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November 12, 2019 — February 14, 2020

Curatorial Statement

Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display: Roberto Obregón Archive (ARO) from the Carolina and

Fernando Eseverri Collection is Roberto Obregón’s first solo exhibition at an arts institution in the

United States and marks the first time his archive constitutes the main subject of an exhibition.

This late Venezuelan artist, whose career spanned the decades from the 1960s to his death in 2003,

is a key figure of global conceptualism. Obregón decided to focus a significant part of his artistic

production on one of consumer society’s favorite symbols: the rose. For thirty years he produced

more than a thousand works related to the rose, but he dismantled its kitsch aesthetic and

introduced a pseudo-scientific approach to this millenary symbol. His practice was to accumulate,

classify, preserve, and display the rose and to study it like a traditional botanist. Inspired by timelapse

photography, Obregón began by carefully observing the rose samples he accumulated,

capturing a rose’s decay across a sequence of images. He also preserved the roses, dissected each

into its component parts, glued the petals to paper and organized them in meticulously numbered

arrangements. For some works, he used real petals and at other times he made watercolor copies or

petal cutouts from a range of materials.

Collectors Carolina and Fernando Eseverri acquired all of Obregón’s belongings that were with

him at the time of his death. In 2012 they founded the Roberto Obregón Archive to preserve and

promote this singular artist’s work. After several years of research Israel Ortega and Leonor Solá,

ARO’s registrars, discovered that the works and documents in the archive correspond to a limited

set of real roses, eighteen of which are presented here. This key discovery informed the decision to

exhibit ARO in custom-made display cabinets that identify the rose that served as the artist’s point

of departure. Every so often Obregón used a rose’s given name, but he more frequently reinvented

the roses’ names, relating them to his artistic processes. Accordingly, the exhibition offers a rare

view into an artist’s vision and how it intersects with curatorial and collecting practices.

The meaning of the rose shifted for Obregón. While his work often maintains an appearance of

scientific neutrality, it also evokes themes such as friendship and loss as recorded in the materials

related to Sick Rose, which takes its title from William Blake’s eponymous poem and pays homage

to his friend Luis Salmerón who died of AIDS. Crucial in this context is how the Roberto Obregón

Archive opens onto various avenues for aesthetic reflection and critical thought, from one’s relation

to nature and systems of representation to issues related to ecological and global art. Obregón’s

practice is a compelling instance of how the visual arts contribute in subtle yet poignant ways to

the entanglement of diverse histories.

The exhibition is presented in conjunction with Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display: Works by Roberto Obregón from the Carolina and Fernando Eseverri Collection at the Harn Museum.

Jesús Fuenmayor 

University Galleries Program Director

Visiting Curator

Kaira M. Cabañas

Faculty Cocurator

Professor of Art History

María Paula Varela 

Curatorial Assistant

Bryan Yeager

Gallery Manager

Jorge Bernal

Installation Assistant

Israel Ortega

Leonor Solá 

Registrars, Roberto Obregón Archive

Germán Domínguez                          

Exhibition Display 

Teresa Mulet

Graphic Designer


Maryam Farahani Parsa

Mara C. Reynolds

Brie Lynn Rosenbloom

Henry Chovet Santa Cruz


By Kaira M. Cabañas and Jesús Fuenmayor

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