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Liliana Porter. El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves (The man with the ax and other brief situations) - Venice 2017. Figurines, objects and wooden base. Pérez Art Museum Miami Collection. Image courtesy of the artist.

El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves
(Man with Axe and Other Brief Situations)

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)


Miami, Florida

The work entitled El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves (Man with Axe and Other Brief Situations) by Liliana Porter will be on display at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) from June 21 to September 29. Shown for the first time in 2014 and recreated again in 2017 for the Venice Biennale, the installation by the Argentinean artist was acquired by the PAMM to become part of its art collection with funds provided by Jorge M. Pérez.

Because of its dimensions and complexity, El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves is one of Liliana Porter's most ambitious works to date. The piece serves as a sort of retrospective because it contains many of the characters, groups, and situations that have repeatedly appeared in recent decades in the works by this artist. The installation borrows its name from a figurine of a man with an axe shown cutting an elongated pile of fragmented objects. The viewer's gaze follows this series of broken pieces as they drastically change in scale, from dust-size particles to chips of broken porcelain, damaged statuettes, larger objects that include plates and chairs, and, lastly, a full size broken piano.

Viewers will also notice several old clocks of various sizes. These symbols of linear time are shown in pieces, with their white faces separated from their circular metal cases as their guts disorderly spill out. The central practice of Liliana Porter is an inquiry into time. She is particularly interested in how the line between reality and imagination increasingly blurs with the passing of time, when the present moment is combined with memories from the past whose scales are often exaggerated, fragmented, or broken. She is interested in how time is etched, not only in memories but also in objects, images, and literature.

Historical figures and symbols appear throughout the work. The installation includes a toy replica of the car in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Nearby, an old hammer has been casually placed over a sickle; both tools and symbols associated with the industrial worker and farmer that represent the international image of communism and are depicted in the Soviet Union's flag. Somewhere else viewers can also observe a broken porcelain head of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. These and other representations from the past emerge randomly as their ideologies and historic positions coexist in the same space.

A small figure carrying a suitcase is displayed alone, isolated from the rest of the section. It has been placed between two lines that twist behind it forming a road that it has seemingly been following. This is "the traveler," another important player that has recurrently appeared in many of Liliana Porter's prints, paintings, photographs, films, and installations since the 1980s. A figurative message for the beginning of a story, the traveler is often a migrant, a refugee, or someone who has been displaced. In a world in which people are increasingly from one place but live somewhere else, and in a city like Miami populated my migrants and travelers, the philosophical reflections by Porter resonate with force as they are simultaneously persistent and confusing.



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