Wednesday, May 4, 2005
The Hirshhorn Museum has recently acquired Miguel Angel Rios’s “A Morir (‘til Death),” 2003. Born in Argentina in 1943, Rios lives and works in New York City and Mexico City. He studied at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires and has taught at the National University of Tucuman and the National University of Buenos Aires. In 1998, Rios received the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. The work is currently on view in the Hirshhorn’s lower level galleries and will remain on view through the fall.
“A Morir (’til Death),” 2003 is composed of three channel black and white video projections formatted on DVD with a sound element. The film runs for approximately 4:54 minutes and begins with a few black wooden tops dropping onto a grid, which are followed by 30 other “players.” This action initiates the game. While the tops whiz, collide, overpower one another and ultimately drop to their sides, ambient and street sounds intensify the drama of their movement. One streaks by like a speed demon in traffic, while another cuts a wake through the group. Still another boisterously knocks into the remaining players and they roll onto their sides. The whirring sound is mesmerizing, sometimes comic and sometimes menacing.
The game unfolds from various perspectives across three screens, but those who launch the tops remain off-camera and anonymous. From one perspective, the work implies an abstract study of bodies in motion across a grid. From another vantage point, the tops seem to act out metaphors of competition, aggression and territorialism.
Rios culled the best players of all ages in Tepoztlan, Mexico for this video work based on the popular playground game called “El Juego de trompo.” The artist relates, “My idea was to use this game as a metaphor for our times. In this film, I express the terrible moments in which we are living, where we can feel like life is worth nothing. This is also about competition, power, violence and chaos. The viewer can identify with the powerful or the weak one. ‘A Morir’ is about war.”
Until recently, Rios was known for large-scale two-dimensional collaged paintings, which often focused on map imagery. These works, which have been exhibited world wide, examined themes of identity, colonialism and territoriality. “A Morir (’til Death)” represents a departure from the artist’s signature medium and a new dimension for issues that have remained central in his work.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the nation’s museum of international modern and contemporary art offers exhibitions and free public programs that explore the art of our time. The museum, located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25) and is admission is free.
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