The Art Scene in Mendoza: a secret well kept... Part I

For many lifestyle enthusiasts in the northern hemisphere, the onset of winter means it’s time to escape to Mendoza for another season in the world’s fastest growing wine region. Malbec and beef put Mendoza on the map a while ago. But more and more what keeps many cultural tourists coming back is the flourishing art and design scene, fueled in large part by high end boutique labels and the money from the U.S. and Europe, but also increasingly China, Russia and Brazil, behind them.

Not only are Mendocino artists now encountering a quality of international collector and multicultural influence they would rarely have been exposed to a decade ago, they are also now finding that the predominantly modernist spaces springing up to house new wineries, restaurants and hotels offer prime wall space for artists who before were relegated to competing for attention from the limited number of galleries in town, or to simply showing in the town square.

Since artistic movement in Mendoza is getting pretty interesting, specially with some contemporary painters and sculptors being on the international spotlight, I decided to write a series of entries to portrait some of the artists we usually visit with our guests during our Art & Bike and Art & Wine private tours.

Our day started at 9:00 am. at Finca Adalgisa Lodge, were Karla and Dianne, from Boulder, Colorado, were staying. We fitted them with their bikes and helmets, and Pedro lead the way for a short ride to Gonzalo Anton´s home and atelier.

At Gonzalo Anton´s atelier with Dianne and Karla

GONZALO ANTON: Young Mendoza artist Gonzalo Antón has become at his early 30 years of age one of the highest priced painters in Argentina. A former graphic and web designer, and university professor, Gonzalo felt the call five years ago, closed his business, and secluded himself for a year to paint.

Then, on a bold move, he contacted the organizers of Art Basel. Founded by gallerists in 1970, Art Basel stages the world's premier art shows for modern and contemporary works, sited in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, each show is unique, which is reflected in its participating galleries, the artworks on display and the parallel content programming produced in collaboration with the local institutions. In addition to ambitious stands featuring leading galleries from around the globe, each show's singular exhibition sectors and artistic events spotlight the latest developments in the visual arts, offering visitors new ideas, new inspiration and new contacts in the artworld.
The organizers thought his work was interesting, so he got invited to the vernissage in Miami. The rest is a story of high production-meteoric ascent. Now, Gonzalo is a cult "have to have it" artist among private and institutional collectors around the globe.

He will swap from very abstract to modern to figurative style in a brush stroke, what makes experts and gallery owners crazy, because his style is hard to catalogue.

After a nice chat with Gonzalo, and some peeking at his latest creations, the trio mounted their bikes again, and followed by the support truck, biked all the way from Chacras de Coria district to a secluded among-the-vineyards estate in Maipu, were our next artist, Mema Rocha was waiting.

Mema´s Wine Paintings

MEMA ROCHA: Fun and hyper kinetic, Mema uses different wines and lees as watercolors. She also combines adobe (mud and straw) with oil paint in some of her creations. She is a children´s English teacher so her atelier, that she builded herself using ancient adobe and cane technique, serves also as a classroom.

Here they spend some time learning how to obtain different colors using several wines and after few exercises, they produced amazing pieces of art.
After this, hunger was calling our bikers, so after another short ride, they got to Terruño restaurant at Club Tapiz Lodge, were they enjoyed a wonderful meal and a well deserved rest, in preparation for the last visit of the day, the beautiful home and atelier of our friend Sergio Roggerone.

Sergio Roggerone´s intrincated broccato details

SERGIO ROGGERONE: Despite all you hear, nothing compares with the experience of trespassing the doors of his beautiful magnificent manor for the first time. With awe in her faces, Dianne and Karla just can´t believe their eyes. Sergio was waiting by the door with a broad smile.

He remembers when he was seven years old, how his grandma encouraged drawing with colour pencils. Later on, while studying architecture, he learned about a national painting contest and 24 hours before deadline, he decided to enter. With virtually no time, he painted a very long but narrow canvas (79 x 10 inches), and sended over to Buenos Aires. He was awarded the first prize.

With the firm decision of telling his father, a conservative accountant, that he was dropping off university and embracing the artist´s life, he got kicked off home and with the price money left to Europe for a year where he studied restoration of XII and XIII century paintings at the Pitti Palace, in Florence, living on the artwork he was producing right then.

Extremely prolific, because his techniques call for long drying times, he is always working on three or four pieces simultaneously. Expert with oil, mixed, collage, and gold leaf, Sergio also works with antique fabrics, ceramic tiles, furniture, ancient manuscripts and chandeliers. Some of his paintings include beautiful frames, done by himself as a continuation of the work.

Sergio´s frames

Recently, The Royal Commonwealth Club of London commissioned him a painting that was auctioned in a gala dinner organized by Christie´s during this past Olympic Games, for 500 collectors, a rising funds event for Africa.

Chandelier made of melted windshield
broken glass decors his blue patio

But despite his great art, his home deserves a separate paragraph. "La Alboroza", he calls it, was totally designed, constructed and decorated by himself.

This Cortijo style with Moorish accents building encloses a central courtyard and houses Sergio´s family living quarters, his studio, art gallery, guest rooms and workshop shop. Lavishly decorated living room with oriental silk, Persian paintings and hand carved (by himself) ceiling, hand made doors, and fresco paintings with an indoor fountain in his foyer, an insurance company nightmare...

Expect Sherazade to walk by any minute...

Mendoza has a hot art community that is waiting to be discover by the art enthusiasts, but there remain a number of promising younger artists thriving underground who, when they aren’t installing at a cutting edge wineries or hotels, can still be found on weekends lined along the broad shady walkways Plaza Independencia.

The art scene is young enough that the definitive guide has yet to appear, but a good place to start is with us at www.rosellsoler.com