|Birth name||Luis Camnitzer|
Luis Camnitzer (born 1937) is a German-born Uruguayan artist and academic who resides in the United States. He is a conceptual artist who creates work in a variety of media—including installation, printmaking, drawing, and photography—that breaks down limitations and questions that define the center versus the periphery. Even though select works of Camnitzer deal with explicitly political content, he states that all his art is deeply political, "in the sense of wanting to change society." His approach to Conceptualism often utilizes language to underscore issues of power and commodification, exploring the relationship between images, objects, and texts.
Luis Camnitzer was born in Lübeck, Germany in 1937 and grew up in Montevideo, Uruguay. He moved to New York in 1964, where he and fellow artists Liliana Porter and José Guillermo Castillo founded the New York Graphic Workshop, a printmaking studio focused on the mathematical and repetitive nature of printmaking and dedicated to reviving the importance of printmaking as a contemporary art form. He received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1961 and 1982 and has made his mark internationally not only as an artist but as a critic, educator, and art theorist.
Formally allied with the American Conceptualists of the 1960s and 1970s, over the past fifty years Camnitzer has developed an essentially autonomous oeuvre. Through his art, Camnitzer often plays with the role of audience as silent witness and accomplice, within the arts as well as politics, often drawing on his youth in Montevideo under a repressive government that the international community allowed to persist.
Retrospectives of his work have been presented at Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx (1991), Kunsthalle Kiel in Germany (2003), Daros Museum in Switzerland (2010) and El Museo del Barrio (2011). His work has appeared in biennials and group shows, including Information (1970), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Biennial of Havana (1984, 1986, and 1991); Venice Biennale (1988); Whitney Biennial (2000); Documenta 11 (2002); Beyond Geometry (2005), Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The New York Graphics Workshop (2008), Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas; and El Museo Del Barrio (AMANAPLANACANALPANAMA (1995), Uruguayan Torture Series (1983), and The Disappeared (1997).
Connection to El Museo del Barrio
In many ways, Luis Camnitzer’s career reflects El Museo del Barrio’s own trajectory. Camnitzer arrived in New York just before the Museum’s founding, immediately joining the fomenting dialogue about representation and culture at that time, including pivotal roles in the city -based New York Graphic Workshop, Museo Latinoamericano, and Movimiento por la Independencia Cultural de América (MICLA). On one hand, The New York Graphic Workshop (founded by Camnitzer, José Guillermo Castillo, and Liliana Porter, 1964-1970) sought to redefine art objects in Conceptual terms through printmaking by creating disposable, serial objects whose ideas invoked accessibility and participation. On the other hand, artists in New York founded the Museo Latinoamericano and MICLA in 1971, to respond to the way they were being represented, share resources, and later, join forces internationally to object to dictatorships or repression in Latin America and the Caribbean.
For nearly five decades, Camnitzer has persevered as an influential creator, critic, writer, theorist, teacher, and curator—a true “artist’s artist.” His activism on many fronts mirrors the political, social, economic, and artistic challenges that have faced our broader communities over this time. His life has been lived in Spanish and English, crossing artistic and cultural boundaries and troubling any stereotypes of what a “Latin American” artist should be.
El Museo has featured Camnitzer’s work in many past exhibitions. Of particular note is his retrospective Luis Camnitzer (2011) organized by Daros Latinamerica, his solo exhibition, AMANAPLANACANALPANAMA in 1995, as well as the presentation of his Uruguayan Torture Series (1983) in The Disappeared (1997), an exhibition organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art. Camnitzer also co-curated an exhibition for El Museo with Lowery Stokes Sims, The Latino Papers: Posters, Prints and Works on Paper from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection (1994), presented at the Equitable Gallery, NY. In addition, El Museo holds in public trust several of his works in its own Permanent Collection.
Camnitzer is a frequent contributor to the magazine ArtNexus. He is the author of New Art of Cuba (1994, 2003) and Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (2007).
Academic Career and Residence
Camnitzer studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Universidad de Uruguay, and the Academy of Munich. Camnitzer is Professor Emeritus at State University of New York at Old Westbury, New York, where he started teaching in 1964. He currently lives in Great Neck, New York.