Green Venice: The rebel act of an Argentine artist who went down in history
Nicolás García Uriburu decided, without being invited to the Venice Biennale, to appear in that city and paint the green channel. This avant-garde event marked it as an international benchmark. I knew the story in this note.
Nicolás García Uriburu was not invited to the Venice Biennale of 1968. However, everyone was going to know his work. “I’m going to paint nature,” he said as a way to seek a new perspective within his production. On June 19 of that year, together with his wife, Blanca, he arrived at six in the morning until the Venetian Grand Canal, where a gondolieri was waiting for him.
They got on, walked a few meters and then the art came: it began to dye the water green with a harmless fluorescent substance, the one used by NASA scientists to ground the ships with which they were conducting space research. Twenty minutes later, the speakers rang and several boats approached with carabinieri – security personnel of the Italian State – but García Uriburu kept painting the water. He was imprisoned for twelve hours in Milan, but the Venetians woke up in a different city, with the Grand Canal completely green. There, Nicolás García Uriburunació as an international artist.
“Nicolás García Uriburu is a fundamental reference of land art and, at the same time, a pioneer of ecological awareness, who formulated with the language of artistic action,” said the director of Fine Arts, Andrés Duprat. He added: “In this way, he proposed a double reading in a single gesture: by restoring his coloration he denounced the human activity that disrupts nature making it a useless artifice. On the other hand, the disruptive action, which was carried out clandestinely, without the protection of the institutions, called into question the system of the arts, according to the spirit of the time ”.
And it is that with this daring production, Nicolás García Uriburu did not submit to the trial of any jury or National Hall to express something he needed to say. It was his work that really marked the rules of art, and the press celebrated it: “Venetians, joy, bravery! It is an artist, it is a work of art! Venice is again an avant-garde city! ” They said from some radios of the time.
In a Europe convulsed by the French May – the university revolt by young students in pursuit of a more just and egalitarian social reform – García Uriburu joined this work with the principles of a type of conceptual art and performances that he had just to be born: one who emphasizes the idea rather than materiality, and the fusion between art and life. And Venice was not the only place where the artist took the initiative – with a great awareness of the ecology that marked his later work -, it was also the origin of many other interventions in nature that the artist developed in different waters of the world: Good Aires, Paris, Brussels, London. The artistic gesture was much bigger: to unite America and Europe through the coloring that water, as a support, took care of extending.
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