Cecilia Biagini studied painting with Guillermo Kuitca at Buenos Aires and attended the University for Sociology. Biagini received the Photography Critics Award from the Centro de Arte y Communicación in 1989 and was a recipient of the Kuitca Scholarship in 1994 and then again in 1997, when her work was short-listed for the Braque Award and the Guenther Award. In 1998, she moved to New York where she co-founded the exhibit space, the Hogar Collection, in Brooklyn.
In 1998 she moved to New York, where she cofounded the exhibition space, The Hogar Collection in Brooklyn. Additionally, her artwork has been exhibited at notable museums including MoMA PS 1, New York City, NY; The Cervantes Institute in Rome, Italy and in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Recoleta Cultural Center, Buenos Aires, Argentina; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the PROA Foundation, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Cecilia Biagini: When I worked with Guillermo Kuitca, it’s not that I studied how to paint with him. It was more of a meeting between artists. He still holds these encounters. You would bring your work, be exposed to others’ art, and discuss the work in progress. But, I’m mainly self-taught, if that exists. It’s not to say that I didn’t learn from anyone. I’m constantly learning. I was fifteen when I started to be involved with the arts. I knew I was an artist and that I was going to dedicate my life to art. It was a very special moment in Argentina then—the beginning of democracy. The schools, the academic scholars were very suffocated by the military system. It wasn’t the way to go for us, the youth. We were just starting. The process of learning we had available to us was meeting with other artists and learning the artisan aspect of the materials. There was a strong need to create a more desirable reality and that’s what moved me and my interests into the arts. I felt welcome by art. I do have a few years of university study in sociology, but I started working with art in a very different manner. Not in an academic way, but by doing it and learning through the process.
You said that art was a protection from the harsh reality and you were trying to create a more desirable reality. What was going on in Argentina that drove you to art?
CB: I wanted to create a more desirable reality. It came from the desire to create our own identity, not in direct response to what was happening. I was driven to the arts by a multiplicity of factors, circumstances, and possibilities. At the time, people in Argentina were disappearing or had been tortured. They were horrible years we don’t forget. It was then that I began to flourish as an artist. I was a part of the new generation with all the enthusiasm to create new languages.
There was a lot of performing arts and acting at the beginning of my career. Then, I had the chance meet and work with Guillermo Kuitca in a theater play he co-created with Carlos Ianni. I had the chance to visit him in his studio where he had books from Pina Bausch that had a great influence on me.
Beyond the materials that you are using for your inspiration, where else you draw inspiration from?
CB: Well, I try to be very open. I do not avoid contemplation. Through different mediums as well. So, I’m open to endless possibilities and I find poetry in different places. I remember, once, a few years ago, the title of a show came to me while I was on tour photographing a rock band. We were in Chile, and I had to travel to Buenos Aires because I had an exhibition with my paintings. I saw a bus that had all the names of its stops. As it passed, it took my attention completely. I don’t know how really translate it, but the name on it was Lo Espejo, and translates as “what is mirrored,” I guess. That was the name of the street where the bus was going. I don’t know, a town, maybe that has that name. So, I’m open for inspiration to come from any point, but I have to say music is very important for me and improvisation.
I play music. I’m not an academic, but I have been playing since I was six years old—piano, guitar, and lately violin. I love to improvise. And I have that attitude in my work as well where I think I like to create simple but concrete structures where then I can work freely. The structure allows me to play with chance basically. I don’t like to have complete control of my work. Although some of the pieces you might think they are very well organized. There is a lot of geometry in my paintings, but the way I made them, there is that factor of chance. I don’t have complete control. For example, I use random colors and then the dialog of putting one color next to the other would give me feedback on what to do next. So, sometimes inspiration maybe comes from a very simple idea or an element, and then I try to hear the work and continue. I do something, and then I’ll move backward. I see what the work has to tell me.
I love poetry. I think that is another language I get inspired by, I guess. But again, it can be the sound of a laugh. Multiple different things. I’m trying to be perceptive and then create a phenomenon, or give the viewer some emotion, something that they can somehow connect to or not.
I know that your work, because it’s structured, it reminds, at least us as architects, of the way an urban setting might have arisen because of the grid lines, but the need sometimes for it to be a little more organic. Did your move to Brooklyn kind of influence that in any way?
CB: Absolutely. 100% because in fact I started to do sculptures in New York. That was a response to the city. No doubt. There is a lot of stimulation for me in the volume and, yes, the architecture had a lot to do with it as well. The city has influenced my need to create. And, here you can find materials. Like I get people telling me, “I have all these leftover, cut up pieces of wood. Would you like them?”
It’s very interesting to hear that you came from an environment that was very chaotic and you took what you had and provided your own sense of structure to it. It seems to be weaving through your art as this language that you’re pulling from your childhood through your work even today.
CB: Yes. The playfulness that the work has overlaps with a structure. I work with accidents. I welcome what’s happening and I’ll respond to that. I don’t necessarily have a sketch, of what I’m going to do and then translate it after. Simple thoughts give me a direction.
It’s amazing to listen to you talk about not even just your process but just your every day, how you look at things and how you see things and this whole conversation has been eye opening to that. I do want to give you some time to talk about where people would be able to view your art further or where your studio may be located.
CB: Yes. My studio is in East New York. It’s in a neighborhood in Brooklyn. As artists, in order to have a bigger space, we have to go to the margins of the city. I rented a storefront. I’m very comfortable working in it. It is a nice decent space. Not that gigantic, but it’s good for me.
And that is the Hogar Collection? Correct?
CB: The Hogar Collection was a gallery that was a project with my partner. We decided, as artists, to open an art space in 2003. I was part of its formation at the beginning. My partner continued to work with the gallery until it closed in 2011. Selfishly, the gallery helped me a lot by opening doors.
That is a good way to start making those connections. I would like to encourage people to go down to your New York Brooklyn storefront and check out your work. If they’re in San Antonio, Texas, I want to encourage them to go to the Ruiz-Healy Art Gallery to get an idea of what we are talking about if they can’t visit our show.
CB: Thank you, yes. Typically, my storefront studio isn’t open to the public because it’s a storefront, but people are absolutely welcome.
So, they should contact you beforehand? Is there a good way they can contact you via email or even through the Ruiz-Healy gallery?
CB: Yes, yes, absolutely and my email and my phone number. In the studio, they can see a little more the life of the artist, the things in process or things that might never leave the studio. It’s good to go to artist studios.
Well, Cecelia, I might have to just take a trip up to New York and check it out myself. It sounds amazing. Thank you for calling me and taking the time to talk with me today.
Absolutely, thank you for calling me and talking with me.
For more about Cecilia Biagini, visit the Ruiz-Healy gallery website.