Over the course of the decade, a group of artists clustered around a dimly lit and noisy gallery outside the mainstream art circuit captured the attention of the Buenos Aires scene. The gallery formed part of the Centro Cultural Rojas, the cultural engine of the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Rojas opened its doors in 1984, just a few months after the end of the dictatorship that seized power in Argentina in 1976. It was—and is—located in the Once section of the city, a commercial district of storefronts, modest apartments, and—thanks to its train station—a great influx of people from the outskirts of the city. In those years, the cultural center became an institution key to artistic experimentation. Visual artists, actors, intellectuals, and writers circulated through Rojas’s different departments. The gallery, directed by Jorge Gumier Maier from 1989 to 1996, quickly became autonomous thanks to his direct ties to the art world. A major player because of his bold vision, Gumier Maier offered artists a chance to disregard the great themes privileged by mainstream art and to formalize the countercultural images astir in every corner of the city.
Gumier Maier had been a member of the Grupo de Acción Gay and a contributor to independent magazines. His curatorial discourse generated creative affinities between artists. He was able to take to the elevated terrain of exhibitions a misshapen sensibility that encompassed with the same rigor adornment, abstraction, surrealism, comic books, and life stories. Through shows, often-controversial interventions, and texts that eschewed stiff theory, a new artistic model was formed in the context of the Rojas gallery, one that blurred the rigid limits of the representable.
But not everything that happened happened at Rojas. Artists’ trajectories vary; sometimes they intersect and sometimes they lead down opposing paths. Some frequented discotheques and alternative venues like Cemento and Bolivia; others came from cities like Rosario, Mar del Plata, San Miguel de Tucumán, and Bahía Blanca where the return to democracy was also driving changes in art. A network began to take shape as artists appropriated the cultural landscape.