"Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona" at Phoenix Art Museum Is a Lesson in Marginalized Narrative
Juanito Laguna and Ramona Montiel are fictional characters, but you can find them on Facebook. Created by Argentinian multimedia artist Antonio Berni in the 1960s to address some of the socioeconomic stresses plaguing his home country, Juantio and Ramona have since gained cult status as popular folk heros whose stories are still relevant in modern Argentina.
Katrina Montgomery Some of the monsters featured in "Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona"
The Phoenix Art Museum is currently playing host to the first Berni exhibition in the U.S. in nearly 50 years. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Malba - Fundación Constantini in Buenos Aires, "Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona" contains over 100 objects that bring to life the story of these two working-class personas.
The stories of Juanito, an impoverished dreamer, and Ramona, a seamstress turned courtesan, are touching, but it's the way that Berni brings these stories to life that is particularly stunning.
Katrina Montgomery Ramona Montiel's story is primarily told through prints, but there are a few assemblage pieces
Most of the Juanito pieces are assemblage, incorporating discarded objects and industrial scraps into stylistically-diverse paintings. Berni thought that the best way to truly convey Juanito's surroundings was to incorporate materials gathered from the real-life shantytowns of Buenos Aires. As a result, some parts of these large-scale works literally protrude from the walls.
The Ramona pieces, on the other hand, mostly consist of print work. For me, this is the most interesting part of the exhibition from an art-making standpoint because both the prints and the wood blocks used to create the prints are on display. Berni called his style of print-making xylo-collage-relief: Here too, he incorporated found objects into his art process.
A third section of the exhibition features three-dimensional works that come from two groupings in the artist's repertoire: Cosmic Monsters and Monsters From Hell Challenge Ramona Montiel. This section is a clever portrayal of the monstrosity of societal expectations. With names like Hypocrisy and Sordidness, Berni's commentary is pretty clear.