off. When you’re twelve years old danger is not a concern, so Santiago was probably thinking: “…first time I’ll be buying a ticket to ride the tram”.
In shy Debora’s hermetic world, the exact opposite was true. She did want to take the tram home –if the boys could, why shouldn’t she? The parents had all talked about Martita’s case around the family tables in the neighborhood, trying not to let their children see how grieved they were over it. In those days parents strove to keep their children happily cocooned in their innocent world. They’d have time enough to suffer when they became adults.
When they got on, the girls sat in an empty seat without a thought for the old people or the pregnant woman waiting in line behind them. Santiago pushed them against the window and managed to half sit on the edge of the seat. After all, it was the first time he was paying for a ticket to ride “sitting”.
Didi sat next to the window, of course. She was going to ride home “alone” from school, with Tati in the middle, Santiago and Didi’s heavy, book-filled satchels on her lap. Accustomed to riding in her father’s new car, she wasn’t exactly thrilled to be riding home on a tram full of people smelling of a long day’s work, tightly squashed and with half a ton of weight on her knees.
The trip home left a strange impression on Debora. The same houses with their flower-filled gardens and fine old architecture, now seen in movement, went by in a monotonous, nondescript blur. As they reached the neighborhood very few seats were still taken, and over the tram’s creaking noises she could hear the boy sitting in front of them say a couple of phrases that stuck with her.
Andrés, the boy whose parents were Armenian, was the neighborhood loner. Shy, studious, not one to go out and play ball with the others during nap time, he was telling don Miguel, his next-door neighbor, that he had been summoned, along with his father, to the Child Protection Services office.
They got off at the Plaza stop, and by now her interest in riding alone on the tram had disappeared. Didi was determined, and after riding hemmed in on the old tram, her girlish desire had become history. She was a teenager, and now she yearned to travel … by plane! In a window seat, of course.
I wonder if the rivers of red lights moving away and yellow ones approaching can be seen from a plane too, she asked herself. Are planes really how they look on television? With really comfortable seats that lean back and flight attendants who bring you great food? After the flight do all your friends start treating you like someone important? Or is there a chance you end up sitting next to somebody famous like those in the TV Guide?
Didi wasn’t interested in boyfriends; as she told Tati: “I don’t want to be enslaved by a guy who in the end is only interested in playing ball and going out with his friends, and before you know it he has a girl in every neighborhood”.
Without knowing it, Debora was a young feminist of sorts in avant garde San Francisco, when the term feminist, coined just a few years before, was still not a matter of pride for most women in the city. She had lots of male and female friends with whom she shared the latest fads, music, ideas, parties and places where young people got together for a drink.
Despite her easy-going nature, she would not tolerate anything she considered unjust, false or spiteful. No matter who it came from, she would stand up for her principles, screaming if need be. Nevertheless, she was scornful of the trivialities of her schoolmates and friends. They didn’t interest her. The mystery in her green eyes prevented you from guessing her thoughts. She looked at your eyes as if you were transparent, invisible.
Martita’s case remained unsolved. A suspect was taken into custody. A humble man, a mason. During the trial a “qualified” witness was disqualified by the public defense attorney. He was an engineer who had been working for twenty years in a government building. The defense attorney had asked him how many steps the stairs into the building that he had entered five days a week for twenty years had. The witness said there were 12 steps. The attorney had counted 16. It seemed the man who was trying to describe in great detail how the mason had kidnapped Martita –which presumably had happened very quickly—now couldn’t remember something he had been seeing every day for twenty years. For once, blaming a “scapegoat” had not worked. The lowly mason was freed, and the justice of that verdict was confirmed over time.
The years went by, and the neighborhood teenagers, now scattered, with some at university and others working at some job, only got together once in a while. Andrés, the son of the Armenian, was living with relatives somewhere in Latin America, and word had it that strangely enough he was a member of some guerilla group fighting a military dictatorship His parents still lived in the neighborhood however, and Mr. Romanoff still celebrated his country’s historical independence with his countrymen.
At the end of one of those celebrations, this is what Mr. Romanoff was told in confidence by the Armenian:
–Vladimir, that day Andrés was indeed walking Martita home along the path in the woods… Nobody knew they were good friends; you know how shy Andrés was and how he kept to himself… She told him she didn’t feel well, so they went their separate ways…
Andrés came home and Martita continued on her way… That’s why the Child Protection Services office summoned us, and Andrés told them that he had been walking with her that day… what he had been too scared to say was that after they had each gone their own way, he had regretted leaving her on her own, so he ran back to keep her company… He didn’t see her walking home: he looked for her in every direction, and there she was, lying in the gully that leads to the river… I asked him why he hadn’t come to me to tell me what had really happened… and he said it was all his fault for leaving her on her own, when he knew she’d fainted once in the square once. How was I going to tell the police that my son hadn’t told them the whole truth? He was my son, he is my son, and I wasn’t going to let my only son, who I love, be treated like a criminal by the law…
Vladimir answered like a father would too.
– Listen Aznavour, I think I would have reacted the same way… What else do we have in life other than our children?
Debora, now a university student, was flying in a window seat.
She had a boyfriend she loved, and she realized the food on the plane was not good, the seats weren’t that comfortable, nobody famous was there, and no one thought she was important just because she was a frequent flyer.
Instead, she had discovered something that was a lot more important.
Gazing at the clouds, she had seen Martita, a bunch of Martitas, floating in the sky.
How old was Didi now? Old enough for love?
Answers To An Interview: As an artist, I had a happy childhood in Argentina, despite the years of military dictatorships that condemned all new forms of art as being subversive.
– As an artist, I had a happy childhood in Argentina, despite the years of military dictatorships that condemned all new forms of art as being subversive. We worked on the new art with an idea of freedom. Those were our weapons of war in the hostile environment in which we lived. We used to go to the virtually clandestine Sombras Film Club to watch movies that had been absurdly prohibited by official censorship, such as Bergman’s Persona. Quick theater sketches lasting five minutes such as Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children were performed on the street, and musicians, painters and other artists who did not accept the establishment…
All either went into exile or put up with the military’s condemnation of their families, friends and even people with whom they had casual relationships.
– Once I was locked up in the yards of Cordoba’s Central Police Station with other friends, accused of nothing! Unless having long hair was now viewed as a crime by the dictators.
We were saved by a crowd that congregated outside the Old City Hall, which was the police headquarters at the time.
I didn’t feel afraid. I felt a sort of incredulous fear for the policemen who followed the irrationally brutal orders of their superiors for a pittance.
– I did my artworks using images that symbolized the reality we were experiencing. They were a kind of shared code that I used to convey my feelings to those who were on our side. I had heard Picasso’s definition: “art is a lie..with which to tell the truth”. The symbols were a private code and represented the truth.
– I never lost sight of the teachings of great artists: Rauschenberg, Jasper Jones, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Jose Luis Cuevas, and my good friend Marcelo Bonevardi. I didn’t learn drawing and painting from them, but they taught me ethics and morals of an honest, uncompromising art.
Answers To An Interview: While living in a loft in the Village at Bonevardi's invitation, enjoying the views of the Pei towers opposite of the river and drinking mate on the balcony, I decided to take a walk uptown. WHAT A DAY!
While living in a loft in the Village at Bonevardi’s invitation, enjoying the views of the Pei towers opposite of the river and drinking mate on the balcony, I decided to take a walk uptown. WHAT A DAY!
At the NYU campus a man was imitating John Lennon with a crowd of young students around him. I made a comment to a young Puerto Rican in Spanish: He imitates him really well! My friend answered: Hey Argentinian, THAT IS John Lennon!
I was looking at rock and roll personified, freedom personified, I was viewing a different God to that of the monotheistic religions of the masses. He finished singing a song, stood up, got into his rainbow-colored car and left. It was a great way to start the day. On my return, Bonaverdi told me John sometimes invited students to listen to his latest song.
I continued walking, excited to visit the Metropolitan Museum for the first time. I picked up a guidebook as I went into the museum. Even with all my knowledge of architecture, the museum map was too complicated to figure out with my extremely limited English. After wandering in and out of highly varied exhibition rooms for a couple of hours, I turned a corner in a corridor and…there it was! Inside a meter-high glass cube, La petite danseuse by Degas.
I had fallen in love with her looking at her photograph on the sleeve of a long=play record when I was about nine. I think my eyes misted over, and THAT day, in a matter of ten seconds, I decided this was where I wanted to live. After all, I was American too, since I was born on an immense island stretching from Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina to the Bering Strait in northern Canada. The island is known as America, or the American Continent.
I was burdened with the sadness of not returning to Argentina for many years. Fortunately the nightmare has ended and one can hope for a bright future for all and for my artist friends in this new globalized world, where the social media will help us dodge institutional “know-it-alls.” Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
Constructions – Objects – Tridimensional
Used: Wood, concrete, bricks, glass, metal, oxides, mixed media
Answers To An Interview: Poets who I envy but admire deeply, taught me that dictionary words available to us all gives them the privilege of inventing worlds. James Joyce, Antonio Marchado, Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca, Walt Whitman, Bertold Brecht, Borges.
– Poets who I envy but admire deeply, taught me that dictionary words available to us all gives them the privilege of inventing worlds. James Joyce, Antonio Marchado, Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca, Walt Whitman, Bertold Brecht, Borges.
I think every work of art, in all art fields, should contain the concept of POETRY.
Guernica, a poetry of war using three words: black, white and gray. Neruda’s Brown and Agile Child is a symphonic poem to the beauty of one’s beloved and the cosmic nature of which she forms part. Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, which to my visual artist’s ears is a historical musical poem about humanity…
– I learnt the thousand-year-old process of making handmade paper form different fibers as a support for my images when I lived in California. It was amazing. When the paper dried…There were images there! They just needed to be highlighted with a few strokes and a touch of color, and the magic came to light.
I tried to explain that to the great master Jose Luis Cuevas. We were standing in front of one of my freshly strained paper panels. I was thrilled with my discovery and with the opportunity of telling Cuevas about it. He remained silent and then all he said was: Yes, absolutely! I think what he was saying was: you’ve got the treasure in your hands, so make use of it!
Drawing Studio/Sketches for White Dreams
Answers To An Interview: The White Dreams series consists of gauze stretchers with handmade cotton and water paper.
-The White Dreams series consists of gauze stretchers with handmade cotton and water paper. Four panels measuring a total of 120 x 93 inches.
-The first in the series, The Space of Ideas, was inspired by a short story dating from the same period.
-I made Again and again thinking of the spiral of history and events that repeat themselves cyclically.
-Voyage to the Philosophers is an imaginary visit to the leading thinkers of the West. Ranging from Socrates the man of iron, who was broken but never bowed down, to Sartre, who stated that the only possible absolute freedom was the imaginary. That was why I was able to “talk” with them all. From Nietzsche, he of the serene madness, lover of his sister and of his mentor and protector’s wife Richard Wagner, to Gottlob Frege, who preceded the invention of the computer with his Classes and Classes of Classes.
-Two of the paintings in this series now belong to the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, California.
-The Triangular series, which preceded White Dreams, comprises twenty 58 x 45 inch paintings painted on cotton gauze and paper. The colors are oxides on different kinds of medium.
-The triangle was the symbol of something that cannot lose its shape, is schematic and permanent. It’s about heaven, hell, and us; the mediators of good and evil, health and sickness, joys and sorrows, loves and hates, good and bad memories.
-I started using paper in my paintings in the series Reports, prior to the Triangular series. It was like recycling drawings made on pieces of used paper on thick canvas stretchers. For the color and drawing I used materials that would leave a mark on the canvas.
-I made use of the latest printed news as a secret archive with which to show them visually. Something like the “good, the bad and the ugly” of daily life.
-In 1977, and after receiving a good number of awards, I decided to stop taking part in competitive exhibitions and continue working on my art outside the art market instead.
I told myself “do tomorrow what you can’t do today”, and today is tomorrow. So it’s time to enter the art market.
And to challenge Octavio Paz’s words “..the art market kills the finest creative instincts of an artist.”
That market was unable to kill the creative instincts of Picasso, of Matisse, of Cezanne…
“THE SEVENTH” will be a series of 40 paintings inspired by the seventh symphony of Bethoveen … which is for my ears, the greatest music ever composed … I feel it is the history of human beings since we started walk erect with all the events and situations that are repeated cyclically.
“Walking Upright” (46″ x 32″)
“The Water Transportation” (46″ x 32″)
“History Repeats Itself” (46″ x 32″)
“The Before and After Them” (46″ x 32″)
“The Pagan Prophets” (46″ x 32″)
“The Last Brunch” (46″ x 32″)
“Romances Spaces” (46″ x 32″)
“Generational Self Portrait” (46″ x 32″)
“Madame Butterfly” (46″ x 32″)
“Anytime Anywhere” (32″x 46″)
“Breakfast at Ti Fanny” (32″x 46″)
“Notebook of Truths” (32″ X 46″)
“Concept” (48″ X 32″)
“Conversation” (48″ X 32″)
“Heaven Is Above” (48″ X 32″)
“Jaspier, The Alchemist” (48″ X 32″)
“Mis Amores Divinas” (48″ X 32″)
“Promised Heaven” (48″ X 32″)
“Shadows” (32″ X 48″)
“The Collector” (32″ X 48″)
“Unexpected Intent” (32″ X 48″)
About The Artist
Alberti at work in the studio
If you ask me what I do in art, I have two answers.
For friends painters, poets, musicians, actors and generally for those who share the faith called art, I will speak briefly about the technical aspects. In the end, the difference between the arts is exclusively the language used.
For those who are not related to the arts and have the same question with good intentions, my answer is … ‘I write paints and paint philosophy’. That’s exactly what I do.
Probably what I write has no literary value. I’m not a writer like those whom I admire and envy. I write a mixture of distant memories with this total Sarterean freedom of imagination. Those dreams, with open eyes.
Then it happens that writing, sketches, and the work I am doing are modified throughout the process of painting.
I think it’s a good idea to give a notebook with a written story to those who wish to exhibit one of my works.. This would be something like “Instructions for Watching”. As these things we buy in boxes that we have not the remotest idea how to assemble them.
My wife Stella made the video with the best intentions. Of course these images save us a lot of words. We try not to talk too much and instead, let the paintings speak.