Luis Camnitzer is a German-born Uruguayan artist who currently lives in New York. A conceptual artist, working mainly in printmaking, sculpture and installation, Camnitzer’s work explores subjects such as social injustice, repression and institutional critique. His work is often witty, if not biting, and generally has political undertones punctuated by the use of language.
With beginnings in the Conceptual tradition of the 1960s and 70s, much of Camnitzer’s earlier works are text-based. Though he has lived in New York for many years, Camnitzer’s work also deals largely with ideas tied to his native homeland. His Uruguayan Torture Series from the early 80s demonstrate his interest in social and political issues regarding an individual in society. Camnitzer juxtaposes images with text containing connotations of violence. Subtle, Camnitzer leaves the viewer to decide his or her role as a spectator to the “disappeared” in Latin America. Leftovers, 1970, consists of several boxes stacked against a gallery wall. Each individually bandaged and stained with red paint, the word “leftovers” is stenciled on the sides. The piece evokes the idea of dismembered body parts and the work as a whole represents the political turbulence and violence that was happening in Uruguay and other Latin American countries during that time.
Some have written about Camnitzer’s work as a kind of poetry whereby Camnitzer has explored the way words function visually rather than verbally. Though Camnitzer denies this interpretation, there is an undoubted rhythm to his work that feels like prose with or without the inclusion of text. His 2001-02 installation of real books cemented into place feels completely lyrical in nature. The books are fortified in place, protected for all time. This piece embodies the part pessimistic, part romantic aspect that runs through much of Camnitzer’s work.