Adriana Bustos (b. Bahía Blanca, Province of Buenos Aires, 1965) is a multidisciplinary artist who uses installation, video, photography and drawing as a means to develop a narrative discourse predicated on reflections around social, political and religious oppression in a non-linear interpretation of history.
Bustos’ approach to her work is based on her investigations on historical and current situations that lead her to create her own archives of found images. These are selected for their potency to condense meanings related to the issues she is interested in examining under a critical view. These themes have included colonialism and its effects, the patriarchal gaze over womanhood, trafficking of drugs and people, rationalism versus magical thought, censorship and repression.
Bustos works with these images loaded with meaning through juxtaposition and montage in order to take them apart and foster re-thinking about the workings of history and their impact on our present lives, thus reconfiguring knowledge production systems. Laborious, meticulous drawing is at the core of her practice, as she believes in the possibility of shifting the images’ energetic load when reworked and filtered by the artist’s eye and hand.
She works in series where a number of interconneted pieces address a certain subject and employ a specific formal approach. Some examples of currently available works are:
These bookcase-like pieces (actually each a series of very shallow wooden shelves) display the hand-rendered covers of books that have been banned, deliberately hidden from circulation or burnt during different times and places. She obtains these listings of publications from her research in libraries worldwide. These covers are carefully drawn and painted by hand. One of the shelves in each “bookcase “ displays documentary black and white photographs of actual instances of book-burning. Censorship is far from an issue of the past. The Intellectual Freedom department of ALA (American Library Association) is currently receiving hundreds of reports each year about attempts to ban books from public libraries, many of them related to sexuality or LGTB themes.
Each of these works unfolds around a specific theme. As an example, the piece entitled Cosas Medicinales is a reflection on a certain aspect of the Americas’ colonial history, based on a book by a Spanish botanist who traveled to the Americas in the XVI century, describing the native medicinal plants he took back to Europe; Territorio Venus focuses on women who attempted to influence social developments from standpoints that were alternative to patriarchal paradigms.
These works are organized as charts and diagrams with circular areas around a central celestial map of constellations. The drawings inside the circles are networks of references that are not always obvious or directly related, but they all together knit a new narrative about the chosen subject matter. The celestial map displays a configuration of the stars as they appered on the first night of the Christian era. The names of the stars and constellations are replaced by words referencing the subject matter of the piece including theoretical and personal reflections associated with it.
Interconnected images and ideas around the economic, political and cultural forces behind historical developments such as te construction of Miami and of Cuba as tourist destinations during the late XIX and early XX centuries.
Bustos has exhibited her work extensively in over 70 shows, among them Unsettled Landscapes, Site Santa Fe, USA (2014); The As-If Principle, Magazin4 Kunstverein, Bregenz, Austria (2015); the XII Istambul Biennial curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hofman (2011). She has presented solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla and León (MUSAC), Spain in 2017 and at the Klemm Foundation, Buenos Aires in 2018, among other venues. In 2019 her work had extensive presence in the Sharjah Biennial 14, Leaving the Echo Chamber, curated by Zoe Butt. She is currently participating in Cosmopolis #2 at Centre Pompidou in Paris, where she was invited to make a large/scale painting/drawing directly on a wall, based on her works from Planisferio Cleste series. In 2020 she will participate in Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh.
Her works are in the collections of Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA), Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires (MAMBA); ARCO IFEMA Foundation, National Museum Reina Sofía, Madrid; Madrid; Museum of Contemporary Art of Medellín, Colombia; Museum of Contemporary Art of Lisbon, Portugal; Asiacity Foundation, Singapour; Casa di Rizparmo Fundation, Modena, Italy; Sharjah Art Foundation, Emirates, among other private and public collections.