Alexander Gray Associates, Germantown presented Teresa Burga: Dibujos (1974–2019). The exhibition featured nearly five decades of works on paper by Burga (1935–2021), paying tribute to the late artist who died in Lima, Peru roughly a year ago from Covid-19. Foregrounding the figure, Dibujos traces the development of Burga’s experimental approach to color and form while centering the eccentric geometry and flattened subjects of the artist’s late drawings.
Burga’s 1974 Theater works feature faithful copies of women drawn from advertisements and other print media. The artist inscribed the dates and time spent on each composition in its margins, drawing parallels between artistic production and other forms of labor. These data-driven marginalia anticipate later conceptual projects by the artist like Perfil de la mujer Peruana (1980–81), which worked methodically with information systems to provide a comprehensive representation of Peruvian women.
Also reflecting Burga’s systems-driven approach to art-making, Insomnia Drawing (44) (2001) is formulated according to a pre-determined set of rules. This and other works from the Insomnia series were created while the artist struggled with sleeplessness during her thirty years as a software developer in Peru’s General Customs Office. Every Insomnia composition features looping shapes colored with black, blue, and red ink. Their undulating forms serve as a psychological self-portrait of the artist, an automatic drawing that maps her restless subconscious. Strengthening the connection between non-representation and portraiture, Burga inscribed Insomnia Drawing (44) on the back of a governmental form with spaces for personal information like height and weight—literally embedding abstraction in the body.
Late works by the artist play with perspective and form to push the boundaries of abstraction and representation even further. Series like Niñas Peruanas Cusqueñas, Dibujos viendo mal, and Puestos de Mercado are deliberately rendered in a faux naive style. Their simplified figures—alternately elongated and truncated—reveal the artist’s belief that artistic deskilling is a decolonizing gesture. Quietly subversive in their presentation, Burga’s enigmatic images ultimately forward information about their construction over any context. Like her Theater works from decades earlier, Burga inscribed the dates and time spent on each drawing, meticulously tracking her hours as if clocking in and out of a job.
Burga’s varied works on paper, from faithful facsimiles to automatic drawings to deliberately deskilled compositions, reflect her belief that complacency was the death knell of artistic innovation. As she explained, “I wanted to escape the artist’s taste and that subjective self-abstraction, because the worst thing an artist can do is to be self-complacent and please the public. I’ve always believed that.”
Teresa Burga’s work has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, including an upcoming 2022 exhibition at the Weserburg Museum für moderne Kunst, Bremen, Germany, as well as Aleatory Structures at Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland (2018), traveled to Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (2019); Teresa Burga: An Artist or a Computer?, at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), Ghent, Belgium (2018); Mano Mal Dibujada, Sculpture Center, New York, NY (2017); Estructuras de aire, MALBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2015); Die Chronologie der Teresa Burga. Berichte, Diagramme, Intervalle. 29.9.11, Württembergischen Kunstvereins Stuttgart, Germany (2011); Teresa Burga. Informes. Esquemas. Intervalos. 17.9.10., Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano (ICPNA), Lima, Peru (2010); and Cuatro Mensajes, Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano (ICPNA), Lima, Peru (1974). She has also participated in many group shows, including Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2017), which traveled to the Brooklyn Museum, NY (2018) and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil (2018); Memories of Underdevelopment: Art and the Decolonial Turn in Latin America, Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2018) and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA (2018); A Kingdom of Hours, Gasworks, London, UK (2016); the 56th Venice Biennale, All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor (2015); The New Contemporary, Art Institute of Chicago, IL (2015); The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern, London, UK (2015); and the 12th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2011). Burga’s work is featured in many private and public collections, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland; Pinault Collection, Venice, Italy; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Antwerp, Belgium; Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), Lima, Peru; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Collection Hochschild, Lima, Peru; Sammlung Verbund Collection, Vienna, Austria; and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection, Vienna, Austria; among others. The Estate of Teresa Burga is also represented by Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin.