Horacio Zabala (1943 - )

21-12-1994: Pena de muerte (1994)
21-12-1994: Death Sentence

Wax, oil and pastel on paper
height: 24cm
width: 30cm

Donated by Horacio Zabala 1995


Zabala’s Pena de muerte appears to resemble the pages of a newspaper. The text in this newspaper is indecipherable; the only word that is discernible is the beginning of the word Página which likely refers to the title of Argentina’s Left-Wing newspaper Página 12 (Page 12). Many of Zabala’s works use the readymade as a way of looking and questioning the uses of everyday objects. This work subverts the form of a newspaper as a legible object able to convey information to its readers. This newspaper does not perform its primary function and thus serves to question the extent to which newspapers can really impart truths. The work is from a series called Duplicaciones (Duplications) Zabala started in 1984 where he created these indecipherable copies of newspapers playing on the reproducibility of news media. Of these he states, ‘[t]he paradox is that the true “unique originals” are the “copies.”’ (1) ESCALA holds two examples of these newspaper duplications. Alluding to news media is interesting when considering the prevalent censorship during the dictatorship. Pagina 12, first published in 1987 in democratic Argentina, has a reputation for its leftist writing and journalism and features the type of journalism that would have been difficult to publish during the dictatorship. One of its journalists Horacio Verbitzsky published the Captain Scilingo confessions about the death flights during the dictatorship and recently the newspaper has been accused of being overly sympathetic to the Kirchnerist governments of Néstor Kirchner (In office 2003-2007) and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2007-2015). Zabala left Argentina for Rome in 1976 only to return after the return to democracy. (2) Zabala prior to 1976 had been a member of Grupo de los trece (Group of Thirteen) and was part of the Arte de sistemas (Art of Systems) exhibition held in CAyC - Centro de Arte y Comunicación (the Centre for Art and Communication). Grupo de los trece hold an important place in the development of Conceptual art in Argentina in the period before the last military dictatorship.

1. ‘La paradoja de que los verdaderos “originales únicos” sean las “copias”’, Lauria, Adriana y Enrique Llambías, Horacio Zabala. Anteproyectos, Centro Virtual de Arte Argentino, (Accessed 01/03/16).

2. According to Silvia Dolinko the artist was exiled in Rome, Doniko, “Biografía de los artistas,” Entre el silencio y la violencia, arteBA Fundación, 2004, 225. This is not something the artist refers to in his own biography available on his own website.

Text written for the exhibition "Argentina 1976-2016: Activism, Memorialisation and Complicity", 7-10 March 2016, ESCALA Teaching and Research Space

Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning

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