Gonzalo Elvira – IDILIO

Gonzalo Elvira – IDILIO

12.12.2019 — 08.02.2020

Telling another story

In a year that sees the centenary of the foundation of the famous Bauhaus, the school of art and architecture founded in 1919 in Weimar (Germany), names like Grete Stern, Marianne Brandt, Gertrud Arndt, Alma Buscher, Lilly Reich, Anni Albers, Friedl Dicker, Dorte Helm, Lotte Brendel, and many more, have been retrieved from the archives to take on a new lease of life. To tell another story.

While the Bauhaus was ahead of its time in applying a revolutionary and experimental form of teaching by considering women as equals, as is stated in one of its publicity leaflets Are you seeking true equality as a woman student?, documents and personal stories show that it wasn’t like that. Projects by Gonzalo Elvira (Patagonia, Argentina, 1971) point in that direction. In Bauhaus, 1919. Modelo para Armar (started in 2011) the artist draws designs from women in the Bauhaus, as a way of laying claim to those productions. The three-dimensional pieces that Elvira includes in that series allude directly to one of the arguments given by the teachers to those women who aspired to work in the school’s architecture or carpentry workshops and were directed to the ceramics or textile workshops, the lack of three-dimensionalism.

In the exhibition Idilio, the Bauhaus appears once again not through the school but through the experience of one of its members, Grete Stern. Unlike her colleagues she was able to be educated in what interested her from the start, photography. Together with Horacio Coppola, a student at the school, she emigrated to Argentina as a result of the triumph of Nazism in the elections in 1933. Stern worked as a graphic designer in advertising and publishing companies where she often used photomontage, a genre that had no important record in that country. However, where she really developed the technique in its most critical aspect was in the magazine Idilio, which was published by Abril, from 1948. Despite being a magazine aimed at girls and young women it introduced two new elements for women’s publications at the time: the photo-novel and the section “Psychoanalysis will help you”, both of which were of surprising artistic quality. The section consisted of a psychological consultancy for interpretation of dreams that readers sent in to be interpreted. Richard Rest, (pseudonym of Gino Germani, who introduced modern sociology in Argentina, and Enrique Butelman, founder of the publishing company Paidós) answered the letters and Stern illustrated the dreams through photomontages.

In the exhibition the pieces are laid out to trace a route, starting with the drawings that reproduce the covers of the magazine. These covers repeat in their composition: a heterosexual couple with a romantic attitude. The first sequence leads us to the stereotype of the female figure that was imposed at the time, building an identity of a woman who is friendly, servile and in thrall to the man. These contrast with the ones that we see later, Stern’s Sueños (Dreams). The central figure of these dreams is a female character in a situation of conflict. The women who is portrayed is usually from the middle class who suffers the rules of the patriarchate. Although Stern worked closely with Germani on how best to illustrate the dream, he was the one who wrote the captions and Butelman wrote the text that interpreted the dreams. The artist had freedom of composition and very often her photomontages said much more than the image illustrated, countering the men’s statements and texts, reduced to expressions with an arbitrary and innocuous metaphorical meaning.

Elvira takes some of the Sueños and redraws them in stone or plaster. This change of material contributes to reinterpreting these dream-tales as cornerstones, as if those recorded images had been the base or foundation that contributed to the rising awareness of women against the dominant male values. Los sueños de cansancio, Sueños de destrucción, Sobre el abismo, Los sueños de realizaciones futuras, Los sueños de inhibiciones (Dreams of Tiredness, Dreams of Destruction. Over the Abyss, Dreams of Future Realisations, Dreams of Inhibitions) express that, expressing the fears, the imposition of roles, the frustrations, the impediments that they suffered in that context. Treated as a clothed non-body, kept separate from History, from the transformations, cancelled out, kept on the edge of the scene, in the kitchen or the bed as Hélène Cixous was to say.

The itinerary ends in a room that could easily symbolise a consulting room. Filled with drawings of covers of paradigmatic works of psychoanalysis by Freud, Lacan, Melanie Klein, Erich Fromm, and others from the Argentinian context such as Oscar Massota and Enrique Pichon-Riviere, some of which are presented as being published by the fictional Cerilla, imagined by Elvira. In this place the phrase “psychoanalysis will help you” takes on an ironic significance, and in juxtaposition with the images of the rooms that precede it, it takes on greater critical meaning from the importance of this school in the transmission of patriarchal cultural values.

As in her previous projects the formal technique is repeated, the drawings appear, in some as the sum of points, and as lines in others. Elvira recognises in this system of relations that she likes to compose, that in relation with this exhibition the techniques that are used take on even greater symbolic relevance. The points could refer to the needles of the looms that the women used in the Bauhaus but also to her mother, who worked preparing material to be embroidered and the stripes, on the other hand, could be an allusion to the printing errors of the artist’s experience in a printing shop. In a sort of family constellation there also appears the father, the psychoanalyst, interpreted through the covers of the books in the consulting room.

Idilio is the result of a long investigation and forms part of an atlas that is the artist’s very own, wider in that different mementos and historical characters seem to be connected. A system of relations that tell stories that are not hegemonic, but those that are displaced expressly by the dominant discourses.

On this occasion, by means of a popular-culture magazine for women, Elvira raises questions that still come at us today.

Elvira’s artistic practice proposes different forms of discourse, an alternative road to the traditional historiography of considering and representing the past. Starting from her proposal with narrative maps, posters, drawings, paintings, cartography, objects, in point of fact many visual sources, it generates associative and visual thought; a way of telling another story.

Zaida Trallero


– El ‘Idilio’ de Gonzalo ElviraelPeriódico. Ramón de España. 31.12.2019
– Gonzalo Elvira, el artista que hace aflorar las historias ocultasElPaís. Roberta Bosco. 25.01.2020
– Psicoanàlisi i Bauhaus en una revista juvenil per a noiesara.cat. Antoni Ribas Tur. 14.01.2020


Adquiere obra de Gonzalo Elvira.

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