Latinamerican Art

Nicola Costantino (born in 1964 in Rosario, Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Nicola Costantino is an exceptional artist and one of the most vibrant personalities of the Latin American art community. With the meticulousness of a surgeon and the loving care of a pathologist for his subject, she slaughters and dissects calves, pigs, and other animals; she moves around in the fauna of farm animals, merrily embalming, transplanting, hybridizing, and fusioning. Hermann Nitsch would go green with envy if he knew her oeuvre…

Nicola Costantino goes about her work with a childlike innocence and cruel elegance at the same time. Suspended from a rail that is fastened to the ceiling, an ordinary piglet circles high above our heads apparently cheerfully. Who knows, perhaps it is already on the way to the slaughterhouse? From small chicken heads of silicone, Costantino creates a nice little doily for the parochial household; she designs flesh-colored handbags with imprinted anuses; her «Mouth Trilogy» shows a human mouth from which a pig snout protrudes with a chicken’s neck and head in turn hanging out … it all leaves a very grotesque and bizarre impression.

Trilogía de bocas, 1997, painted bronze, 30 x 8 x 11,5 cm

But after all, don’t we live in a perverse world? Nicola Costantino offers her brutish—although not always entirely serious—artistic interpretations.

Between spooky und uncanny

The artifacts created by Nicola Costantino appear more artificial than other art. She masterfully presents mechanical dolls or figurines as monster-like artificial creatures in an uncanny play full of suspense that is situated between magic and menace. She involves as well herself in her works, thus creating a new art figure: In her almost psychopathological, obsessive display of her own doppelgänger—or perhaps even her own revenant?—Nicola revolves over and over again around Nicola.

Glamour with haut goût

Nicola Costantino`s work stands for the absolute ambiguity that ultimately permeates the lives of us all. In her subtle irony and sublime persiflage as important elements of her artistic expression, Nicola also does not stop short of herself: for instance, when she fixes her eyes like Bette Davis on us, cruelly and razor-sharp, she reveals her abysmally black humor. With pleasure and success, she goes ransacking the history of art on her hunt for ever new images, which she paraphrases in reenactments mostly with herself and her own countenance or body. Never, however, does she expose her objects to ridicule, particularly not her self-presentations that are driven nearly to the verge of madness. She always keeps the necessary distance in her precarious, dazzling play that oscillates between kitsch, cliché, and tastelessness, and the insatiable greed for glamour and beauty, driven by the inexhaustible urge to continuously create new objects of desire.

Evita as Nicola – Nicola as Evita

Nicola como Eva vestida por Dior, 2012, photography, 180 x 137 cm

It goes without saying that all of this involves a good deal of personal obsessions and a decided inclination toward «morbo» and decadence. To be sure, Costantino could not stop short of the figure of Eva Perón. The artist’s outstanding installation for the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, «Rapsodia inconclusa», a fabulous panopticon entirely in the sense of Costantino’s aesthetics, caused a serious political stir and moralizing discussions in her Argentinian home country.

Nicola Costantino’s presentations and aestheticizations are relentless and merciless, of unprecedented and matchless elegance, poised between at and over the edge—and from this they derive their substantive explosiveness and exceptional appeal. One gains the impression that Nicola Costantino’s original intention is contained to nearly 100 % in her artifacts—something that is very rare in the world of arts.

  1. Constantino is a fantastic artist who combines rage and empathy with wit; she is till much underappreciated on the international stage. Thank you for highlighting her work.

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